More and more Americans are turning into laptop addicts. Coffee shops, fast food joints, libraries and even public parks are providing free Wi-Fi access so that your laptop is always online and in use. It is little wonder that, come vacation time, the trusty laptop is high on the packing list. Even if you are just on a business trip, you need to bring your laptop with you because it will allow you to work while traveling. Well, there is something that you need to know about the safety of your laptop while you are on vacation or just traveling.  

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The laptop is one of the most commonly stolen items from tourists because it is really easy to find a way to steal it. When on vacation, people often forget about their valuables because they came to relax. Well, even when you are relaxing and taking a time off, you need to think about your valuables such as a laptop because there are thieves everywhere. Usually, when people steal your laptop, they are doing it to make a quick sale, but they often go through the data in case you have some personal information they can use such as a credit card number.  

But beware, there are risks to taking your laptop along. Laptops are easy to steal, easy to fence and give a very high return when sold as stolen goods. Also, they often contain important information that may exceed the value of the computer itself many times over. 

A very tempting target indeed for those who prey on distracted vacationers and unobservant tourists. 

So, what can you do to protect this valuable prize?

First, make sure that you really want to take it along. 

Seriously, how important is it to your daily life, especially on vacation? 

If you really need your email, can it be accessed on the road with public computers or email enabled cell phones? 

Are you going somewhere where a laptop is even useful? National Parks have many wonderful things, but Wi-Fi is usually not on the list. The best way to protect your computer is to lock it away in your house and enjoy a few days of off line living. 

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OK, you really need to stay in touch. Your entire itinerary is on your laptop’s hard disk and you need to check your office email at least once a day. So, leaving it home is not an option. Take it along but use your head. 

When traveling, keep it out of sight as much as possible. It may feel really cool to surf the web in the airport or at a truck stop, but it’s a good way to get you marked as a target for a snatch and grab. 

When driving, keep the laptop in its case and locked in the trunk. When you get to your lodgings, bring it in with the rest of the luggage. 

Remember, thieves like to qualify their targets. You wouldn’t flash a roll of bills on a public street for fear of attracting unwanted attention. The same rule applies to your PC. 

If you are carrying and using it in public, use the same caution you would with any valuable and easily grabbed object. Keep it with you. Just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean that the criminals are as well. 

Select the smallest carrying case you can, to make it less tempting to set down ‘just for a minute’ while you look at the shelves in the gift shop. 

If possible, use a case that doesn’t even look like a laptop case. There are a variety of rucksack style backpacks that are equipped to hold a laptop with accessories. They not only make easier to carry your PC with you, they lower your profile as well. 

Be realistic about taking the laptop along on the day’s outing. Are you really going to work on that quarterly earnings report on the beach blanket while the rest of your group is getting sunburned body surfing? 

Sometimes it just best to leave it behind and have a good time. 

If you do leave it behind, there are a few rules to follow as well. Your room is not a good place to keep it when you are out unless it has a laptop sized room safe. 

Most hotel and motel staff is honest and reliable, but you don’t want to find the exception that proves the rule. 

No matter how well you hide it, a good sneak thief or dishonest room cleaner will find it in a matter of minutes. 

If there are not in room safes, ask the desk clerk to lock it up for you. And be sure that you get a receipt.  

If your PC has important work related files and documents, you have an additional layer of problems on your hands should it suddenly go missing. 

Here are a few tips to minimize your grief should this occur. 

  • Remove any documents that you don’t need to take with you and archive them to a secure location at your workplace. Let your IT staff worry about them while you are gone. 
  • Backup your entire hard disc before you leave. More than once, if you can. This way, if your PC is lost, stolen or falls overboard on the lake cruise, you can still get at your files. 
  • Encrypt your files and, if possible, your entire hard disk. There are a variety of programs that can help with this. Once encrypted, it is very difficult to get at the information without the correct key. 
  • Whenever possible, keep your data on the office network and access it with a secured Internet connection. If you don’t have it on your disk, you can’t lose it. 

Make sure that you have the model number, serial number and a picture of your laptop with you on your trip. (Keep this in something other than your PC case.) This will help you with the laptop recovery should it be stolen. 

Laptop recovery software is available that can be installed invisibly on your PC. These programs will secretly send you a message whenever the laptop is connected to the Internet, giving you and the police information on the laptops location. Some packages also allow you to take control of the PC and delete important files. 

Remember to keep your priorities in order when taking your laptop on vacation. It will make for a happier trip.