Whether you are flying, driving, riding the rails old school like, or going by magic carpet, anytime you travel you are taking some risk. The rewards are generally worth the risk in most cases, but there are a few basics you can do to protect yourself from being the victim of a crime.
If you travel with a laptop carry a security cable and use it when you leave the laptop in your hotel room. It also comes in handy if you’re at a coffeeshop need to run to the restroom. When my wife and I traveled to Rome a few years ago we spent a few days in the beautiful city of Venice. She and our traveling companions sort of chuckled that I kept locking up my laptop every time we left the hotel. I was vindicated however in Venice as, by all appearances and my masterful powers of interpreting body language (and some evidence he left at the scene – like HIS empty laptop bag) the hotel desk clerk attempted to steal the laptop. The fact that it was security cabled (to the toilet no less), and that it’s password protected kept it and my data safe. NOTE: I wouldn’t normally secure it to the loo as the possibility of damage or vandalism by a frustrated crook is higher, but there wasn’t anywhere else to put it.
“Travelers are often easy marks,” says Ira Lipman (Lipman 152) in his book How to Be Safe: Protect Yourself, Your Home, Your Family, and Your Business from Crime. Many travelers do not take the time to dress for the environment and in the case of American’s, we can often be spotted a mile away (Hint: leave the Levis and Wranglers at home, buy some European looking designer jeans if you want to blend in). Find out the styles of the place(s) you are traveling to and the appropriate season and pack accordingly.
- Have someone drive you to the airport. This will reduce the likelihood of theft from or of your vehicle in the parking lot and also reduce the chances of assault or robbery as you go to your car upon your return, particularly at night (Lipman 153).
- Do not overpack your suitcase. I know you’re trying to avoid baggage fees but overpacked bags may pop open and are more likely to be opened by dishonest airline or screening personnel (Lipman 153).
- Label your bags and use your work address on the address label so thieves won’t know your home address and that you are presently not there (Lipman 153)
- At the screening checkpoint be sure not to go through the metal detector or body imager until all of your items are inside of the x-ray machine; then, keep a close eye on them as you go through the screening process; toss your cell phone, wallet and money clip into your jacket, shoes or briefcase – do not use the little dog bowl for your valuables if you want to keep them.
- Use legitimate ground transportation services (Lipman 154).
At the hotel: make sure the desk clerk does not loudly announce your room number and once in the room use all locking devices and the safe if one is available (Lipman 156). A door stopper (that little wedge thingy) is a great security item to have as it makes it difficult for someone to push in your door. Don’t stay on the first floor as those rooms are too easily accessed. Stay in floors 2-7 as most firetruck ladders cannot reach higher than the 7th floor. Watch for strangers loitering in hotel hallways – typically people just don’t stand around in a hotel hallway – if they are waiting on someone, its more common to let them in the room rather than keeping them outside in the hallway, so this should make you suspicious. Call hotel security if you are concerned.
Resort location are full of Hoslers, con artists, pickpockets and shakedown artists. Take the suggestions of the hotel manager or concierge rather than those of the taxi driver also try and stay with the crowd, it is the lost sheep that falls victim to the wolf pack (Lipman 161).
One point that I disagree with Lipman is his advice to avoid expensive luggage. The theory is that if you have expensive luggage you must have expensive things within the luggage. However, from the hundreds of thousands of miles I’ve flown on commercial airliners, I’ve found that an expensive suitcase is very resilient, less likely to tear open and in the case of the zipper, harder to break the lock. I recommend using locks on your suitcase – this reduces the likelihood of opportunity theft and helps keep your bag closed during rough handling. However, keep in mind that a good bag thief will not even bother with the lock, they will simply break the zipper. Expensive bags tend to have better zippers that are less likely to be compromised.
Another point that I disagree with him is not to carry your Passport. You never know when you’re going to need to get out of Dodge and fast so you don’t want to be hassled by customs or having to deal with the State Department, while you’re trying to get out of a country that is in turmoil.
As always, the most important point is to be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Lipman, Ira A. How to Be Safe: Protect Yourself, Your Home, Your Family, and Your Business from Crime. Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, 2011. Print.