Locked and Loaded

Travel Locks: Or How to Not Get Robbed during a Trip

Ever had something stolen from you on a trip? Ever been walking around, reached for your camera when you saw a beautiful statue or medieval tower only to grasp nothing but air in your bag? Or you go to pay for your ice cream, museum ticket, or get out your bus ticket only to find that your pocket is empty, or your purse has everything but your wallet?

If you have, then you know it’s an awful experience. And your things are probably never going to be stolen when it’s most convenient. And when your belongings – whether just a wallet or a whole bag with your clothes, computer, passport, and toiletries – are stolen while on travel, you have entered an abyss of anger and frustration.

You might be somewhere where you do not know the language, you don’t have any backup items (toiletries, IDs, bank cards, etc.), but you need to replace everything as soon as possible. It will turn a pleasant stroll beneath the Eifel Tower or on the Charles Bridge in Prague into a nightmare of running in circles for 10 minutes looking for your stolen goods, panicked explanations to the police, sitting in a police station for at least 30 minutes waiting impatiently for your turn to file a generally useless complaint, and then reflecting on where you went wrong. This is when for minutes, hours, then years you get to flounder in your own regrets.

 It is when if you had only done one or two things different, it never would have happened.

So what can you do to prevent this tragedy?


Locks will not prevent every kind of theft, nor can they be used everywhere, all the time. But if you have a backpack, it’s a good idea to lock the zippers together. It’s amazingly easy for someone to unzip your bag, reach in and grab a few things, and walk off without you feeling that anything happened way back behind your back.

Or they could sneakily grab your bag from under your table or chair, or sitting on the chair next to you.

The possibilities are endless. But you can reduce the chances of these thefts with the following locks and devices; and the right tactics to use them:

The zipper lock. This zipper lock is different from other locks because of the long, flexible wire that can easily pass through zipper holes. As you can see, I can fasten several zippers altogether. It makes it impossible for anyone to unzip my bag, reach in, and run. Yes, they could clip the lock, but why would they go through that much trouble when they can just move on and go after the next victim? These locks are usually available at specialty camping and travel stores.



The zipper lock: keeping your bag closed. Note how the flexible wire lock can be strung through several zippers. (Photo: LH Dooley)

Bag and locker lock (small). This lock is good for suitcases and backpacks, especially when the bags have zippers made for locks. This lock has less “reach”, but since the locking mechanism is solid steel it’s a bit more sturdy. You can get this at any store. It’s also good for hostel lockers – usually. And this one is TSA friendly.


Small combination padlock that goes perfectly into the zipper lock holes. (Photo: LH Dooley)

Carabiner. Do you like to rappel? Or mountainclimb? If so, you already have a carabiner. If you don’t, go buy one – or a few! These are great for latching your bag straps together and fastening them to chairs and table legs. Or you can attach two bags together. It’s easily to snatch and grab one bag, but I can guarantee you – someone who tries to grab one bag but ends up grabbing two, with the second one sort of awkwardly dangling and flopping around – will be confused and drop both and run.



Parade of locks sitting on a MacBook Air 11 (BlackBerry placed among the locks for size reference). Left to right: small combination lock, small carabiner, mid-size carabiner, Blackberry. (Photo: LH Dooley)

Carabiners are also great for attaching food bags, umbrellas, and even camera cases to your straps, so you can have a two-hands-free walking tour of wherever you want to go!

Aside from these, there are full-sized, locker padlocks. These are good, but I don’t use them because they are too heavy, and in a hostel locker are often too large for the lock holes in the door handles.

Keep it safe, keep it locked!

About Liam H Dooley

Liam H. Dooley is an Irish-American author living in Asia and Europe. He has a passion for history and traveling. Most of his time is spent touring the world, visiting museums, iconic buildings, monuments, and grand squares in search of knowledge and inspiration. As a child and university student he played the cello while studying international relations, and when he is not researching and writing novels or planning trips he immerses himself in current events and international affairs. You may learn more about Liam H. Dooley at his official web site: www.liamhdooley.com
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