While planning a cruise to Europe, one thing that often comes up in searches of what you’ll find there is pickpockets in the touristy areas. Some places are too crowded to avoid getting close to anyone and unsuspecting tourists have no idea their pocket got picked by simple ordinary pickpockets until they discover the missing item isn’t there. And of course anyone setting something like a cell phone down in easy reach of passersby on a sidewalk table will probably not have that phone for long.
While it’s a good idea to stay far enough away from other people so nobody can touch you to avoid getting your pockets picked or purses stolen, in some areas the crowds are just too thick to avoid everyone. Some of the thieves have far more creative ways to part tourists from their valuables than simply sneaking up and taking things. We have encountered the rosemary ladies both in Malaga, Spain and Viña del Mar, Chile. Obviously Chile is not in Europe, but the concept is the same.
These ladies offer passersby a sprig of rosemary and if anyone should take it either they demand money or by getting close enough to them to take the rosemary you have gotten in range for them to pick your pocket. We saw them in places without crowds so refusing the rosemary and staying out of touching range was pretty easy for us, but in a crowded place where you can’t avoid getting near others just the distraction of the offer of the rosemary might be enough for one of them to slip a hand into your pocket while you’re busy saying no to someone else.
Other things thieves do include riding past on a bicycle and cutting straps to things like purses which they then grab and ride off with or throwing a baby at someone who instinctively catches it, keeping their hands busy, mind occupied and pockets unguarded. Often they work in pairs. One may spill soda on you while another seemingly unconnected to the first offers to help you clean up, only they clean you out of a lot more than spilled soda. And definitely don’t be stupid enough to fall for “we have a deal just for you” from street vendors who want to lead you away from the crowd to rob you.
So the question comes, when visiting crowded touristy areas of Europe, how do you keep your valuables safe? On a cruise ship port stop all passengers at the minimum will have their ship card and photo ID because they need those things to get back onboard. Likely most will have money or credit cards as well. When your pockets, backpacks, and purses aren’t safe places to put the things you really can’t afford to lose, what do you do? People traveling around Europe by bus or train are likely to have money belts hidden under their clothing, but those may not be practical for a port stop when you are carrying things you need to be able to get to. Nobody wants to have to strip down to their underwear to get their ship card out so they can get back on the boat.
I pondered this question quite a lot. One day while online I came across the Running Buddy. While these were designed for runners to have a place to keep things while on the run in outfits that often don’t have pockets, a semi-concealed pouch that stays with you hands free through whatever sort of activity you have planned could certainly come in handy for the cruise ship passenger on shore excursion as well. When I got mine their website was just marketing them to runners, but now they are marketing to travelers as well. Whether it is to put valuables somewhere safer or just to have a place to put things while involved in activities such as zip lining where backpacks and purses aren’t options and anything in a pocket could easily fall out, or you just want a way to carry your things hands free, a magnetic pouch could just as easily be a cruiser’s buddy as a runner’s.
These little pouches slip over your waistband. Magnets on each side come together holding the pouch in place. To hide the pouch from possible thieves wear a shirt long enough to hang over the pouch and loose enough to conceal the little bulge. It’s a bit easier to conceal in colder weather by wearing a jacket. Besides being secured to your waistband by magnets, the pouch is something the thieves aren’t as likely to look for. It is harder to get into than a pocket and not on straps they can cut like a purse or backpack, but if they did find it they could pull the whole thing off so it is not entirely safe. While it can go anywhere on your waistband, in pickpocket prone areas wear it on the front where you are more aware of your proximity to strangers and they are less likely to find it. Or if you want it really secure you could hook it to your underwear, but then it wouldn’t be any easier for you to get things out of it than a regular waist wallet.
Running Buddy standard pouches come in a 6-inch size which is good for keys, money, passport, cards, and a small camera, glasses case, or phone. The 3 1/2 inch mini holds keys, cards, and has room for little things like chapstick. There’s also an XL 6 3/4 inch pouch and XXL which is 7 inches long for bigger phones. Of course these larger pouches can carry keys and cards as well. All but the mini have 2 pockets within the pouch to keep cards separate from the phone. Some also have a side zipper headphone port.
I tried the mini and 6 inch pouch out on dog walks. They come in handy when you don’t want to carry a purse, but also don’t want to leave your keys and driver’s license in the car when you drive to a park or trail – and you don’t want to worry about things falling out of your pocket, or your outfit has no pockets. I hardly notice the mini and it stays in place quite well. The 6-inch I’ve used if I want to bring my cell phone or camera (my camera is also a small one. I like small things for their portability.) The pouch needs to be placed where it can stay straight because while the pouch itself can bend around a body curve on its own, once you put a straight solid object like a phone or camera in it one corner will tend to come undone if it sits on a bend. I’ve also found it stays magneted to itself better when putting the pouch on first and making sure it is solidly fastened before adding the phone or camera then it does if put it on with the phone or camera already inside. I definitely prefer the mini, which is great if I don’t need it to hold much. I’m always aware of the larger one when wearing it, but if I was out in the pick-pocket prone areas of Europe I’d find that more comforting than annoying.
I brought a coat that hangs down just past the top of my legs to Europe intending to wear that over the Running Buddy pouch so it would be inaccessible to any lurking pickpockets, but the weather was unseasonably warm for fall when we were there and no coats were ever needed so I ended up borrowing a waist wallet worn under the pants for extra security instead the day we took an excursion into a crowded pick-pocket prone area.
Rather than pick-pocket prone areas it makes a better cruise buddy for active excursions where your things could fall out of a pocket or to use on board if you have no pockets, don’t like lanyards, and need somewhere to keep your ship card. Or the bigger one when wearing an outfit with no pockets and you want an easy place to keep your phone or a small camera handy. Even if you do have pockets cameras and phones can fall out of them, but not out of the Running Buddy so it can definitely come in handy onboard.
I gave my daughter, who is a runner, one for Christmas once and she loves it. Besides using it for its intended purpose to hold things while running, she also used it at Disney World to carry her GoPro camera. She used it in the runDisney marathon there as well. I wear a hydration belt when running so I can easily carry a water bottle and it has a pocket built into it. If I need more than just the one pocket I can add a Running Buddy onto the belt. It works just as well there as it does on a waistband. In fact they have actually added a belt to their product line for people who want to wear multiple pouches or who don’t want to put them on their waistband.
So while not necessarily the best choice for pick-pocket proofing, the Running Buddy is a great product for its intended purpose to hold things safely while running or doing any other activities where you either have no pockets or things might fall out of your pockets. They have greatly expanded their product line from just the few sizes of pouches they had a couple years ago when I got mine to having all sorts of things available now, including travel products like RFID lined pouches to prevent electronic pick-pocketing.