Life Hacks

12 Travel Safety Items You Can’t Afford to Travel Without

Matt Wilson
April 17, 2024

Traveling and living abroad for over ten years taught me to pack smart and carry only items that are essential for me and my family. Travel is an incredibly rewarding experience, and the more prepared you are, the more likely you are to stay safe and have a great time.

As the co-founder of a travel company for young adults, I am often asked what I carry when I travel and what must-have items they should include in their packing list. As a minimalist, I don’t like carrying many extra things. I travel light, so you can rest assured that these recommended items are essential and worth carrying around the world. 

Check out this list of my favorite travel safety essentials and, depending on your circumstances, try to include them in your packing list. I’ve bought everything on this list with my own money and only recommend things I’ve tested personally.

Under30Experiences co-founder Matt Wilson, Chile travel safety items
I'm a minimalist at heart, but it doesn't mean I don't carry essential travel safety items.

First Aid Kit

An Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) is your most important travel item. I always have one in my backpack on every journey. I’ve had several first-aid kits over the years, but one made by Surviveware is the best. It’s so reliable that my entire family is outfitted with the same one.

Of course, I’ve jammed it full of a bunch of extra items that were recommended in my latest Wilderness First Aid course, including: 

  • A tourniquet for severe wounds. Do not overlook this product. If you had to choose just one item for a first-aid kit, this should be it, as it could save your life in critical moments where every second counts.
  • Trauma pads for severe bleeding. Another item I hope I never have to use! 
  • Triangle bandage. This must-have can be used as a sling, a bandage, or a makeshift tourniquet. 
  • A SAM splint. To mobilize an extremity. 
  • Extra wrap. This self-adhesive wrap can be used to cover a wound or wrap up a sprain.
travel safety packing layout
My typical travel safety items I carry on any adventure.

Door Stops

This product is so cheap and easy to carry, it’d be a shame not to bring it along. I consider a rubber doorstop wedge the travel safety item that provides the most bang for your buck. Simply place it under any door that opens inward to prevent it from opening. 

Knowing you can reinforce your door while you sleep at night gives you peace of mind. It’s wise to use it on doors you know someone else has access to, like in a hotel or Airbnb, where countless people might have a key or know the door code.

Personal Alarm

Alright, you got me. I don’t carry this item, but I’ve bought several personal alarms for my wife and mom. If you need to call attention to yourself, simply pull the pin, and you’ll hear an ear-piercing alarm. Thieves and sexual predators certainly don’t like attention when they are committing a crime, so when you pull the pin, your assailant will run away, or someone else will hear your alarm and come to intervene. 

Instead of an alarm, I have a whistle attached to my backpack. And yes, I’ve had to use it once when I fell skiing in the woods in Vermont!

Backcountry skiing in Tuckerman's Ravine, Mount Washington. Having a whistle and satellite communicator is key.

Anti-theft Bags

Your bag should have specific safety features beyond those of your standard backpack or purse. The zippers should be difficult for a thief to open, and the bag should be made of a material that is “slash-proof” and cannot be cut open easily. There are many anti-theft bags on the market that keep your items safe in crowded spaces where pickpocketing is rampant. 

My backpack isn’t marketed as “anti-theft,” but it has an oversized waterproof zipper that is difficult to open and is made from durable waterproof material that is hard to cut. Both of these features make me feel more secure walking around. Moreover, nobody will get into my bag, even if I'm bumped into or in a busy subway car without me noticing.

You can check out anti-theft bags on Amazon and my Patagonia Guidewater Backpack.

Money Belt

You probably already know that I don’t put all my eggs in one basket. I wear a money belt securely hidden under my shirt for cash, credit cards, and my passport. In addition, my bag is RFID-blocking, so nobody can steal my credit card or passport number by brushing up against me. 

Though wearing a money belt can sometimes make you feel hot and sweaty underneath your shirt, it’s well worth it. I don’t use it throughout my entire trip, but only on travel days when I carry a lot of cash. Otherwise, it stays locked up in my hotel room safely. This item is so inexpensive that it's silly not to have one–my money belt cost me $8.45.

RFID Blocking Passport Covers

What is RFID Blocking, exactly? Now that it is possible to “tap to pay” with most modern credit cards, criminals can quickly come up next to you with a scanner and steal your credit card and passport information. To prevent the “skimming” of your cards’ radio frequency, simply putting your credit card or passport in a wallet or passport cover that blocks this is an excellent idea. You can also get little sleeves to cover your cards if you’d like.

Fake Wallets

Have you considered your plan of action if someone tries to rob you? Run? Give up your money? Fight for your life? 

My best advice is to take out your “dummy wallet,” throw it to the robber, and run like hell.

No personal possession is worth risking your life for, but if you’d like to dupe the robber, consider carrying a fake “dummy wallet” that you can give up if you are being robbed. Luckily, they sell fake wallets on Amazon that come with phony credit cards just for this purpose. Of course, you can just use an old wallet and put in some expired gift cards, your old library card, and some small bills. 

Whenever carrying a dummy wallet, I just use my actual wallet with some petty cash and an expired ID that I don’t regret losing if I’m ever mugged. The rest of my valuables are stored elsewhere. 

Lightweight Portable Safe

Some people might find having a portable safe overkill, but Vaultek Lifepod is incredibly useful. If you are staying in a hotel, remember that hotel staff still have access to the safe in your room. Furthermore, in an Airbnb, you probably won’t have a safe at all, and who knows how many people have access to the home you are staying in… It’s not like they change the locks after every guest! 

I use this safe where I live in Puerto Rico, tucked under the seat of my truck. Although somebody could cut the cable and walk off with the safe for a portable solution, it’s great.

travel safety items National Parks
Yes, I admit, for safety I AirTag my kid sometimes.

Apple AirTag

I highly suggest tagging your checked luggage, children, and anything else you might want to recover in the future. Apple AirTags are a lifesaver, and best yet, they are incredibly affordable! Simply use your iPhone's “Find My” app to locate any item you attach to this coin-sized device. 

I always put an Apple AirTag in my checked bag. This allows me to track my luggage even better than the airline can. Of course, we sew an Apple AirTag into our little one’s jacket backpack, and she even has a princess watch with an AirTag in it that she wears if we are going to a crowded place. This increased our peace of mind on our trip to Colombia this winter.

You can check out my article on travel safety in Bogota, Colombia

Matt Wilson co-founder U30X travel safety Colombia
Going up La Piedra del Peñol, Colombia. Note one of my favorite travel safety items--the orange whistle!

Garmin Satellite Messenger

If you like the outdoors, consider investing in a Garmin inReach Mini 2 Satellite Communicator. With plans starting at $10/month, you can send emergency text messages from anywhere in the world, even without cell service.

I bought this after a skiing trip, and my daughter fell ill, and I had no cell service to arrange her pick-up from school. With this device, you can communicate via satellite messenger no matter where you are in the world. Having satellite communication would be critical in a natural disaster where the grid goes down. Now that I live in Puerto Rico, I ensure it’s always charged up during hurricane season. It also helps me navigate when I’m out hiking.

The new iPhone also has an SOS feature, so you can make an emergency satellite call even if you don’t have service. This feature is worth upgrading to if you spend a lot of time in the wilderness. 

Pepper Spray

Before you travel with pepper spray, look up the local laws and airline regulations. In my travels throughout Latin America, I’ve never had any issues bringing this product. That said, please don’t think pepper spray alone is enough to keep you safe on the streets. Use situational awareness, practice martial arts, and have the humility to give up whatever your attacker wants to avoid a physical confrontation.

Walking down the street, I often run through the worst-case scenarios to prepare myself for anything that could happen. It’s not fun to think about, but there is a good chance that if you travel in the developing world, your robber will wear a motorcycle helmet and be unfazed by pepper spray. 

I choose to carry Sabre pepper spray, and am aware of the potential consequences of using it.

Reading List

The two books I recommend on safety and security are The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker and When Violence Is the Answer: Learning How to Do What It Takes When Your Life Is at Stake by Tim Larkin. Both authors are world experts in personal security, and I wholeheartedly recommend them. But don’t just take my word for it: Oprah also included The Gift of Fear on her reading list.

And while Oprah hasn’t given it a shout-out yet, if you found these tips, pick up a copy of my book, The Millennial Travel Guidebook: Escape More, Spend Less, and Make Travel a Priority in Your Life.

Looking for the safest way to travel? Join a small group trip with Under30Experiences for people ages 21 to 35

Matt Wilson
Matt Wilson is Co-founder of Under30Experiences and Author of The Millennial Travel Guidebook: Escape More, Spend Less, & Make Travel a Priority in Your Life. He is host of the Live Different Podcast, Millennial Travel Podcast, and formerly Co-founder of He is committed to helping people live more adventurous lives.


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