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Safe Travels: Pack These Items to Keep You and Your Things Free From Harm

These objects can warn you of invisible dangers and protect against theft and injury

spinner image a carbon monoxide detector
A portable, battery-powered carbon monoxide detector used while traveling can warn against the invisible, noxious gas.
robert8/Shutterstock

These days it can appear that danger lurks around every corner. Before you throw up your hands and decide never to leave home, consider these devices and tools that can help keep you safe while traveling.

Carbon monoxide detector

About a quarter of U.S. homes now have a carbon monoxide (CO) detector, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that everyone get this safety device to warn against the invisible, noxious gas. But what about when you’re traveling? As CO detectors are not widespread, you could be putting yourself at risk if a furnace or other fuel-burning appliance has not been properly maintained.

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That’s why Eunice Wlcek, 61, who offers travel tips on her Theory of Simple YouTube channel, brings a portable CO detector when traveling (they cost as little as $25). “You want to make sure, especially in the winter, that there’s not an issue.”

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, CO levels of up to 70 parts per million will usually not cause symptoms. But levels above 70 ppm can cause headaches, nausea and fatigue. Concentrations above 150 ppm can lead to brain damage or death. Older people, young children and people with lung or heart disease are most at risk.

Here’s what to look for in a portable CO monitor, according to Charon McNabb of the National Carbon Monoxide Awareness Association and John D’Alessandro of the Firefighters Association of the State of New York:

  • Battery power, in case there’s no convenient outlet.
  • Meets specifications of a reputable testing laboratory such as Underwriter Laboratories Inc.
  • A display that’s always on. Readings should be visible without your having to “wake” the device.
  • A readout that displays parts per million in real time, meaning it shows current levels and not an average over time.
  • A “max button,” which you can press to display the highest reading since you last checked. In the morning, you could see the highest amount you were exposed to overnight. ­
spinner image four small portable personal safes are shown and most have a steel cable that can be locked around a post or furniture leg much like a bicycle lock
From left: SAFEGO Portable Indoor/Outdoor Lock Box Safe ($59, amazon.com); FlexSafe by AquaVault Anti-Theft Portable Beach Chair Vault and Travel Safe ($60, amazon.com); Master Lock Portable Small Lock Box ($24, amazon.com); Pacsafe Travelsafe Gii 5 liter portable safe ($100, amazon.com)
Courtesy SAFEGO; AquaVault; MasterLock: Pacsafe

Portable safe

Portable safes (about $50 to $100) are helpful if you’re staying in a rental home or if your hotel only has a lobby safe but no room safes (call ahead to check). “You don’t want to keep going back and forth down to the front desk to get access to your valuables,” says former Los Angeles police detective Kevin Coffey, who now works as a travel safety expert. Soft models shaped like a shoe bag are light to pack and easily rolled up, Coffey says. Make sure that it comes with a steel cable so you can attach the safe to a fixed object that won’t break. Portable safes can also be used for locking up valuables in your parked car or fixing to a permanent poolside fixture when going for a dip.

spinner image three doorstopper products that can help keep you safe when staying in hotel rooms
From left: Addalock: The Original Portable Door Lock ($18–$30, addalock.com); EMDMAK Door Stop Alarm with 120DB Siren ($14 for two, amazon.com); Sabre Portable Door Lock with travel bag ($20, sabrered.com)
Courtesy Addalock; EMDMAK; Sabre

Additional door lock

Coffey asks travelers this: Have you ever accidentally walked into the wrong hotel room or had someone enter your room, catching you off guard? The answer may be yes. “Hotels make mistakes; they double-book rooms, they give out other keys by mistake,” he says. And in his work with the LAPD, he’s come across thieves using illicit devices to open room doors by interfering with the electronic key port. Also, if you’re staying in an older rental that only has single locks, or a boutique hotel without modern key cards, an additional lock adds another layer of protection.

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A portable lock (under $20) attaches from the inside and ensures the door will stay locked even if someone has a key to your hotel door. A metal plate is placed on the door’s inside. Then a wedge attaches to the plate and prevents the door from being opened from the outside. Travel industry expert John DiScala, who also goes by the name Johnny Jet, recommends a simple triangular doorstop (under $10) you slide underneath, which makes it more difficult for an intruder to open the door while you’re in the room.

spinner image tiny spy camera products one looks like a u s b outlet converter charger one looks like a car key fob and one looks like a small security camera
Clockwise from left: Blink Mini Compact indoor plug-in smart security camera ($60, amazon.com); DivineEagle Spy Camera Charger ($36, amazon.com); ClODGDGO 64GB Spy Camera Car Key ($50, amazon.com)
Courtesy Blink; DIVINEEAGLE; ClODGDGO

Portable security camera

A portable security camera ($20–$60) could provide answers to missing items in your hotel room (but check with the hotel first to see if it allows them). Look for models with wireless connection if you’d like to watch the camera’s live feed from your iOS or Android device. Choose a camera that stores footage on an SD (memory) card, so you can review past events and save recordings for future evidence. You can also use a camera that’s disguised, says Terika L. Haynes, CEO of Dynamite Travel, such as one that looks like a key fob or wall charger. Some models are magnetic, so they’re easy to stick on any metal surface.

Personal safety alarm

Alarms that fit in your pocket ($30 or less) activate a siren when you press a button or pull out the pin. “The higher the decibel level, the better,” says security expert Lloyd Figgins. Alarms come in a variety of colors and can attach to your key ring.

spinner image three different stick on portable battery powered light products are shown
From left: Lyridz Rechargeable Battery Night Light ($17, amazon.com); Chilvane Night Light Motion Sensor ($21, amazon.com); MAZ-TEK Plug In Motion Sensor Lights ($13, amazon.com)
Courtesy Lyridz; Chilvane; MAZ-TEK

Motion sensor night-light

Night-lights ($20–$50) are useful if you’re worried you might trip when going to the bathroom at night in an unfamiliar room with blackout curtains, says Haynes. These motion sensors plug into any wall socket, but Jet also recommends magnetic lights that can attach to a metal surface.

Duct tape

“It’s a brilliant piece of equipment,” says Figgins. “It’s just got 101 different uses.” He’s used duct tape (about $5) to fix a hole in a shoe, help splint broken limbs in an emergency and even fix a car’s radiator hose. You can also use duct tape for repairing glasses on the go, covering blisters or mending a tent. Figgins wraps some duct tape around an old library card or credit card to avoid carrying a large roll.

Fanny packs and travel vests

Jet swears by clothing and accessories that carry your valuables on your body. These can include the traditional money bag that straps around your waist (under $50) or a pocketed vest ($50–$200). With pockets hidden all over your torso, a vest fits like armor against pickpocketing. “You can even put your laptop in it,” he says. The pocketed vest also works nicely as a sort of secret extra carry-on bag when boarding a flight.

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