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A Former FBI Agent Always Packs These 5 Things When He Travels

Pack these items in your carry-on to potentially prevent theft (and other dangers) while traveling, according to a former FBI agent.

While packing for a trip—whether it’s domestic or international—you probably have a toothbrush, underwear, and skincare products on your list of necessities to pack in your carry-on. But have you considered carrying around a stock family photo in your wallet? No? Well, a former FBI agent tells us why we should bring along a stock family photo and a few other surprising items.

Prior to becoming an international best-selling author, an educator on human behavior, and a viral video star with over 15 million views, Joe Navarro was an FBI agent specializing in nonverbal communication and criminal profiling in the areas of counterintelligence and counterterrorism for 25 years. As a self-professed spy-catcher, Navarro learned to quickly assemble a carry-on bag with only the necessities and board a flight under short notice.

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Here are five items Navarro always packs for both comfort and safety.

Choose Your Carry-On Wisely

What: An Anti-Theft Backpack

Why: If you generally bring a backpack as a carry-on item or use it as an everyday item, make sure it’s anti-theft proof. “You want to have backpacks that have secret compartments or sling backpacks,” says Navarro. To ensure that the backpack you use will be secure, opt for an ordinary bag that doesn’t stand out. A stylish travel bag or backpack with trendy zippers or brand placement makes it an obvious target easily accessible for a pickpocketer to open and slide their hand in—especially at a busy intersection or on public transportation. When choosing a backpack, opt for an ordinary bag that doesn’t stand out and one without obvious brand placement. Stylish travel bags just make you an easy target.

Put a Sleeve on It

What: RFID Sleeve

Why: Picture this: You’re walking through a crowded market, shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone you pass by. So, you haven’t noticed that someone has been trailing closely behind you and using a card reading device enclosed in an obscure case to steal your credit card information. Navarro describes this electronic pickpocketing scheme as The Pass. If you have a credit card with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip, you may be vulnerable to this scheme. The best way to protect your sensitive card information is to enclose your credit cards in an RFID sleeve. Get a dozen of these sleeves for your passports and credit cards. The sleeves come in packs for a low cost, so you can literally hand them out like you’re Oprah (one for YOU, and one for YOU) to your friends and family.

Eat More, Drink More

What: Charcoal Tablets

Why: If you shamelessly enjoy eating local street food and regional cuisine or drinking cold beverages (just avoid the ice) while traveling, chances are you will inevitably contract a stomach bug or consume a food or drink that isn’t cooperating well with your body. Navarro advises to always carry charcoal tablets when you’re traveling because it essentially works like a water filter. The activated charcoal attracts gas and toxins and carries them out of the body. However, if you have a severe case of food poisoning or other ailments, activated charcoal is not the universal cure.

A Picture-Perfect Family

What: Stock Family Photo

Why: After a new wallet purchase, do you immediately toss the family stock photo that comes along with the new wallet? Turns out, those photos may serve a purpose after all. “For security purposes, always carry a family photo, even if it’s fake…so if kidnapped you can humanize yourself with the captors,” says Navarro. Some of us may be dismissive of the idea that a situation of that caliber could happen to us while traveling (and hopefully it won’t), but it does happen, and IF it does, it’s always smart to be prepared for any scenario.

Not an Essential, but a Sweet Idea!

What: Postcards

Why: Typically, we mail postcards to our friends and family from the places we’re visiting as souvenirs. But have you considered bringing along postcards of your hometown when you’re going on a trip? “Depending on where in the world I travel, I bring postcards to show children where I live and I leave it with them, especially if I am talking at a school or I am at someone’s house,” Navarro said. “But even when I went to Russia to teach, I often would give them a postcard, as I knew many of them had never been to Miami Beach or only had seen it in movies.”

No matter how long your trip is, whether it’s an off-the-beaten-path trip to Guatemala or a deep-sea diving adventure in the Caribbean, add these items to your carry-on for safety precautions.

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