Today the world is so small, and so available. Most of us love to travel, but very few take any kind of precautions! Why!? Well, most of us simply have an attitude of complacency or fatalism, like
“disasters doesn’t happen to me”
or “if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen”, this is very dangerous thinking, for several reasons; the main one being that you in your mind is a victim of circumstances, instead we at FLAWD advice the opposite: adaptability and as Robin Sharma says: APR: Absolute Personal Responsibility for yourself and your well-being.
A criminal attack, an accident, a fire or other disaster can happen to you and your family at any time, regardless of traveling or not. You can influence what happens to you by assuming more responsibility for your own security. This guide will help you from a security AND safety perspective to mitigate the risks you could encounter as first a traveling professional and second as a normal tourist whilst traveling. Soo, what do we need to do? Lets divide the trip in 3 phases:
BEFORE YOU GO
Research basic information
- Information about your destination, go to department of state and check their travel guides. Example: this one is from the US Bureau of consular affairs regarding Sweden
- Leave a copy of your itinerary with a trusted family member or friend (this can be automatic with the help of TripIt, as we will discuss further down the line)
- If you are driving, make sure your vehicle is in good working order
- Get copies of maps of your destination to locate routes, attractions, and essential services. More on maps later in this post.
- Become familiar with some basic words and phrases in the language of the country you plan to visit, as one of my heroes Brian Tracy suggest in one of his books, one of the most important phrase you can learn is: THANK YOU
- Make photocopies of your passport, airline tickets, visa, Carry one set of copies with you and leave another set of copies at home/work with someone you trust.
- Your health and accident insurance may not be valid outside of your country. Contact your insurance provider to see if you need additional travel health/accident insurance.
- If you need any prescription medication, bring enough to last you the duration of your trip.
- If you wear glasses, bring an extra pair.
- Make sure your baggage is labeled with your name and phone number, but use a luggage tag. You want to consider using your work address and phone number on your luggage tags. We will discuss an alternative of baggage tags using QR codes later in this article.
- Make Your Own Custom Luggage Tags
Adam Dachis at Lifehacker gives a different tip regarding luggage in his post top 10 holiday travel tips At travel and department stores, you can usually find blank luggage tags that either laminate a piece of paper or have an open slot for a custom tag. Once you have those, just make a design on your computer that’s unique to you and print it out. If you want to have truly unique tags, generate a QR code and add it to your tags.
- If you are security oriented and FLAWD – you have Two-Factored your life to secure your digital life. OTP:s might get compromised and you might need reset codes, these codes should be stored at a safe location (consider them as an extra key to your home), we suggest to store them at a trusted and available friend, or at work with a trusted colleague. which have a phone number you remember) In a sealed envelope.
- In your itinerary, fill in the emergency information: where you are going to stay, the person(s) you are traveling with, the contacts/friends/colleagues you are visiting or plan to visit, their contact details, and the contact details to the closest embassy, so they can be contacted in case of emergency.
Use EVERNOTE for planning
All above can easily be digitized and edited in Evernote, leaving you to only print as little as possible. Not an evernote user yet? Take a look in this post: Why you need Evernote to win.
- Keep the layovers to a minimum, and keep the time for layovers to a minimum
- Book a well known, big hotel, centrally located, but in a quiet part of the town
- Room should be booked for level 2-7 (fire, bomb and escape route reasons)
- Booking should Never be in the company name, only in the name of the travelers
- Inform the countries embassy that you are coming for a visit. IF you are a swede, go to: http://www.swedenabroad.com/, there is a list of all embassies. The more security concerned about them keep a (voluntary) register, sometimes called “The Swedish List” (for instance, the athens embassy), this is very useful if there is a mayor crisis, think about the Tsunami from 2004, killing about 230 000 persons.
Google maps are one of the best tools for mapping and navigation, MakeUseOf have written an easy guide how you can collaborate, show directions to friends and using a “literal mind map”. Before leaving for the trip it is beneficial to save the map for OFFLINE storage in Google Maps app, for offline access as you might not have Internet connectivity. For higher security needs a paper map is Necessary, make sure to print it and have it compared to online satellite maps for accuracy.
Security Risk Management alternatives,
There are some alternatives if you are a professional:
- If you are a professional, use a professional service, like Control Risk:Travel Security Services Through a joint venture, Control Risks and International SOS combine their experience, to provide security support and services to keep your international travellers safe, they provide organisations with integrated risk management plans, strategies and responses to protect their employees and help their business function more efficiently.
- Securitas has created their own: Safe Trip app
I am sure that G4S also offers a professional service but it is not marketed.
When it comes to packing, it is an art in itself, and we could write a separate post on that. But one key is to pack light! I am personally struggling with this. Tim Ferriss, a personal hero has a post on: How to travel the world with 10 pounds or less, the biggest takeaway from the post, is to assimilate: the BIT method of travel: Buy It There. Other takeaways: Socks for sunglass case, Coolibar sun protective clothing, and Kiva Key Chain pack
My top 3 things I always bring for international travel
1. Quick dry towel
Multiple benefits of this, but the main benefit except helping you to dry very fast, is that it does not take up any space at all: available to buy here around 20 USD.
2. Vibram Five Fingers
If you are not into exercise yet, please read this post. Since you really should to maximise the your trip you want to be alert for all the new impressions (or business meetings). I prefer Vibram five fingers for several reasons: my current pair – SeeYa, weigh in on 136 grams per shoe. Benefit: they do not take up any space. And since I train with them normally I want to bring them for Running, Swimming and CrossFit. Anyways, always bring them. :)
My iPad serves many purposes whilst traveling. The benefit of iPad vs laptop are several: Retina Screen makes it perfect for reading. It is easier to manage (in flight for instance) than a laptop, you can watch movies on it. Battery time is great. It does not get warm. It can also host movies, series either locally or via apps like NetFlix, it is also great for notetaking, remember the post on our favourite apps, where we mention, Penultimate as an example.
Traveling with Supplements:
If you train a lot, you might have a financial incentive to bring your own supplements while traveling. BCAA caps for instance. The question is; can I travel with non-prescription medicines, or other products such as vitamins and health supplements? FDA Mentions that this should not be any problem. In general FDA will not object to the personal importation of those products, as long as:
- The traveler is carrying the products in their possession (or in their luggage);
- The amount being carried is an amount reasonably considered for personal use.
A search on thread from bodybuilding.com, indicates that there should not be any problem. I have never heard of anyone experiencing this as a problem, have you? A friend of mine gave a tip which could be considered, best practice: bring the “table of contents” for the supplement. And use a Zip-loc for your powders. If unsure, order online and have them delivered to your location, or buy it on site or use natural foods.
Persons to visit
As we have written in the post about Evernote, is can be used as a contact and relationship manager, so if you want to visit a friend, scan your social network and add reach out before visiting.
- Scan your contacts before traveling – use hashtags like #San Francisco
- Take a paper copy of contacts on trips – with their phone numbers and addresses if your technology fails.
Long stay? Find a gym
If you are a CrossFitter for instance, and are visiting for more than just a couple of days, and you already know that your hotel gym will not suffice. Google is your friend, just reach out. In this case I am going away for a month and I simply sent an email. The CrossFit community are extremely friendly. Also alternatives like: BoxWanted or CrossFits Official Affiliate map
Your smartphone can be your best friend when traveling. For an overall better experience, however, you should be using TripIt (for iOS, Android, and Blackberry). It’s a free webapp and smartphone app that manages your itinerary. In some cases it can even help you get a digital boarding pass so you don’t need to print one at all. TripIt is one of my favourite apps for traveling international is TripIt, for 4 reasons
- It is free
- It is automatic – as soon as I get confirmation from my booking, I simply email them and the trip is created. – The have recently added an automatic import, to remove the risk of you forgetting to forward the email, however I have not tried yet,
- Automatically adds the trip to my calendar
- Customization and sharing : I can easily share the trip with my friends and family and if group traveling we can collaborate on editing the trip.
I personally always prefer to fast during flying, read more about my eating protocols, just because it is simpler and it calms my mind and lower my insuline levels. It is easy to raise insuline levels and cravings on the poor nutritional food usually provided by the airline, I do bring som BCAA tablets and drink Coffee (heres why), or tea depending on which state I want (awake or soothing). While flying: walk if you can, stand up if you can, wiggle your legs at your seat and stretch your legs every 45 minutes to and hour to avoid a serious condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis.
When you are on the plane, go into the bathroom and take all of the previous currency of the country you are leaving out of your wallet and into your money belt ( or wherever you store cash ) and put the currency of the country you are headed for into your wallet.
- When choosing a hotel for travel, get as close as you can to your work place and also, when possible.
There are of course much cheaper alternatives like: airbnb, but from a security perspective this is not an option.
General Security tips:
Firstly, US Bureau of Diplomatic Security, has written a guide: Personal Security–At Home, On the Street, While Traveling, you should check it out. Some takeaways.
- Dressing casually and according to local custom
- Selecting a hotel room on the third to fifth floor
- Don’t let your room number be overheard in the lobby or elsewhere
- Give family and friends your itinerary and keep them updated during your trip- preferably using both tripit, Evernote and paper copy!
- Leave a trail in your hotel room: When you go out, leave a note in your hotel room of where you’re going, whom you’re going to meet, and when you’ll be back.
Steven Northcutt from SANS emphasize the tips in his guide: Information Security Guide for travel
- Always know your exits, when you enter a restaurant or any place you will spend significant time, get up to use the bathroom even if it is just to wash your hands, see if there is a back way out.
- Stay alert at all times, don’t drink in public.
- Don’t flash cash, keep up to one hundred dollars/euros in a pocket separate from the majority of your money, use that to pay for things.
- If you are going to an area of the world where kidnappings happen, discuss your company’s policy before leaving on travel. If it is private travel, make sure to set up a power of attorney with someone to ransom you.
- Carry one water bottle made of BPA
- Travel with a length of rope and learn a few knots, especially a bowline.
- Put as much metal as possible in your carry on instead of the little tray they have, keys, cell phone, watch.
- Find the location of the nearest police station, hospital, and other safe places .
Etiquette is always a tricky business, and every country has it’s own customs. To get a quick overview of what to do in various countries, the hotel chain Swissôtel has put together an etiquette map to ensure you don’t do anything terribly wrong when travelling the world. Swissotel help us with the ultimate guide to Worldwide etiquette.
Protect your home while you are away
When you travel, your home is vulnerable. Adam Dachis informs us that it isn’t too hard to protect your home while you’re away. He suggests turning your Windows PC to a motion sensor webcam. Another sound takeaway from the article is to create a home inventory so you’re ready to provide it to your insurance company if the worst happens! This is a sound idea anyways for your valuables. One example for this is, know your stuff, see video below, but worth to mention is also: StuffSafe and ManageMyLife. and as always you can of course use evernote for this as well.
After – Buffer day?
Firstly, try to get at least 1 day for “buffering”. Huffington post gives us 12 reasons for a buffer day. On this day we can:
- Evaluate the trip and your security protocols.
- Catch up with family friends
- “Fix” Jetlag – actually Fasting while you are in the air might speed up recovery from jetlag
- Catch up on emails
- Other chores like laundry
- Overall, if possible a buffer day to “land” mentally is generally a good idea
Prepare a Grocery Delivery for Your Return Home
The tip to prepare a grocery delivery is real solid and a great idea, if you do your grocery shopping online. Prepare your delivery for your buffer day to stock up quickly.This was the last tip for this guide/checklist. How do you stay safe and productive while traveling? Let us know!
About the author : Peter
Peter is Podcaster, CrossFit Coach, Security Professional and productivity expert. He is the founder of FLAWD.se and the author of Security Encyclopedia: SakerhetsBibeln.se. Peter blogs about health, technology and productivity. Peter is on a mission to help you to Focus, implement success disciplines and to Win in life!
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