Have you ever thought about the most valuable asset to your company? It's you! Keep your most valuable asset safe and secure at all times. Incorporate these precautions into your travel routine and reduce the possibility of becoming a victim.
Before You Leave Home
There are a number of phone calls to make prior to departure, and they don't include calling your local newspaper to stop delivery of your paper, thus publicizing being out of town (great tip for burglars). Contact a trustworthy neighbor to handle your services (mail, newspapers and other deliveries); this lessens the risk of having unknown third parties knowledgeable of your whereabouts. Make sure your health insurance covers you abroad; if not, perhaps purchase short-term health and emergency assistance policies for travelers.
Invest in some good luggage; it will serve you well and avoid the embarrassment of clothes coming down the carousel adjacent to your luggage. The luggage tags should have your office address (not home) printed on them. Don't forget to label the inside of your luggage too, just in case the tags are lost. Only carry credit cards that are necessary; empty your wallet of unnecessary information, especially your social security number. Make two copies of credit cards, phone numbers to report lost cards, travelers' check numbers, airline tickets, driver's license and passport (critical for international traveling). Leave one copy with that trustworthy friend at home, and another copy in your luggage while you travel. Don't forget your medications, but just as important, don't forget to keep them in their original containers if traveling internationally. A letter from your doctor is recommended if carrying tranquilizers and amphetamines, which are considered illegal in some countries. One-third of jailed citizens abroad are there for drug charges, and in some countries, possession, in addition to trafficking, is illegal. It is better to be prepared than to be detained and miss your flight. When making your travel plans, always try to take a direct flight; most airline accidents are upon ascent and descent. Use connections through secondary hubs that are less likely to attract terrorists, who typically prefer areas of hustle and bustle where commotion is a distraction. Unfortunately, there are some populations in the world that want to target Americans. Consider your destination and wear clothing that blends into the local crowds. Jeans, red-white-blue clothing, and big tennis shoes are not advised. It shouts, "American." While other countries have similar clothes, they are slightly different in style, which makes them distinguishable, as are their facial features and language. The point here is to blend into the environment.
There are special tips for the single person. Consider wearing a wedding ring to avoid the harassment often suffered by the single traveler. Before leaving home, use automatic light systems and consider leaving a radio on. A clever suggestion from one police force was to put a dog bowl outside the back door with "Killer" on it. Keep the garage door down when you are packing the trunk of your vehicle; burglars like to "case" a neighborhood before they strike, and you don't want to provide them with unnecessary information.
Traveling in Your Vehicle
Whether you are traveling across town to attend a meeting or traveling to the airport, there are precautions you should take to lessen your risk of injury. Beware of the "bump" accident where another driver will slightly bump the rear of your car; car thieves work in pairs and they can steal your car when you are outside inspecting the damage. Another simple tip is to time your traffic lights; this is very important when arriving late at night. A car in motion is safer from vandals on foot than a stopped car. Keep windows rolled up and valuables out of view for "smash and grab" incidents. This happens more frequently in tourist areas where individuals on scooters stop close to your vehicle at lights. If you must stop, leave a distance of one vehicle between you and the car in front of you for easy exit. If you are ever in danger, continuously sound your horn and cautiously violate traffic signals, if necessary, to leave the area. When you park your vehicle, don't park next to vans or cars with blackened out windows. If thugs attack you when you exit your car, toss the keys as far away as possible. As they retrieve the keys, you may have an opportunity to run away and scream "fire"; more people respond to "fire" than "help." Whether you valet your car in your hometown or use airport parking, only leave your ignition key with the attendant. It is critical that you hide the garage door opener. Why would you leave a means of access into your home with your address on the vehicle registration in the glove compartment? You may return to an empty home.
At the Airport
Lost luggage is more of an issue in the past; however, if you are the infrequent, unlucky passenger, know that 87% of this problem is caused by gate agent error caused by mistagged luggage. Before you say "good-bye" to your luggage, ensure that the proper three-letter code of your destination is affixed to your luggage. Since so many bags look alike, place a colorful ribbon or tag on your bag. That way you can help avoid someone taking your bag by mistake. However, don't overdo it; luggage festooned with many tags and stickers from previous travels indicates that you are a frequent flier. Thieves target these bags, assuming you are a wealthy traveler. Your carry-on bag should include: tickets, hotel and car rental reservation numbers, passports or visas, credit cards, cash, traveler's checks, medicine (remember, customs officials will confiscate unlabeled medicines of any kind, so use the original containers), change of clothes, basic toiletries (stored in a sealed bag to prevent leakage from the pressurized cabin). Be ready for random searches of carry-on bags. Travel light and know that unless you are in the most remote corner of the globe, you will find shops where you can buy extra supplies you need. If you are planning to take some gifts along, hold off taping them until you arrive; security officials may have to unwrap them if they cannot detect what is inside. Along with your carryon, you are also allowed to bring an additional "personal" item, which may include a purse, laptop computer, briefcase or small backpack. Make sure you have all your electronic devices within reach before the security screening area. You can still carry on cell phones, pagers, and other electronic devices, but prepare for a little extra scrutiny. Laptops will be thoroughly examined and must be taken out of their case to go through X-ray machines. Label the outside of your laptop with your name, as there have been numerous instances of people picking up the wrong one.
As you pass through security, do not walk through the x-ray until your items are going through the scanner. Try to 'move' with your items. Others are eager to go to their gate and may erroneously pick up the wrong items.
At Your Destination
Request a hotel room on levels two through seven, since fire truck ladders only extend that high. If the desk clerk announces your room number, ask for another room; your whereabouts should be handled privately.
If the persons on the elevator appear "strange," you should wait until the next elevator-no apologies necessary. If you are attacked on an elevator, push all the buttons, and if the person pushes the "stop," try to pull it out. Have your room key out before you arrive at your room (same with keys to your vehicle). When you enter your room, lock the door, but don't chain it until you have checked to see if anyone is in the room. To avoid thieves, make sure the room always appears occupied with the TV or radio on, and never hang the "please clean room" sign. Do not leave documents out in your room; credit card receipts have your number on them and you don't want to support someone else's shopping spree.
In case of fire, fill the bathtub with water. Wet the bath towels and wedge them under the door to keep smoke and fumes out. Use bed sheets to hang out the window to let people know where you are. Never use the stairwell between floors for step-aerobics; this is not a place to exercise. These areas are fireproof and thus soundproof. It's a great place for thieves to hide. Always carry ID if you jog or exercise, in case of emergency. If you are traveling to a foreign country, register with the U.S. Consulate or embassies upon arrival. It would be easier to evacuate the country, if necessary. Also, if someone from home is expecting a call and it isn't made, the embassy knows your whereabouts and can check to see if you are missing. (Retrieve your passport from the front desk as soon as possible in foreign countries.)
Safety is Like Insurance
The most cautious people will utilize all of the above suggestions. Some will adhere to a few. Similar to buying various types of insurance, you will take a certain amount of risk and that varies with all of us. Regardless of what measures you take, I hope you enjoy Safe Travel. Godspeed.