When I went off on my first backpacking trip to Asia during my gap year after school … *ahem* 14 years ago … I barely had a phone that worked abroad. I would use it to send some text messages now and then but other than that we would have go to an internet café to send emails and read our Lonely Planet or travel brochures to get information about the availability of hotels, bus timetables, and how to get to various tourist sights. I had a compact camera… and that was it.
Now look at me: do do do do do, Inspector Gadget! My packing list for the digital nomad is long and full of expensive items, notably my Macbook Air, my iPhone, and my D-SLR. And almost everywhere you go, travellers are following suit: they’re using iPads to take pictures of Machu Picchu, holding out their selfie stick over the Iguazú Falls. We’re so addicted that we can’t live without these gadgets even on a holiday that’s supposed to be taking us away from it all; but that doesn’t mean we’re not worried about losing them, or, worse, having them stolen from us. So how can you keep your gadgets safe while on the road?
Preventing theft in the first place is your priority, of course. Padlocks on your hostel locker are crucial if you’re backpacking, and potentially also on the backpack or suitcase itself. Lock things up in the safe if there is one. Make copies of your important documents like your passport and put them in a different place to the original. And stay aware at all times, especially at night and in remote – or super-crowded – areas. Make sure you also read up online about recent scams in the area you’re visiting; if I had been aware of the ploy of putting leaflets down on your table and then sweeping up your phone (or whatever else was on there) with the rest, maybe I would have been more vigilant and acted faster when this happened to me in Mendoza, Argentina.
Most travel bloggers will recommend World Nomads. But currently they don’t offer multi-trip insurance, only single trip, and this becomes very expensive very quickly when you’re travelling to a lot of different countries. So, if you want annual coverage for all your different travel plans, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
The year before, I had bought the Deluxe Annual Multi-Trip insurance from Preferential travel insurance, a company that operates in partnership with British Airways. This gave me worldwide coverage at £99 for the year, not bad. The maximum duration of an individual trip, however, was 31 days; and my first trip of the year was 32! Unfortunately I hadn’t thought about that when I booked the flights…
I finally settled on the Virgin Annual Gold cover. At £83.51, this gave me worldwide coverage (it’s a little cheaper if you exclude US, the Caribbean and Canada) with the additional options of ‘baggage and money’ and ‘winter sports’. The winter sports coverage was for my skiing holiday, but it turns out that it also covers self-drive of my dog sledge for my trip to the Arctic Circle next month (otherwise it would cost an additional £27 with JS Insurance, for example). The Gold cover also means that I can be away for as long as 90 days on a single trip (on the cheaper Silver plan it’s still 45 days).
Now I couldn’t find any travel insurance policy that covers single items that are more than a few hundred pounds (e.g. there’s a £300 limit on my Virgin Gold policy), so it’s pretty useless when it comes to your iPhone, your laptop, your flashy camera… For this, you may want to consider specific gadget insurance.
Having researched the options, I decided on Protectyourbubble.com. (If you travel with a lot of photographic equipment then Photoguard might also be an option.) This is quite expensive, especially when you add up the individual monthly cost for lots of different gadgets, but it was the best I could find and I got as far as the final step of entering my details before discovering that it only covered items bought in the UK… Unfortunately, my Macbook Air was bought in Sweden (so that I could get it with the Swedish keyboard). Then I tried an offer that came with my Amex – but they are apparently still in the Dark Ages as the sign-up process of receiving the application in the post and then submitting it and waiting for the final confirmation would have taken six weeks. Not very helpful since I was doing all this just a fortnight before heading off to New Zealand…
I was finally able to confirm with my house insurance that these items were all covered while travelling, whether on the train to work in London or on a bus in Malaysia. Hurrah! No extra cost for travelling. The one ‘watch-out’ here is that if you have to make a claim on lost gadgets while travelling, this may affect your overall insurance. And, of course, if you’re a true digital nomad you may not actually have a house, let alone house insurance…
Backing Things Up
Of course, losing your gadgets is not just a question of money, it’s also about the data you have on there – the photos on your camera, your contacts and notes on your phone, EVERYTHING on your computer. Be sure to back everything up before you leave (I use Apple Time Machine) and bring USB sticks or an external hard drive to copy documents and photos while on the road.
Finally, there’s the question of the integrity of your data and the possibility of identity theft or access to important information. With Mac Yosemite now you can activate FileVault to encrypt your hard drive so that it’s much harder to hack into; on your iPhone, make sure that you have a pass code and touch ID, as well as activating Find your phone so that you can locate, and ideally shut down, your phone once it’s in someone else’s hands.
So with all that, I now have peace of mind when travelling, knowing that my gadgets – we’re living in a material world, after all – are covered. Of course, if you really can’t live with the thought of losing something, whether for practical or sentimental reasons, the answer is simple: don’t bring it!
Did I miss anything? Do you have questions? Tips on additional protection or insurance providers? Get in touch via the comments section below!