Money Belt, Carry-On, and Checked Luggage: What to Pack Where

When Packing for a cruise or any extended trip, it is important to pack so that your most important items are the most secure. There is nothing worse than traveling abroade and having one’s bag stolen with passports, credit cards and other valuables. Another unfortunate experiences for cruisers occurs when their checked luggage does not make it on board the cruise ship. I also have been reading about theft from checked luggage. With all of these things on my minds, I thought it would be worth while to discuss safety packing here on Cruise Talk.

Money Belt:

I was recently working with my parents on planning for their upcoming cruise out of Barcelona and they weren’t even familiar with exactly what a money belt was or when and where to use it. A money belt is basically a wallet that is strapped to your body and worn UNDER you clothes. They come in several styles that can either be worn around you neck, your waist, or calf. All adult travelers in your party should have one of these. This is where you keep your passport, ATM card, credit cards and travelers checks.

You can usually purchase such a belt either at an online retailer like Amazon, in a luggage store, or in the luggage department of your local super store. This is your best protection against pickpockets or your own forgetfulness. You should wear this item from the morning you leave your house to go to the airport, all through your departure city, your embarkation city and in all ports you visit along the way. You may or may not need your passport in port depending on the type of activity in which you participate, so you may be able to leave that behind in your safe. (If you are going to the beach where your entire party will be swimming, you may also want to have a water proof “wallet” in which to keep your cash and card for your beach time.)

Pickpockets: A few popular cruise ports are know for their pickpockets, particularly Barcelona and Rome. It is very important that your money belt be kept inside your clothing and not worn like a “Fanny-Pack”. Pickpockets love fanny packs. If you must carry a purse, only put things in it like a very small amount of cash, cosmetics and a few personal items. When I am visiting places like Rome or Barcelona in cooler weather I wear my camera strap and my cosmetics only purse over my shoulder and underneath my jacket. I keep my real money and my credit cards safely tucked in my moneybelt which is around my hips inside my clothing. Pickpockets often target tourists by pretending to wipe bird poop off them, or by handing them a cardboard sign. While you are paying attention to the supposed bird poop or fiddling with the sign, they are going through your pockets or fanny pack. Be aware if anyone seems to be a little too close for comfort.


Once you have your money, cards and passport safely secured in your money belt, you will need to think about the items to place in your carry-on size bag. You will want to pack your electronic items like your lap top, i-Pad, Kindle, and cameras in this size bag. You would also pack your medicines and any other essential medical items like your C-pap or dental night guard. Also, it is a good idea to pack an emergency wardrobe in case your checked luggage does not arrive for your cruise. This would include a few clothing basics that would keep you from having to re-wear your traveling clothes for your entire trip. Keep this bag with your at all times. Keep a hand on it at all times. This suitcase contains the things your cannot live the next week with-out if your checked luggage goes to Albuquerque and your go to Miami.

Another issue you may have to deal with is the dreaded “Gate Check”. Check your itinerary for your type of aircraft you will be flying. If you are flying a commuter jet, you may have to gate check this bag if it is too large to fit under the seat. These planes don’t have overhead storage. In this case you will have to pack a very small “personal item” bag with as many of your valuables as your can fit. Then you can gate check your carry-on size suitcase. If you can’t fit these items into a very small bag that will fit under the seat and you know you will have to gate check, you may choose to purchase locks. The locks won’t prevent every theft, but they may make an opportunist bypass your case for an easier target. Just make sure that you can access your keys to open the bag when you go through security. I had my camera stolen when I gate checked a bag one time. If I had locks on the bag, it just would have put a barrier that might have slowed down the handler who utilized an unlocked bag as a great theft opportunity.

Checked Luggage

Pack your main wardrobe for your cruise in your checked luggage. Check ahead of time to see how many bags your airline allows. The cruise lines usually do not have any restrictions on the number of bags, but if you are flying you’ll need to either pack light or work the baggage fee into your cruise budget. I like to cross pack our family’s suitcases so that if one case is lost everyone still has items to wear. This takes a little more time and planning but basically you just need to make sure that each case includes complete day time outfits, evening, and formal items for each person in your party. Be sure not to pack any items that are prohibited by the the cruise line, airline, or TSA. If you want to lock your case you need to purchase a TSA lock. This allows the TSA agent to inspect the contents, but provides a barrier to that opportunistic thief.

I never put things like cameras, jewelry, or electronics in my checked luggage.

Even If You Are Not Flying:

Even if you are not flying, I still recommend packing this way. When you check in at the cruise port your luggage will be handled first by porters, then dock workers and then your cruise line. I have even heard reports of cases being checked in at the dock but never making it to the ship. Keep in mind that your luggage will also be placed in the hallway outside your room and sit unattended for a time. Lots of chances for opportunistic thieves to quickly remove something of value from your suit case.

Perhaps our readers can add packing safety tip or share with us their experiences so that we can learn from them instead of learning the hard way. We invite our readers to share their tips and experiences.