June 18, 2018

The travel wallet and what to put in it

The travel wallet – such a small space in which to have to carry so much. Before leaving, make sure that it contains everything you need - and that it will survive the trip.

1. Identification: A perfect balance

Don’t bring more IDs than necessary. Your passport, visa, international driver's licence, plane tickets and student card should suffice.

Obviously, a passport doesn’t fit in a conventional wallet. However, a photocopy does - and that’s enough to identify you.

In fact, scanning all your important documents (credit cards included) and emailing them to yourself is highly recommended. You will therefore have quick access in case of loss or theft.

2. Money: Somewhere between convenience, security and economy

There are many ways to pay for things while travelling, each with its specific advantages and disadvantages.

Credit cards are the preferred option of globetrotters. Required to make most reservations, your credit card often has a rewards program and little or no currency exchange fees.

Find out what options are available to you depending on the duration and type of trip you are planning to take. It can be wise to bring two cards (a Visa and a Mastercard, for example), packed in two different bags.

Be careful when withdrawing money from an ATM with your credit card. This is considered a cash advance, which means you could be charged high interest and fees.

Please note that 5-digit PINs don’t always work abroad. If this is the case where you will be travelling, call your credit card company to change to a 4-digit PIN.

Debit cards let you withdraw money from an ATM without charging the interest that credit cards do. ATMs are now present in the most remote areas of the world. To avoid fees, withdraw a few large amounts instead of many small amounts.

Cash is essential. Not only is it practical, but it limits the risks of credit card fraud and cloning. Whether in local currency or American dollars, be sure to always have some on you.

Hide some in your money belt or in secret pockets sewn into your bags or clothes. You’ll never be caught off guard. However, always handle your money discretely.

Ideally, you’ll want to shop around for money before leaving because currency exchange offices and financial institutions don’t offer the same rates. As much as possible, avoid currency exchange offices at the airport because they tend to charge very high fees.

Traveller’s cheques are definitely on the brink of extinction, with just a few financial institutions still issuing them. They have very few advantages and are difficult to replace in case of theft. If you do decide on traveller’s cheques, be sure to write down the serial numbers.

3. Insurance: The essentials

In addition to your personal ID and payment options, your wallet should contain your travel insurance information (policy number and insurer assistance hotline).

If you ever need it, you’ll know who to call.

4. Wallets: Your options

You know about money belts that you can wear hidden around your waist and in which you can hide money and important documents. Just remember that thieves know about them too. The important thing is not to put all your eggs in one basket.

Some money belts look just like normal belts. They are very discrete with a small space in which to hide folded bills.

Antitheft bags are a good option against pickpockets. Made of cut-proof material, they can’t be slit open with blades or knives, which means you probably won’t be robbed without realizing it in busy marketplaces.

Antitheft wallets or anti-RFID wallets are coated in aluminum to prevent cloning devices from scanning your cards. In fact, contactless smart cards are likely to be read (and cloned) without ever leaving your pocket. Wrapping your cards in aluminum foil will also do the trick.

Happy trails!