Most people are well aware that they should leave expensive jewelry and watches, excessive cash and pricey electronics at home when heading out for a day at the beach. But what if you're on a cruise and will be going to the beach in a port of call? This scenario is a little more complicated because there are things of value that you might want or need to have with you such as a larger amount of cash, a credit card, your ship card, cell phone and even your passport.

How can you secure your belongings while you're swimming? What if you'll be doing water excursions like snorkeling? While lockers are usually available at water parks, beach clubs, and nature parks like Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios and Chankanaab in Cozumel, they are notoriously scarce on public beaches and tour boats. Do you just gamble and leave everything hidden in the bottom of your bag on the beach or boat? No one wants their vacation marred by a costly theft. Here are a few options to increase the security of your valuables and keep the good times rolling during your trip:

Make your bag less attractive to thieves on the beach

  • Use a bag with long straps and lots of compartments. Long straps can be looped around or tied to stationary objects such as beach loungers, umbrella poles or palapas making it more difficult for grab-and-run thieves whose goal is to swipe your stuff and get out of Dodge. They are unlikely to waste precious time on bags tethered to objects or linger to search through lots of pockets and compartments for your wallet.
  • Inexpensive or old looking backpacks, beach bags or purses are less enticing than new, expensive-looking or designer bags.
  • Colorful, distinctive or uniquely-patterned bags stand out a little too much for a thief, who just might reject it for a less identifiable one.
  • Try to sit close to lifeguard stands, security guard booths, beach attendant stands, etc.
  • Strike up a conversation with folks from your ship (or even a different ship) sitting near you. They'll remember you and your party and may notice if a stranger is poking around your stuff. You can tell what ship people are on based on the cruise line-provided beach towels they have.

The buddy system

You can take turns going into the water so that your things are never left unattended, but there are several downsides to this method:

  • The person on guard duty will be missing out on some of the fun during their shift.
  • If it's just two of you, each will have to enjoy the water on your own.
  • The buddy system isn't an option if you're traveling alone or if your entire party is participating in water-based excursions like snorkeling or swimming with the stingrays, as there will be no one to remain on the tour boat to stand watch over your things.

Waterproof cases

Waterproof cases that can be worn around your waist or arm let you stay in the water as long as you want with the peace of mind of knowing that your cash, credit cards, key card and passport are safely in your grasp. They will protect your items from water and sand, and some even float if you accidently drop them in the water! There are even waterproof cases for smart phones, MP3 players and tablets.  Be sure to read product specifications carefully.

Here are some brands that rate well in consumer reviews on sites like Amazon and travel forums like Cruise Critic: Aquapac, DryCASE, OverBoard, Otterbox, and Lifeproof. The Waterproof Store and Ebags have a large selection of waterproof products. If you live near the coast, you can probably find a good waterproof case at a dive shop.

Lockable bags

The Kyss Lock-Safe Bag which can be locked closed and anchored to a beach chair, umbrella pole, cabana railing or other stationary object can be a deterrent to thieves reconnoitering tourist-packed beaches for unsecured "sitting-duck" purses and bags. Tamper-resistant, slash-resistant and water-resistant anti-theft Lock-A-Bye Bags don't come cheap, but may very well be a lot less expensive than losing your smartphone, credit cards, cash, and passport! The cable-lined shoulder strap also attaches easily to any stationary object. Pacsafe also has a number of anti-theft devices that many travelers swear by.

Swim trunks pockets

Most men's swim trunks have a Velcro or zippered pocket into which they can put key cards, credit cards and cash. Sure, they'll get wet, but who cares? Water won't stop key/credit cards and cash from working. Test the reliability of the zipper or Velcro before swimming because the last thing you want is for your money to fall out and float or sink away. Some brands, like Victorinox, feature swim trunks with an interior security pocket.

A few caveats

  • My husband, a law enforcement officer, says, "Locks only keep honest people out."  True enough.  I know that a lock won't thwart every crook, but I'm sure as heck not going to pave the way for them! My philosophy is to make that thief pass my stuff over for easier pickings elsewhere. We mostly use a combination of the buddy system and securing our bags to stationary objects. Knock on wood, in 11 years and 22 cruises, not a thing has been stolen!
  • Choose tour operators with care. Reading reviews about the various tour operators out there on sites like Cruise Critic, Trip Advisor, and Independent Traveler can help you to find a reputable outfit with professional, knowledgeable, longtime staff who routinely receive glowing reviews. Under these circumstances, I feel comfortable leaving my things on the boat when I'm in the water. Good tour operators on islands where tourism is their bread and butter pride themselves on their reputation and, in the Internet age, would soon be out of business if theft was occurring regularly.
  • Keep in mind that people who you'd least expect could be thieves, so use your gut when contemplating sitting by that beach attendant or by those fellow cruisers.
  • The above methods are geared towards the garden-variety purse snatcher or pickpocket in ports of call on Caribbean itineraries. It's a whole different ball game in some parts of the world, such as Southern Europe, where thieves have pickpocketing down to a science or where skilled knife-wielding slash-and-grab thieves thrive.

This is a guest post by Deidre from Dania Beach, FL
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How to Protect Your Valuables at the Beach