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The Trip Planner
Practical travel advice
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Lani Teshima, editor

Basic Security 101 for the vacationer

With the excitement that accompanies vacation travel, we often forget to use the common sense that keeps us safe and aware at home. As much as we don't like to discuss it, there are a few individuals who decide to take advantage of careless travelers. Don't forget that there are some neighborhoods near Disneyland that experience crime, and that as a tourist you are considered a prime target for thieves and pickpockets.

Some of these practical tips that follow may help ward off the casual criminal, especially during a busy holiday season.

Before your trip

Photocopies: Make two sets of photocopies of everything, including airline tickets, including last page (receipt), passport, etc. Leave one set with a trusted person who can serve as your emergency contact. Take the second set with you. Keep this paperwork in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box at your hotel. Along with these photocopies, include the numbers of your credit cards, and the banks' 24-hour emergency contact numbers.

Extra credit cards: Leave your extra credit cards at home. Why risk taking cards you don't need? While you're at it, leave all of the extra cards at home, like your public library card.

Bank debit cards: Do you have a checking account card that has a credit card logo on it? These debit cards are extremely bad news for travelers, and I strongly encourage you leave these at home. If your debit card also serves as your bank ATM card, consider switching to a plain ATM card for your trip. Why? Credit cards hold your liability to only $50 should your card get stolen and used to rack up purchases.

The same cannot be said for debit cards. Don't feel assured by the $50 liability limit on your debit card. The moment a thief uses your debit card, that's your money. The bank has no incentive to get back your money (whereas with a credit card it's the bank's money the thief is using). While you try to untangle the reimbursement mess, all of checks you wrote to pay your bills (and mortgage) may start to bounce, wreaking havoc on your credit status. Bad news all around.

Hotel rooms

Interior walkways: Choose a hotel with internal hallways so criminals hanging out in the parking lot cannot see which room you are in, as well as note when you leave your room.

Quiet check in
Quiet check in

Shhhhhhh! Ask the hotel clerk not to announce the room number when obtaining your room key. A simple "Could you just write the room number on a slip of paper?" should normally suffice. This prevents criminals from eavesdropping to see which room you are in.

Safety deposit box: If your hotel room does not have a room safe, ask to use the hotel's safety deposit box to store your valuables. These include airline tickets, passports, important paperwork, expensive jewelry, and anything you don't want to leave in the car or in your room. Many hotels do not charge extra for this service. Never, EVER leave valuables in your hotel room, especially cash.

Do not disturb: When leaving your room in the morning, hang the Do Not Disturb sign on your door knob. You can always obtain more towels from the hotel registration desk later. Leave a radio or TV set on, and draw the curtains. This gives the impression that the room is occupied. Most thieves know that rooms are empty during the day when families are visiting the parks. It is much easier to skip the room that appears to be occupied, than to risk finding out it is.

Knock knock: If you get a surprise knock on your hotel door, find out who it is before you open the door. If the person says he is from the hotel, do not hesitate to call downstairs to confirm this. If there is a peep hole, check to see if the person is in uniform. Never open your room door without first latching on the safety chain.

Your car

You may have heard of frightening carjackings, where people walk up to your car at an intersection, and threaten you with a gun as they take your car out for a ride... with you still in it. While these are not non-existent, they fortunately occur so seldom that your chances are rather low.

However having said that, if it happens to you, such frequencies mean nothing. Tips: lock doors, be aware of surroundings, check map and know route, share map route with others in the car, and have the car key in hand when you go to the parking lot, so you don't dawdle.

Chances are higher that someone will want to take your car while it's parked, or break in to obtain things you leave in your car. That means not leaving anything in your car. Once you check into your hotel room, take everything into your room. Do not leave bags in the car.

In the parks

Dress appropriately: Do not show off your wealth, or give off the appearance of wealth. Leave your big, shiny jewelry at home. You are vacationing at Disneyland, not attending a formal dinner at the Ritz. If you like wearing jewelry, considering wearing cheaper costume jewelry for your trip. Believe me -- that five-carat diamond tennis bracelet doesn't go with the mouse ears.

Crowds make easy targets for pickpockets
Crowds make easy targets for pickpockets


  • With such large crowds, your valuables can easily slip into the hands of crafty pickpockets. Do not put your wallet in purses or backpacks, but instead keep it on your body. If you are squished in a queue, you may not notice if someone sneaks a hand into your backpack.
  • Wear your extra money and plastic on your body by use of a security / safety wallet. A security wallet looks like a very very very flat fanny pack, that you can wear under your clothes undetected. Extra cash, extra cards and other items should go into your security wallet.
  • If you refuse to wear (or don't want to spend the money on) a security wallet, you can decrease your chances of being pickpocketed if you put your wallet in your front pocket.
  • Wrap a big fat rubber band around your wallet. The rubber creates friction and makes it virtually impossible to pickpocket your wallet without your noticing.
  • For an added measure of security, take a twist-tie (the type that come on bread loaf packages are cinched with) between zipper pull and D-ring, or two zipper pulls that meet up on a single zipper.

If you run into trouble

If you lose anything while in Disneyland, go to the Lost and Found office. It is located next to the main locker rental room on Main Street, towards the middle and on the east side.

The McDonalds on Harbor Blvd, across from the park
The McDonalds on Harbor Blvd, across from the park

If you have problems outside of the park, in addition to calling 911 depending on your emergency, the Anaheim Police has a temporary police station (in the form of a trailer) parked near the McDonald's on Harbor Ave. Make sure to file all of your paperwork so that you can file any claims you need to with your insurance company once you get home.

One final note

If you have ever shoplifted and have entertained the thought of taking some souvenirs home for free, think again. Disneyland Security is very tight, and people who have been caught stealing have in the past been taken away for hours for processing, with no way to contact your friends or family. You may very well be banned from visiting the park in the future. What a way to ruin your vacation!

Basic Security 101

Extra Safety Tips

Keep maps and travel guides out of view in your car. Your out-of-state plates may give your car away, but there's no need to advertise that you are unfamiliar with the area.

If you are assigned a motel room you feel is too accessible (ground floor, off in a dark corner), consider requesting a room change.

Most hotel rooms provide extra locks and dead bolts for your door. If not, consider propping a chair back against the door when you sleep (and consider changing to another hotel for your next visit).

Use a blanket, towel, or jacket to cover up luggage and shopping bags. "Out of sight, out of mind" -- keeps folks from impulsively stealing anything from your car.

Consider sewing buttons, snaps or Velcro to your pants pockets. These make pickpocketing very difficult.

Make sure all of your zippers are closed after you access your carry-in (daypack). I have often seen "yawning backpacks" -- open bags with wallets clearly visible -- because folks forget to zip everything up after spending money. Let's not make it easy for the bad guy to take your stuff!


Contact Lani Teshima if you have any travel tips or questions about trip planning.

A Hawaii ex-patriate, Lani is a technical writer for a San Francisco Bay Area software company.

When Lani is not managing the copy editing tasks here, you can usually find her at the gym, slogging away those slow miles on the treadmill as she trains for the WDW Marathon (held in January). She also maintains her internationally recognized Travelite FAQ.

In the occasional spare moment, Lani and her husband, Alex—our MousePlanet CEO and MouseAdventure event coordinator—attend baseball games, and drive down to Disneyland in their 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (which gets 50mpg).


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