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Behind every beautiful family holiday photograph are stories, some happy stories of genuine local interactions and an amazing relaxed break and some not so happy stories of how you got swindled.

The truth is the positives of family holidays outweigh the negatives, however, it is important to share the truth, and those not so happy stories of family travel. When you are travelling as a family, you are more susceptible to common travel scams for three reasons:

  1. Con masters know that you are physically and mentally stretched so they make their offers irresistible.
  2. Con masters believe you will not physically challenge them in front of your children so they take advantage of you.
  3. Con masters use your child/children as a bridge to carry their scams out.

Common family travel scams can make you vulnerable because of the shame and feelings of foolishness and trusting to strangers. Long after a scam has happened, it remains devastating no matter how little the money lost is, the hurt stays with you for a long time.

My travels so far have been around Africa, Europe and the Middle East, however, the seven common family travel scams I will share can happen in any country and to any tourist. I base these seven common family travel scams around my experience of travel scams encountered in my decade long experience of travelling. Remember, it can happen to you too, no matter how travel-savvy you think you are.

7 Common Family Travel Scams.

7 Common Family Travel Scams
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1. Car Rental Damage Scam.

2. Suitcase Helper Scam.

3. Phone Sim Card Scam.

4. Seminar Sign-up Scam.

5. Photography Scam.

6. The Bracelet Scam.

7. Stranded Tourist Scam.

Family Travel Scams 1: Car Rental Damage Scam.

What happened:

This travel scam happened at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport and with no research, I headed to one of the various car rental stores at the airport. I signed all the documents, including car insurance with them. They took my card details and promised not to take any money. I returned the car at the end of my holiday and they complained about a liner missing in the boot. I argued that there was no liner and after tiring of arguing; I asked them to subtract the cost of the boot liner from the deposit I made. Long after I returned to my country, they took £860 for a boot liner that was never there.

How to avoid this Family Travel Scam?

  • Inspect the car thoroughly.
  • Use a car mirror Dash Camera.
  • Take pictures of the car, both interior and exterior, especially areas prone to easy damage.
  • Take separate car insurance, not the one offered by the car rental dealers.
  • Pre-arrange your rental car prior to travel.
  • Research the best car rental service at the airport if you intend to use them.
  • Fight them if they charge you for any excess. It’s most likely they will return your money if you make a fuss.
  • Go through the papers offered carefully. Circle No for the additional optional services, scan or take a picture of the paperwork immediately.
  • Read reviews from trusted travel bloggers.

Family Travel Scams 2: Suitcase Helper Scam.

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What happened:

Overwhelmed by the long delays by one of the budget airlines, I was so ready to accept any help and as some guys came round to help with the three pieces of baggage; I was so pleased and unsuspecting. The bags had locks; I didn’t realise they had been watching me and saw where I had placed my passport and as I adjusted to pick my daughter up; they picked my passport.

The next day, I received a call asking me to pay some money because they had my passport – I had two options:

1. To pay to collect my passport.

2. To call the police and report my passport was missing so they could sell my passport in the Black Market to a prospective buyer.

After thinking about the potential Black Market sale and the consequences it will have on me if I reported it, I agreed to pay £500.

I considered myself lucky with parting away with £500; I have heard stories of people paying and not getting their passports or others reporting their missing passports and getting reprimanded at the airport for attempting to sell their passport in the Black Market.

How to avoid this Family Travel Scam?

Family Travel Scams 3: Phone Sim Card Scam.

What happened:

As I arrived at Dubai International Airport, some men who presented a free Sim Card for my phone and free tourist sightseeing tickets approached me. I waved them aside at first, but they were persistent. They offered the Sim Card to reach me for a pickup from my hotel room to a seminar on Dubai’s property market business and how to invest in it. They saw my children, asked them if they would like to visit Legoland Dubai, my girls replied yes, they offered tickets to Dubai Parks and Resorts. Tired and stressed from the long haul flight to Dubai, I accepted. The seminar was a hard sell tactic and when I told them I wasn’t interested in buying a property in Dubai; they became aggressive and collected their Sim Card back and they refused to give the promised ticket to Dubai Resorts and Parks. In addition, they spammed my WhatsApp messages until I blocked them.

How to avoid this Family Travel Scam?

  • Research the phone roaming charges with your current network.
  • Buy a Prepaid Sim Card. A Prepaid Sim Card comes with the convenience of recharging anywhere and at any time, a 4G internet connection, and no additional cost to roaming. There are various Prepaid Sim Card available for purchase before your travel. For travels to Dubai, buy a Data Sim Card. For travels to the Asia Pacific, buy A Prepaid Sim Card like Sim 2 Fly. For travels to Africa, use a World Sim Card.
  • Buy a local Sim Card from a reputable store – (this was the option available to me after my initial encounter). You will have a local mobile phone number, and it is always cheaper to pay local rates like everyone else.

Family Travel Scams 4: Seminar Sign up Scam

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What happened:

As I bought my tickets for a private day tour in Athens, Greece, they informed me they invited me to an English-speaking seminar on how to stay in the best hotels around the Greek island for free. It would take place after the private day tour. I was sceptical but couldn’t come up with an excuse to not turn up as it included free lunch.

Straight after the tour, they took us to a local restaurant for lunch and where the speaker spoke about this amazing opportunity to stay at amazing high-end luxury hotels in the Greek Islands for free. He claimed he had done it with his family and he had the evidence to back it up.

Randomly, he picks me from the group of about 12 other families and said my family look like the ideal family they were looking for. He then used a combination of emotional blackmail like I will miss out if I didn’t sign up on the application form straight away and a sense of fake urgency like the hotel needed people straight away, the offer was only available today. Intrigued to know more and with other families signing up, I joined the party and signed up. I wasn’t sure if the other family travellers were an accomplice or genuine families falling for the same fraud like most unknowing and trusting tourists. My instinct kept nagging me so much that I regretted signing up straight away. I tried to get my money back to no avail. I had to trigger a chargeback (Chargebacks are when you have to call your credit card company to get your money back).

How to avoid this Family Travel Scam?

  • Book private day tours with reputable tour companies.
  • Don’t put your credit card number on any form offered.
  • Be careful of cat and bull stories. There is a 100% chance that it is fake.

Family Travel Scams 5: Photography Scam.

Travel Camera
One of the 7 common family travel scam.

What happened:

We all love to keep memories of our travels, and the best way is to get a professional photographer to capture those precious memories, right? Be cautious as a few photographers parading in the lobbies of all-inclusive hotels are out to rip you off. These photographers might take your family picture unexpectedly or with prearranged consent. On our first day in Portugal, we dressed up for dinner in our finest and took some pictures with whom we thought was one of the hotel photographer. He quickly took the picture and asked us for the deposit. We checked if we could get the photographs the next day at the reception desk and he replied yes. We paid £100 in the hope to pay the balance when we see the pictures.

Well, the pictures never came. We went to the reception desk, and they confirmed that they don’t have a photographer and no one had dropped any pictures for us. Shocked and perplexed, I spent the rest of my seven day’s holiday looking for the mystery man who took our photographs for £100!

How to avoid this Family Travel Scam?

  • Book your photographs with registered tourist photographers – I learnt about this the hard way.
  • Invest in a good camera and hone your photography skill.
  • Negotiate for the digital prints only and get it downloaded.
  • Take an extra memory stick for your pictures.

Family Travel Scams 6: The Bracelet Scam.

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What happened:

As we were strolling around Paris just by Sacre-Coeur, some men approached us and convinced us that there was a children’s show at La Basilique du Sacre-Coeur at a later time and we just needed to show them the bracelet to get in. Before we could decline, they had put the bracelets around the children’s arm and then they asked us to pay. They tried to hold a conversation and asked us where we had come from. Still puzzled by what was going on, we asked how much it was and the reply was 50 Euro. It was very random, and we said no thanks. This infuriated the touts, and it turned aggressive. We tried to climb down the stairs quickly, but their accomplice was there, so that’s how we parted with 50 Euro for nothing.

How to avoid this Family Travel Scam?

  • Walkabout with a pack touch.
  • Be alert and always cross over to the other side of the road.
  • Walk around in groups, it limits the chance of getting surprised.
  • Follow a detailed itinerary for proposed destinations it will help with randomly getting lost and harassed.

Family Travel Scams 7: Stranded Traveller Scam.

The Stranded Traveller Scam is when your accent or your children’s accent gets detected quickly, and as a result, someone tells you they are from the same country as you. However, they got stranded and need your help to get back home. This happened in Cyprus. Shortly after we returned from a boat tour, a man who spoke in a perfect British accent asked if we were Brits too. We nodded, and he explained how he got stranded on the island by a group of friends but wishes to get back to England. At first, we were sympathetic, but as we continued to listen, we noticed that his story didn’t add up. We offered to help him call the local police or the British Consulate office. He refused the offer and asked for money.

How to avoid this Family Travel Scam?

  • It is difficult to distinguish who is real and who isn’t.
  • Be firm, smile and move on.
  • Never give cash to street actors rather offer help.
  • Don’t offer money to strangers, keep your money safe in wallets.
  • Don’t give out personal information about yourself and your family.


This posts give an insight into seven common family travel scams and explains ways you can avoid been a victim of scam when spending a quality time with your family on holiday.

Let me know in the comment if you have been a victim of travel scams and what lessons you learnt.

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