Secret Stash: Where To Hide Your Money

by Julie on June 20, 2011

Wallet Grab

Every penny, pound or peso is precious while you’re traveling. Unfortunately, being a traveler also puts you at a particular risk for having your cash nicked.

Travelers tend to be preoccupied, dazed by jetlag, and in possession of wads of newly exchanged currency – in other words: easy targets.

The best way to guard against theft while traveling is to stay alert and aware of your possessions and your surroundings.

But you know what? Every once in a while – when you’re dazzled by an ancient temple or half-asleep after that overnight bus ride over the border – you just forget to focus on what’s going on with your wallet.

Don’t beat yourself up for lapsing on a self-prescribed travel regimen of hyper-vigilance. Instead, try a proactive strategy and hide some of that dinero in a clever spot where no one can find it even when you’re in la-la land.

Where are these handy hiding places, you ask? Read on for a set of suggestions on where to hide your money…

Safe Money Walkin’

While you’re traveling, odds are that you’ll be spending most of your time roaming far from your hostel dorm or hotel room. So you’ll want to have money on hand, but you won’t want it easily accessible to sticky fingers.

Anyone who’s traveled with an embarrassing parent or chaperone is probably familiar with the anti-theft garments like money belts and around-the-neck money pouches.

While they certainly serve a purpose, you don’t have to buy another accessory just to hide your money–you just have to stash your money in more creative places.

  • Make your whole wardrobe pick-pocket-proof by sewing your own protective pocket into the inside of shorts, pants, or tops. You don’t have to be a master seamstress, any simple square of fabric sewn securely on three sides will do the trick.

Don’t have lots of layers to spare?

  • The homemade pocket can even be a helpful addition to the perennial classic: money in the bra, handed down to us from Go! Girls of yore. Hey, if you don’t mind the extra padding, this solution gets an A-cup… er, sorry, A-plus.

Remember: Outside pockets that snap, zip, button or buckle are surprisingly ineffective against the average pickpockets.

Make sure your cash is truly inaccessible when you’ve got it on you, even if it means you have to dash behind a tree or into a restroom to gracefully recover it.

Bag Burglars

Whether you’ve packed a steel-sided suitcase or a dusty old backpack, sometimes your luggage will be out of your sight during transit or at accommodations. Again, you can deter most theft just be making it inconvenient for the would-be thief – keep money tucked into deep inside pockets, under or inside the lining of your suitcase, or at least packed at the very bottom of a bag.

Use whatever else is in your bag as additional tools for slap-dash security. Get creative!

  • Save an extra shampoo bottle in your toiletries case and pop your extra bills inside.
  • Paste an envelope in the back of your travel notebook and store savings there.

I stayed a few nights in a busy hostel room and slid the few euros I had left into the barrel-end of my hairdryer, even though my suitcase was locked.

True, it did feel more like a detective-fiction plot twist than a truly necessary security measure, but I figured, why not? I was playing it safe and getting a kick out of being extra-cautious.

Hotel Hoarder

Leaving your valuables at any type of accommodation can also feel risky, whether it’s a hostel dorm with loads of strangers coming in and out or a private hotel room with seemingly high security.

You can certainly take advantage of hotel safes and locked storage areas. The downside here is that you’re relying on the accommodation staff, not just for trustworthiness, but for sheer convenience of access to your cash.

So what about hiding money in your room?

In shared accommodation, this is easier said than done. It’s a bit awkward to look for hiding spots, carefully tuck money away, or subtly retrieve it when loads of people are hanging around. And it can begin to feel invasive of the shared nature of the room. I stick to keeping cash well hidden in my bags in places like this.

But in a room of your own, go wild! Hide a bit of cash in your temporary home: under the corners of carpets, taped to the bottom-side of drawers, I’ve even heard of travelers unscrewing ventilator grates and hiding valuables inside for the duration of their stay.

Remember: Since you’re using a space that doesn’t belong to you to hide things that do, you’re walking a fine line here.

You don’t want to damage or disturb things or areas in your room in your mission to protect your money – you’ll end up paying to fix what you broke, just another way of losing the money you were trying to save.

The Lowdown on High Security

The most important thing to know about secret stashes: have several. Keeping your cash or credit cards in one place means it only takes one bit of bad luck to lose it all. Split up the cash or cards you’re carrying, and hide little bits in different places.

When you can, I recommended making use of all three categories: on your body, in your carrying bags or suitcases, and in an out-of-the-way place wherever you’re staying. You’ve got cash wherever you need it, and back up if any one of your hiding places was found out.

Remember: You don’t have to be paranoid.

The vast majority of people you meet while traveling do not want to steal from you, rip you off, or cheat you. The problem is, it only takes one. So stay one step ahead of their game by mastering the art of monetary hide and seek.

With a little caution and a lot of creativity, you’ll be able to keep those travel funds on lockdown. Happy hiding!

What’s your secret for stashing cash while traveling? Have any horror stories about being robbed on the road? We want to hear from you!

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When Julie was a little kid, she conspiratorially whispered to her dad, "You know what? I have powers." It took the world, and Julie, about 20 years to figure out what the heck she meant by that. But in 2010, when a chance backpacking adventure turned into a year of transformational travel, she cracked it: her super power is Wonder Wandering. Her mission? Using her powers of volunteering for globe-trotting good, not evil. Her kryptonite? Stayin' put.

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