As I mentioned in the previous blog post, our Barcelona trip came to a rather sad ending, when we got most of our gear stolen from us with my husband.
Him also being a photographer, we had two cameras, several lenses, his notebook, and some camera accessories, such as memory cards, and batteries. How it happened exactly is still not entirely clear, but we now know this: we will never again take some random shuttle from and to the airport.
Our bag was in the luggage compartment of our airport shuttle when we started the trip to the airport and wasn’t there when we arrived. When and how it was precisely stolen, we don’t know. We stopped several times, and we picked up several more passengers. We are pretty sure that it was organized, and that the shuttle driver was in on it, but of course, we could not prove any of this so the police could do nothing at all. We of course immediately went to the police station at the airport to file our report, and consequently, we missed our flight home. We then made our way back to our hotel where we could get a room for one more night, and booked flights for the next day.
The concierge at the hotel was the same who checked us in initially, and he saw that we returned. After hearing our story, he treated us with a glass of cava – a lovely gesture that we appreciated greatly.
When we finally made it back to Helsinki after a two-leg flight that seemed endless (and on the day the Brussels air traffic scheduling computers broke down), we had to deal with the aftermath.
Filing insurance claims, assembling all the purchase receipts, all the serial numbers, and then replacing the missing gear. But of course there is always some learning, and now when I travel with my gear, I am more prepared and do more things to prepare for any scenario.
Here are some of the tips to make sure your trip is smooth, and in case of theft or other mishaps, it is easier to bounce back.
1. Save all the receipts
Whether you are traveling for work and having work-related equipment with you, or you are just traveling for fun, you still have valuables. And not just your notebook, or digital camera.
Think about all the possessions you are taking with you that worth more than a hundred euros. Phone, sunglasses, wrist watch, digital camera, camera bag, tablet… whenever you buy something like this, always save the receipt.
I save the paper receipt, but I also make a scan of it and store it in my backups. This is also needed for my accounting, of course, if you don’t buy work equipment, you don’t need to be this thorough, but better safe than sorry. If you need to make an insurance claim, it will be beneficial to have all these receipts stored.
2. Write down the serial numbers
For every piece of equipment, I take a photo of the serial number with my phone and then store it in my google drive, so it is easy to retrieve it when needed.
If you have anything stolen, the serial numbers will help the police to identify the things, in case they are found. You can also post them in forums, so people can look out on the used equipment ads, and report it if they see something strange.
3. Make sure you have backups
I already wrote a blog post about the importance of backing up your work. Before every trip, make sure the backups are up to date, so in case of theft or gear mishap, you don’t lose all your work.
When I travel with my camera and know that I will take photos for work, I always make sure I can back up also as I go. I usually carry an external hard drive, and on my camera, I can save the photos on two memory cards simultaneously, so I have two copies by default. When a memory card is full, I remove it from the camera and put it in a safe location.
4. Always have all your valuables with yourself
Never check in your camera bag on an airplane. Never put anything valuable in your checked in bag, not even memory cards. I think this doesn’t need much more explaining.
If you are traveling with an airline that is new to you, always make sure you know their hand luggage policy before your trip.
5. Never take a no-name shuttle company
Always take the official taxi company of the city or public transport. Third party shuttles can be dodgy, with lousy service, and you don’t have any leverage over them in case anything should happen.
When you are taking the taxi, pay with card and save the receipt. On it, there is always the time, place, and the identification of the driver, so it is easy to track it down in case it is needed. When you are leaving from the hotel, ask at the reception desk to call a cab for you – most of the times the hotel is partnering up with a good taxi company, and they also have a trace of which cab you took.
6. Check your insurance
Make sure your insurance covers you for the length of the travel, and also for the full value of your gear. Make sure it covers you in the country you are going to, and ask their policy regarding theft and other crimes.
I had to find out after this incident that my insurance that is supposed to cover everything in all countries doesn’t cover plain theft, only robbery, and for example, wouldn’t cover me in the USA.
Luckily my husband’s insurance covered both of us, so this time it was okay at the end, but now I learned never to trust what the insurance salesperson tells me.
These are mostly no-nonsense tips, I know, but it is better to think these through before you absolutely need to retrieve the serial numbers from emails, online accounts, and purchase history at 11 pm at an airport police station, while you are frantically trying to re-book the room you just checked out from a few hours ago. With my husband, we were traveling a lot already before we’ve met, and this was the first time something like this ever happened to either of us. Hopefully, this was also the last time, and you will never have to go through something like this throughout your travels.
To make this post a bit nicer, here are the photos I took of Timi and Morten on the seashore a bit outside of Barcelona in the most fantastic sunset and lights.