Tips for Better Cabin Luggage Security

So recently I wrote an article about the misconceptions and risks of the various luggage types and how one can upscale the security of your luggage but, how many of you have thought about the risks of our cabin luggage? I know what you’re probably thinking, everyone travelling has money, so they will not be looking to steal or that my stuff is just above, in front of or under me and therefore nobody will risk getting caught in a confined space stealing from others……well you’re wrong.

Opportunistic criminals are all around us and while this article is not meant to make one paranoid or to be a fear monger, this is a topic that I feel needs to be brought to peoples’ attention.

There are a few simple tips or methods to up your security levels and just some basic common sense that will assist in making it just that bit harder for the casual criminal to get richer at your expense.


First Line of Defence:


People assume that when you go through check-in that you no longer need to be vigilant in regards to personal security. Just because people earn enough money to purchase plane tickets does not minimize the risk to those that are predisposed to taking other peoples valuables.

When boarding the aircraft, be aware that while the risk is lower, it is not completely gone. Some backpacks have smaller pockets for valuables when in normal use therefore keeping passports and money locked in these smaller pouches will ensure they are safe. While electronics are also valuable, the most valuable items in your possession are your travel documents and these should receive the highest priority when keeping them safe.

If your bag does not have this sort of built in pouch, no problem, then buy a smaller one like the size of a toiletry bag to lock and place in the most difficult area to access of your main backpack. This will ensure that anyone attempting to gain access to your valuables will find it very hard and time-consuming. In addition to this, some models like the one below have an extra cable that can be fastened to the bag to further prevent your valuables from growing legs.

Vaultz inner Pouch

Body & Neck Pouches:


The principle of these pouches is to keep priority documents and money as close to the body as possible while being worn under the clothing. The theory is that firstly someone attempting steal from you will have a tough time gaining access to the pouch and secondly tampering will immediately be felt by the person, alerting them to the problem.

While these can be a viable option for travel, there are a couple of drawbacks. In order to maximize effectiveness, these pouches should remain unseen. That means that if you are a person that prefers form fitting clothing, this will definitely wreck your style and will highlight exactly where your valuables are.

Body PouchesNeck Pouch

When used for cabin security, this I can tell you is not a great option when it comes to long distance flights. The pouches are generally strapped to your body or are hung around the neck and having that permanently against your skin not only restricts movement but is also a constant reminder that something is there and might adversely affect your ability to get some much-needed sleep.


Empty Your Pockets:


Now this is not another security screening alert, this is just plain common sense. Anyone looking to steal from you will automatically gravitate to any jacket or item of clothing likely to contain valuables. Think about it, when travelling, jackets have a lot of on-board storage in the form of their many pockets. Many of these pockets are not only spacious but are also fitted with either zips or Velcro. This makes them especially tempting to use when carrying items with you but will also be the first place any thief worth his salt will be looking too.

Apply the same philosophy as you would when you get home. Before you hang your jackets or other clothing up in the wardrobe, empty the pockets to make sure all valuables are removed. The same concept should be applied when hanging up or storing jackets on the aircraft. Remove the valuables and you remove the risk.


Placement of the bag:


Carry on Luggage under the seatWhen storing luggage in the overhead storage compartment, be aware of the orientation of your bag. Firstly look at where the Zips are, if the zips are to the back of the compartment then they will not be visible or accessible without first removing the bag. Yes this can be a little be of a hassle if you need to get something out of the bag but this is an article on increasing security and not increasing convenience.

Secondly, try to turn the bag upside down and by that I mean if the zips are manufactured with a flap type design, try to keep the flap facing downwards. This means that it will be almost impossible to access the bag without taking it out first as the flap will not provide enough of a gap to properly stick your hand in.

When storing luggage under the seat, make sure the zips are facing you and not the person in front of you as they could gain access that way.


Let Cool Heads Prevail:


Don’t be scared to speak up if you think that something is going on however, try to remain calm as it could be an honest mistake and nothing can ruin the holiday vibe more than creating a scene when this was not completely necessary.

There are only so many variations of in-cabin luggage so unless your carry-on is a Hello Kitty or a Luminescent Yellow carry-on where there is no chance of it being mistaken for someone else, take a breath and stay calm. If it was intentional, know that there is nowhere to run and even if the perpetrator does for some reason successfully exit the aircraft, they will be hard-pressed to get out of the airport building.

As a final word, just be practical and use common sense. Do not act differently just because you are travelling or are in an airport. Keep your valuables out of site or on you and don’t leave anything of value unattended. You have all heard the overhead announcement telling you not to leave your baggage unattended, well this is your chance to put that to good use and keep yourself and your belongings safe.


You may also like...

18 Responses

  1. Emmanuel Buysse says:

    Great post and even when this sounds so easy to do, many people forget to do it and end up with a loss of money or materials.

    Me and my wife are travelling a lot, we always keep our bag close, and we have a little bag which we always keep in front of us.

    So for us we don’t have problems, but I understand many others have.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing it, you can save people belongings with this!

    • Richard says:

      Hello Emmanuel,

      Its a great idea to keep all your essentials together in a small bag that you never let out of your sight. This is a practical way of handling the risk and I am glad you have never had to go through what so many others have.

      Thanks for the personal experience and comment.


  2. KerryAnn says:

    Great tips in this post.  I guess I never really thought about security whilst in travel.  It only takes a moment for someone to distract you and someone else to take your valuables.  In some domestic airports, anyone can actually go into the departure lounge as a boarding pass is not required.

    On long distance travel, we often have a nap at some stage and valuable under the seat in front could easily be a target and certainly one I never really thought about.  I have always kept my passport and money in my handbag right in front of my feet.  I will definitely be revising my habits.

    Thank you, I am on a trip next week so this is a very timely reminder.

    • Richard says:

      Hello KerryAnn,

      It is really sad that we need to start thinking like criminals to anticipate their moves. As I stated in the article, this is not about being a fear monger but rather to educate people so they can adjust their habits to better protect themselves from those with sticky fingers.

      All the best on your trip next week and thanks for the personal experience.


  3. Jill says:

    What an interesting article on Travel Security. It is so sad that we have to be aware at all times that we or our possessions are at risk. A good friend of mine had her very expensive mobile phone taken, Sure it was insured but can you just imagine the frustration of losing all the contact details.

    Thank you for the very useful tips on travel safety. I am hoping to be flying to Namibia one of these days to visit family and will put your tips to good use.

    • Richard says:

      Hello Jill,

      As someone who comes from South Africa originally, it is something that we were confronted with on a daily basis. I think this is a difficult concept for people who come from safe countries, to change their habits and to be aware of. 

      I agree it is a very sad state for the world to be in but with some common sense and just being practical, we can reduce our risk substantially.

      Thanks for the comment. 


  4. Tim Bennett says:

    Hi Richard,

    I fly a lot and found your article spot on…

    I have actually seen on two occasions attempted theft from overhead bags.

    Fortunately there were too many observing eyes to allow it to happen.

    It is amazing to think that people sat beside you can be so bold as to even try to steal from you in front of so many people.

    But they do…

    So I find the tips within your post very good reminders.

    You can, sadly, never stop watching what is going on around you.

    Good to read your post!


    • Richard says:

      Hello Tim,

      I think sometimes people who target travelers do so with huge success because travelers are lulled into a false sense of security and let their guard down. 

      I am glad that the 2 occasions where you saw this were prevented but it then makes on wonder how often the occurs when we are completely unaware.

      Thanks for the personal experience.


  5. Dave says:

    Hallo there Richard, 

    I have to back you up on pretty much everything you have said here.

    Firstly, no one is ever safe while traveling. I have seen criminals go as far as trying to reach out to the body pouches fastened outside of the body, which means the luggage left under the seat should not be an issue to them.

    Once I had my Rolex watch stolen from my luggage before I ever bought a pouch. The experience was pretty terrible.

    So after making the small pouch my sidekick, I have never had to worry about theft. 

    I usually put it on under my clothes and I wear loose clothes, so it is really hard to know it’s there.

    I believe having these pouches is the only way to be sure that your essentials are safe as you can often feel them with your hands.

    • Richard says:

      Hi Dave,

      Its great to hear from people who have had positive experiences with traveling. Yes loosing the Rolex must have been terrible but you didnt take it lying down, you took steps to better protect yourself so well done on that.

      Thanks so much for the inclusion of your personal experience and comment.


  6. Sophia says:

    I know that you mentioned the possibilities of being stolen from while going to the airport, but have you considered even while going into the hotel, from say… a taxi from the airport. And you need to call for a luggage cart to carry all your belongings to your room. Usually a staff member comes and helps out with unloading the taxi ( or car ) to the luggage car while you, the guest check in, the luggage car is rolled to the bell desk while waiting for your room. 

    Usually someone is supposed to be there nearby but let me tell you about the time my laptop bag was stolen straight off the luggage cart. I didn’t even notice until I got to my room and realized my laptop was missing. I went to the security and they had to go over the cameras because I kept insisting I had an extra bag and they were trying to tell me there was no bag that I got all my luggage…. well lo and behold, some PUNK leaving the hotel establishment was so slickly walking out of the hotel, and passed the luggage cart that happened to have my belongings on it…. and with one quick swoop, so quick you wouldn’t have noticed if you didn’t see it on camera, he grabbed my laptop bag, swung it over his shoulder like it was his bag and casually walked down the stairs. Even had the nerve to wave to the bell staff as he walked by with my stuff! NO ONE noticed at the time. Everyone was so busy with loading and unloading that no one saw this strange person just grab my stuff.

    So yeah I lost  my bag and I am really sad about it. That is why when it comes down to stuff like that, you need to keep it with you at all times. I should have been carrying my own laptop bag with me inside the hotel to check in. I should have been more mindful, but now I know. Just wanted to make this a lesson to all other people to keep your very important things on you at all times because crimes are really “opportunity” for criminals. 

    • Richard says:

      Hello Sophia,

      That is a terrible experience and  from the sounds of it, it was not the thief’s first time either. Were they able to identify and apprehend the criminal? From what you have described, the criminals that operate in these environments know exactly where the security weak spots are and tend to target them.

      I really want to thank you for sharing this story in the comments section to reinforce how important it is to be mindful of our surroundings. Even those where we think will be safe, usually are the areas the criminal element like to target.

      Thanks again for sharing your experience. 


  7. Vanna Denham says:

    You are absolutely correct about us letting our guard down when we are traveling. Thanks for the reminder. It’s easy to be complacent with all the airport security.

     I can relate to getting distracted long enough for someone to grab your belongings and get away.  It’s even easier for mothers travelling with small children to be taken advantage of.

    Thanks for the tip about turning the zippers to the back of the compartments.  Anything to delay access to your valuables.  I do have a locked pouch inside of my purse and tote.  That is what I place on the floor in front of me because it usually won’t fit under the seat securely.  

    Have a good day.

    V. Pearl

    • Richard says:

      Hello Vanna,

      I liked the comment about mothers being in particular at risk. They have so much to deal with and are distracted by that thieves see them mostly likely as easy targets. It has been interesting how many have left comments about falling victim to crime but then learning from the experience and changing how the travel or what they do to prevent it.

      Thanks for your personal experience and comment. 


  8. rjkennedy says:

    People, nowaday, are traveling more and more. As your site points out…safety first! I never thought your stuff can still get stolen from you right on the plane. When I traveled to Thailand a few months ago, I almost lost an important document that would have delayed my departure out of the country. I should have had security items, bags with hidden pockets in my possession, as you offered. Being practical and using common sense is what’s ‘key’ in regards to traveling domestic or abroad. 

    • Richard says:

      Hello RJ,

      I can only imagine how much stress you went through before you found that document in Thailand. It just goes to show how important it is to keep everything together in one place otherwise it can have a really negative effect on the holiday vibe.

      Thanks for your personal experience.


  9. Laura says:

    Thanks for the tips! Most of it is common sense of course, but even I am guilty of sometimes being too distracted and forgetting these basic tips. It isn’t until after, that I realise I’ve made a mistake and count myself lucky nothing happened.

    Especially the placement of my bag, I forget to turn it so that the zippers aren’t visible. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Richard says:

      Hello Laura,

      I think all of us have had those experiences where we think after doing something that the end result could have been substantially different. I hope this article provided some food for thought and thanks for leaving a personal experience and comment.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *