Travel/ Vacation Security/ Safety Tips:
I cannot stress this strongly enough – if you are going out of the US for ANY reason – presuming that you just may have been exposed to SOME media information within the last 6 months or so, and presuming that you have a modicum of gray matter, BEFORE you leave the US, go to www.travel.state.gov and www.tsa.gov
Unfortunately our World – especially the geographical portion in which most US vacationers, especially those who are approaching ‘elderly’ status, travel – is “shrinking”, becoming smaller by the year, as violence – some blame it on the encroachment of Muslim extremism – increases.
Preparing for a family for a vacation or for that matter any trip requires planning. Once you’ve decided where you’re going, where you’ll stay and how you’ll get there, you must plan for the safety of your home and family while you are away, and while enroute.
Use of Travel agents are especially recommended now, since most of them have ‘networks’, which can help with safety, security considerations within the anticipated locale, be it foreign or domestic, including political, social climates contributing to possible unrest, no matter where you are going. Also they can serve as a contact while you are away.
Also, buy Travel Insurance from the Company recommended by your travel agent, unless you have an arrangement with another firm. (I had a stroke on a cruise in 2010: we recovered most of our losses!)
Following are several suggestions that will help to ensure that your trip is as safe and secure as possible.
Preventing crime during family/business travel starts with making sure that your home is protected while you’re away.
Prior to leaving:
Visit <www.tsa.gov> for the latest in what you can/cannot carry on an aircraft. Understand that this CHANGES CONSTANTLY!
Check it, Review It before you travel; so that you are not caught unaware, embarrassed at the Airport . . . then again, WHAT do you DO with the items that you suddenly realized that you CANNOT take on the PLANE?
Remember that in today’s world, today’s international political climate, Americans are looked upon, perceived with increasing hostility, especially in foreign countries, where unfortunately in some cases it is considered a social ‘coup’ to take advantage of, to cheat, an American, a US citizen.
Go to <www.travel.state.gov>, then to “tips for travel abroad”, Take the time to read the ten (10) tips CAREFULLY, then go to “Consular Information sheets”, for the country(s) you plan to visit.
Consider the advice provided – register on-line with the State Dept, tell them where you are going. In the event that something ‘hits the fan’ the minimal inconvenience will become inconsequential!
It is essential to make your residence appear as though you never left!
1. - Keep shades and blinds in their normal position, windows LOCKED, if there are two locks, reverse them.
2. - Stop mail and newspapers, have mail held at the P.O. or ask a neighbor to pick it up every day. Do NOT change the message on your answering machine!
3. - Install timers on several household lights so they go on/off at different times, include a radio that is preset to a news station or talk show – for background voices – indications that someone is present.
4. - Ask a trusted neighbor to park a car in your driveway each night.
5. - Arrange to have your grass mowed/snow shoveled while you are gone.
6. - Unplug the cord to the motor of your garage door opener, so that thieves who visit your neighborhood with programmable garage door openers with the same code as yours will not be able to open your garage door.
7. - Due to increasing level of credit card related fraud, credit card issuers such as Visa, Master Card maintain an ‘unpublished ‘profile’ on the use of your credit cards – e.g. – if 99% of your purchases are in NYC, and then all of a sudden your card reflects the purchase of an airline ticket to Hong Kong, two things may/will happen.
a). -Your phone will ring, from a fraud agent at the CC Company requesting verification of the ‘most recent purchase’ related to your card
b). - Access to the card/use may very well be stopped until the problem is resolved. Therefore – CALL the companies that issue the credit cards that you will be carrying, at LEAST a week in advance, notify them of your destinations, dates you will be away.
Some tips on what to/NOT to take with you, how to behave; this now applies to Domestic as well as international travel!
1. - Clean out your wallet/purse before you go, take only essential credit cards.
2. - Use credit cards or travelers checks instead of cash wherever possible.
3. - Carry your purse close to your body, in front of you.
4. - Keep your wallet in an inside pocket, NOT in your back/hip pocket!
5. - Better yet, wear a ‘fanny pack’ – in front of you, or a money belt or pouch under your clothes, consider a pouch carried around your neck, with the pouch INSIDE your shirt – consider a vest with zippered pockets; I have found this to be very convenient, very safe.
6. - If you carry a purse/whatever/ on a strap, over a shoulder, KEEP A HAND ON IT, just in case someone tries to cut the strap from behind. There are now straps containing metal that resist cutting.
7. - Pack as lightly as possible. Lots of heavy, cumbersome bags will slow you down and make you more vulnerable to being robbed.
8. - Expensive designer luggage will draw unneeded attention to your
belongings. Pack your things in inconspicuous bags, include your name, address, and phone # on papers, business cards TAPED to the inside of bags.
Keep a separate record of the contents of checked luggage, and keep anything of value such as medicine and jewelry in a carryon bag that stays with you.
9. - If you are carrying prescribed drugs, be certain you carry them in their original packaging and that you have a copy of the prescription with you.
10. - If you are going on an extended vacation, consider shipping large bags to your destination in advance. For the return trip, mail bulky, new purchases home, or ask merchants to do it for you – helps with insurance claims!
11. This is a REPEAT - Call the customer service ‘800’ number on the reverse side of the credit cards that you carry, inform them of your destinations so that ‘out of area’ charges will not result in refusal of credit since you are away from your ‘profiled’ area. REMEMBER – credit card issuers retain a ‘profile’ of the Geographical area – predominant Zip Codes? – I’m NOT certain of the method - of where your card(s) are used. Deviations from this profile may/WILL cause interruption, cessation of service until the ‘discrepancy’ has been resolved. BELIEVE ME – this has happened to me in the recent past, and the advised precaution is WELL worth the INCONVENIENCE! If you have a credit card(s) with wireless capability, consider changing it because the # can be remotely copied.
12. If you are going out of the country, be CERTAIN to carry a photocopy of your passport separate from the passport.
13. From a reader – consider placing black electrician’s tape over the brand names on large cameras and lenses – if they are black! – so as not to attract the attention of thieves, and change the lanyard if it bears the mfg. name.
14. - Last, and possibly MOST IMPORTANT - do NOT sign your credit cards on the signature line on the back of the card! Instead, print in red – or a ‘loud color’ - “SEE PHOTO” in the signature space.
I have done this for years – ever since one of the CC issuing firms invented – and then stopped – placing photos on the cards! Watch what happens – it is interesting –and unnerving - to see just how many cashiers do NOT check the signature box!
While you are traveling:
1. - Do not display expensive jewelry, cameras, money, and other items that will draw attention, make you a target for a pickpocket, a thief.
2. - Do use an ATM for the best local currency exchange rates, but don’t walk away from an ATM counting cash – count it right there. Do NOT record your PIN number ANYWHERE! Commit it to memory!
3. - Be careful of “Internet Cafes’ – they are ‘trolling grounds’ for ‘phishers’!
4. - Keep an eye on your children at all times. Be certain they know where they are staying – the name and address and phone number; if you have to, print it on a piece of paper and put it in EACH child’s pocket! Along with a photocopy of the child’s passport! Place a photo copy of their passport/vital data in a pocket, so that if you become separated; someone finding them has a ‘starting point’ to use in contacting you – the address and phone number of the local US Embassy or Consular office would help immeasurably!
A nuisance? – Of course – HOWEVER, balance that against the emotional trauma of losing a child!
Make certain that they know not to accept rides from strangers.
Teach children what to do if you become separated, and rehearse it. Make certain that they know not to accept rides from strangers.
This may seem callous, impersonal, but you may wish to consider a ‘tag’ for each child – similar to a wrist tag used in hospitals to identify patients, and strangers.
5. - Always lock your car when it’s parked – and when you are inside too – even if the stop is brief. (Do NOT park a personal vehicle in a Long Term Lot at an airport!) If you must take a personal vehicle and park it at an airport, park it in a supervised lot; NEVER leave it in a public lot.
(The operable question – is the reduced cost of the public lot worth the grief of a stolen car upon arrival?) A person who did park in a long term lot had their vehicle broken into, the information on the registration was used to find their home which was broken into and robbed, using the remote control garage door opener. The same can be done with a GPS; so don’t put your home address into it! An individual left their GPS in their vehicle while at a football game, the car was broken into – the thieves knew how long the had because they knew how long the game would last – the owner had his address in the GPS – the thieves used the garage door opener to get in, and cleaned out the house.
6. - Keep valuables out of sight, preferably locked in the trunk.
7. - Don’t advertise that you’re tourists by leaving maps and guidebooks on the seats or dashboard – keep them on the floor or in the glove box.
8. - Use well-lighted, well-traveled streets at all times; check your route on a map in advance.
9. - Find the floor fire exits as soon as you get to your hotel room.
10. - Request a room between the third and fifth floors – high enough for fire truck ladders, too high for burglars from the outside.
If you are traveling to ANY foreign country – including Canada and Mexico:
1. - Make photocopies of all family passports; keep these copies separate from the actual passports – in a separate piece of luggage
2. - Check with the ‘Country Desk’ (the State Department Section – for that country), in order to ascertain the political and social climate of the region and visit www.travel.state.gov
3. - Consider registering by phone with the US Embassy or Consulate in the country you are visiting – Especially if there is political or social unrest in the region. (Consider the downside – the US has become an International TARGET for the ‘bad guys’!)
4. - Rather than renting a car in a foreign country – except Canada, consider scheduled tours, or a guide or tour recommended by your HOTEL.
We have all read, seen the media presentations of attacks, kidnappings especially in the Caribbean where kidnapping is a local, economic crime, however considering the ‘local’ – wherever – political, social, economic climate, one must exercise caution – check with travel agents, local authorities prior to venturing into the area.
Hindsight is 20/20, these all happened to the ‘other guy, right?
Remember – to the ‘other guy’ YOU ARE THE ‘other guy”!
The outside World is NOT a friendly Place!
Check with the US State Dept Country Desk = Section, if you are going to travel Internationally!
IT WOULD BE an excellent IDEA TO VISIT WWW.TSA.DOT.GOV
FOR THE LATEST ADVICE ON WHAT CAN/CANNOT BE CARRIED ON AN AIRCRAFT.
Having become a frequent traveler over the years I have found it beneficial to subscribe to several (free) travel sites – although I do not necessarily subscribe to his political views, I believe that Rick Steves has excellent travel related information and I follow him regularly - check your local PBS station for recommended sites.
There is no such thing as too much information, and the World is shrinking when one considers safe places to travel – depending of course on just how adventuresome you wish to be!
REMEMBER – CRIME DOES NOT TAKE A VACATION
Thomas W. Leo, CPP, 7/14
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