TRAVEL SAFETY TIPS
27 Important Travel Safety Tips
Travel Tips Everyone Should Know
By Ken Faught
Travel tips – the most-important things you need to know how to keep you and your family safe while traveling. Ken, Amy, Hannah and Wyatt Faught in Maui around 2010.
I have been traveling around the world for over 25 years and have had all sorts of crazy things happen to me along the way as it pertains to travel safety. I have been held at gunpoint in Peru, separated my shoulder in Costa Rica, and was with Jennifer Emig in Kauai when she sliced her finger open while ziplining. All three of these things could have been avoided, and I have chalked it up to experience.
My goal with this travel blog is to help you think about the do’s and don’ts regarding travel safety and learn from my mistakes. Overall, I have been really fortunate with my adventures, and most of the world is relatively safe for travelers. I just want to help you prevent things from happening to you during your vacation and promote all things relating to travel safety.
Top Travel Tips For 2020
Check for health advisories before traveling.
COVID-19 really messed up a lot of travel since it began in 2020
Travel Safety Tip #1 – Pay Attention to Health Advisories
Global air travel had never been more complicated than what has occurred around the COVID-19 virus. It has literally shut down States in America and stopped international travel in its tracks. Private planes have literally been turned around at arriving airports simply because the passengers were from countries deemed high-risk. Every country and we strongly suggest that you do a lot of research on your destination prior to booking a flight or hotel, no matter how good of deal you found with an online travel agency. Not only can it have an impact on you travelling to somewhere, but it can also effect you returning home. For example, I have had friends stuck in Japan who couldn’t return home to the United States because of limited flight availability. Travel restriction have also kept passengers on cruise ships because ports simply refused the international travelers entry into their country.
Travel Safety Tip #2 - Check the State Department Website
Check the State Department’s website to learn all about what is going on in the world in regards to travel. There are all types of political, military and civil action that should be avoided at all costs. This is the best place to find travel advisories. Here’s what they suggest:
As a first step in planning any trip abroad, check the Travel Advisories for your intended destination. You can see the world at a glance on our color-coded map.
Note that conditions can change rapidly in a country at any time. To receive updated Travel Advisories and Alerts, choose the method that works best for you at travel.state.gov/stayingconnected
For more details and FAQs about our safety and security information, please see travel.state.gov/travelsafely.
It’s typically safer to travel in groups – that’s travel safety 101
Travel Safety Tip #3 - Travel in Groups
Although I have traveled internationally alone, I do not like it. I did it for work as a photojournalist during my motorcycle racing days, and never really felt comfortable. That’s why I really enjoy travelling with friends like Vanessa Doleshal and Jennifer Emig. Statistically, you are less likely to run into problems in tourist cities when you are walking around as a group because there are more eyes to look out for your party. This is common sense, but many times overlooked.
Travel Safety Tip #4 - Send Your Family Your Itinerary
A day before any trip, we recommend emailing your family a copy of your itinerary with all of your flight and hotel information. This way they know exactly where you will be and know how to contact you in the event of an emergency.
Travel Safety Tip #5 – Create an Emergency Plan & Tracking Information
It’s very important that you have an emergency plan, especially on international travels. This needs to include all of your insurance information, evacuation plans in the event of a natural disaster, or issues like civil unrest. We could list dozens of reasons why an emergency plan is important, but are not for the sake of time.
A well though out emergency travel plan should include the following elements:
Develop a communication plan and designate one main contact person and a backup person for everyone to call in the event of an emergency.
Figure out plans to return home as commercial air travel could be disrupted.
Create a plan in case you cannot leave the country you have been travelling to and must stay for an extended period of time.
Have a plan to have access to money. This may mean you have to have someone wire you money through Western Union, Paypal, Moneygram, Venmo, etc. This is very, very important.
If you cannot return back to your home country, figure out another nearby country that is safe for a while until you can finish your return trip home.
Locate stores in advance of your trip where you can buy emergency supplies like blankets, fresh water and medicines. I know this is extreme, but extreme emergencies are what you are planning for.
Have a plan to get any medicine you or your family may need on your vacation so you don’t run out.
Keep all your valuables with you and find the safest place to stay as you plot your return home.
Communicate often so people know what is going on. This might be the time to take advantage of social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Youtube, ect.
Travel Safety Tip #6 – Protect Yourself from Travel Scams – The Threat is Real
Use Google to research local travel scams by specific country and also the most-common travel scams worldwide. There are so many dishonest people on this planet that it’s difficult to figure out how to avoid travel scams in every different country. They can be so complex or so simple, that I wrote an entire story on it, so check out Don’t Be A Victim – How to Protect Yourself From Travel Scams.
Without going into detail, I wanted to give you some of the main themes of the ways people will try to cheat you out of money. This goes way above and behind pickpockets and thieves. These are people who are trying to get you to willfully hand over cash by lying to you.
So here’s some of the travel scams:
Your accommodation is closed
Your attraction is closed for lunch
Found a ring
Come in for a drink and help me write a letter
Free bracelets, necklaces and anything they can put on you.
Would you like more soda
There’s a spill on your clothes
Flirtatious sexy woman
Drug deal gone wrong
The wrong change
Someone doesn’t have change for your currency
Jennifer Emig slipped and fell in an ice-covered sidewalk when we were in Mammoth Mountain, California. Fortunately she laughed it off, but accidents do happen.
Travel Safety Tip #7 - Buy Travel Insurance
This is such an important category that we wrote an entire story on the four different types of insurance that you should consider when traveling. Most people are mistakenly under the impression that because they have insurance that protect them at home, that they are covered abroad. It’s only when they need to make a claim that they realize they don’t actually have the proper coverage and they misunderstood the fine print.
Short-Term Travel Insurance
World Nomads is a company that specializes in short-term vacation coverage. This includes health coverage world-wide (except for in your country of residence) and theft. It can also include medical evacuation, trip cancellation and theft (with a $500 per item theft limit)
Long-Term Travel Insurance
World Nomads offers an option for frequent travelers
Camera & Video Equipment Insurance
I have used a company called TCP Insurance for my equipment. TCP offers a variety of general liability and equipment theft and damage options for a realistic price.
Unique Medical Insurance
If you are planning on living outside of the United States for more than six months, IMG Global specializes in long-term medical coverage world wide. It can also include coverage inside the United States with certain restrictions and you can choose your own dedicutable starting at $250 per occurrance. It also includes medical evacuation.
More expensive resorts like the Grand Solmar are
typically safer than budget hotels.
Travel Safety Tip #8 - Stay at nicer hotels and resorts
There are a lot of factors that go into my hotel or resort selection, and it really varies depending on the city in which I am staying, and the time of the year. For example, if I am staying in a place like Hawaii or New Zealand, I feel pretty much safe in most places. Whereas if I am travelling to New York City, I really pay close attention to the surrounding community and I look at online maps and photos of the hotel I am considering. I also take into consideration whether I will be walking from the hotel to shops and restaurants or taking a taxi or rental car. When in doubt, check out review sites like Tripadvisor.com or Expedia.com and you can learn more on a story I wrote about How to Find Best Hotel Deals. This blog has all sorts of useful information on more than a dozen websites that will help you find the best travel discounts and quality reviews.
The camera and lens that Vanessa is holding cost me over $8000, so I am very protective of my gear on trips.
Travel Safety Tip #9 - Lock Up Valuables & Carry Less
I have learned that the less I take on a trip, the less someone has to steal. It’s sad, but I don’t trust a lot of people, even at high-end resorts. So I have made a habit of locking my stuff up in the hotel safe, and actually go out of my way to look for hotels that have in-room safes prior to booking. When you add in a few more Canon camera lenses, an Apple iMac, cash, earpods, iPad and iPhone, there’s usually over 20,000 reasons why I keep a close eye on my valuables and try to lock them up as much as possible.
Travel Safety Tip #10 - Don’t Share Much with Strangers
Loose lips sink ships, and that is really true. Don’t share much personal information with strangers, even if they appear to be really friendly or from your same country. You will never see them again and don’t have to impress them, especially the ones that want to learn about your career, where you are staying, etc. You can be friendly, but avoid personal questions that could create an opportunity for them to take advantage of you somehow.
Travel Safety Tip #11 - Pack Extra Medicines
I always take about 5-7 days worth of extra medicine prescribed by a doctor whenever I travel. This is just in case I run into travel delays or other problems. I also give the extra medicine to someone I am travelling with because I have had medicine stolen out of my room in third-world countries. Remember, it’s expensive to a lot of people, and anything of value is a risk of theft.
Fun times with Vanessa Doleshal and Amber Martinez in Mexico.
Travel Safety Tip #12 - Don’t drink (too much) alcohol
Vanessa Doleshal and I love to drink, in fact, we have a brand called Semi-Sober Travelers, so give us a follow at @semisobertravelers before you do anything else. No, I am not kidding, go follow us.
As a rule of thumb, we are cautious on how much alcohol we consume based on a lot of factors such as how many people we are with, the overall feeling of safety of where we are at, and if there are strangers around. For example, we will drink more if we are on a resort balcony overlooking a ski slope or a beach, instead of a bar. We also drink less if we have to be transported back to a hotel and rely on strangers. This is a case of moderation is good, and it’s also a good idea to have one person in your group remain completely sober if you go out, just for safety’s sake.
Travel Safety Tip #13 - Maintain high situational awareness
My dad was a sheriff in Orange County, California and I learned a lot about situational awareness at a young age. I learned to keep my back towards walls so I can see 180-degrees around me, I grew up paying attention to all the exits in restaurants, and to look at all of the people around me and how they were acting. We have all been in situation where people have made us uncomfortable, and it’s important to pay close attention to this when you are travelling, especially internationally. Sometimes you can simply tell my someone’s attitude and actions there they want to start trouble. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to remove yourself from a restaurant because you have concerns for your safety. Simply leave, or ask for your food to go.
Situational awareness is something you need to practice 24 hours a day. It doesn’t matter if you are in a five-diamond resort, or at a taco stand in Tijuana, Mexico, it’s important that you never let your guard completely down.
Travel Safety Tip #14 – Blend With The Locals
The first time I went to Europe, I wore a red, white and blue jacket that screamed American. I was about 20 and didn’t realize what I was doing. I was proud of my country but didn’t realize that I stood out and attracted attention. Throughout the years, I have learned the value of blending in with the locals. Not always completely, but as much as realistically possible. Sometimes this is khaki pants and a simple white shirt, but take this seriously because it can help you avoid being a target of crime or a scam,
Travel Safety Tip #15 - Register with the U.S. Embassy
When you are travelling internationally, Americans can go online to the U.S. Department of State’s website and join the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. It’s available and free to all U.S. citizens, and its designed to keep you informed of safety information during your travels. Canadians can sign up for a similar program called Registration of Canadians Abroad - https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/registration
Travel Safety Tip #16 - Bring a Small First Aid Kit
Prep a small and lightweight first aid kit for yourself and any others in your group. Talk to the other travelers in your group about what you bringing so you can share resources effectively. If there are three of you going, consider packing more over-the-counter medicines for colds, flus, blisters, etc.
Here are some items we recommend you carrying, and they can all be purchased at local stores like CVS Pharmacy, Riteaid, GoodRX, Costco, Vons or online at amazom.com:
Burn relief gel
Surgical tape & scissors
Pain relief medication (Advil, Tylenol, Excedrin)
Travel Safety Tip #17 - Food and drink safety
We always recommend drinking bottled water in foreign countries or filtered water from a personal water purifier. These can be found at a variety of stores or online at amazon.com. We also recommend limiting the amount of diary you have and watching what you eat. Typically, breads and grains are safer from a food-poisoning standpoint.
So what are the most-common things that cause food poisoning?
Here is a list, mostly from the CDC:
Fish and Shellfish
Vegetables & Leafy Greens
Travel Safety Tip #18 - Carry Everything in One Bag
In the past, I carried a backpack, and put my wallet in one pocket, keys in another, and cell phone in a third pocket. Over time, I have learned that it’s better to keep everything inside a backpack or purse that has a strong zipper. Although I have never done it personally, some people actually use a carabiner and medium-duty a nylon strap to tether it to a heavy-duty belt to prevent someone from doing a snatch and grab. My one exception is my passport! I like to carry this in the front pant pocket so it’s always with me at all times.
Travel Safety Tip #19 – Emergency Cash & Credit
I always take a backup card and extra cash in case of an emergency. I separate them from my normal credit card and cash in the belief that if someone steals my bag with all the cash and all my credit cards, then I am out of luck. That’s why I split it up and usually leave half in a hotel room safe. Then you need to make yourself a reminder to get it out of the safe before you leave. One time my wife left a Rolex watch inside our room safe in the Grand Wailea in Maui, Hawaii. Fortunately, she remembered twenty minutes after leaving the resort, but we could have lost a lot of money by that mistake. If you do lose all your cards and cash for any reason, you can have money sent to you from family or friends though Western Union, Venmo, Moneygram, or things like Paypal.
I always carry my passport with me during international travel.
Travel Safety Tip #20 – Passport Protection
I physically carry my passport everywhere I go on international trips, except in pools, lakes or oceans. Then I leave them in my hotel room safe and carry my state-issued driver’s license. I have had to show my passport way too many times, and have lost out on opportunities because I couldn’t prove my identity in activities that required a passport ID. Also, when carrying my passport, I always carry it in my front pocket so I know where it is at all times, as this is my ticket home!
Travel Safety Tip #21 – Spike Drinks
People, especially women, need to be very careful about someone slipping something into their drinks while travelling, especially at bars. There are several types of “date rape” drugs out there that people can easily access. It’s a real thing, so just pay close attention to your surrounding and don’t except drinks from strangers. Also, it’s best to have someone in your group that doesn’t drink and can monitor everything.
These travel safety tips will help you enjoy the beautiful sights on your vacation!
Travel Safety Tip #22 – Be Wary of Public WIFI
Just be very careful about free public Wi-Fi because security can be extremely poor and it can enable a hacker to tap in between you and the connection point. This hack could open a path for them to distribute malware onto your device which could ultimately lead to stealing personal information.
I co-founded a silicone wedding ring company called Fixate.
Travel Safety Tip #23 – Don’t Show Wealth
It can be very dangerous to show wealth in foreign countries, and that’s why we never wear expensive jewelry including watches and avoid attracting attention to ourselves in general. It may feel good to sport a nice watch and earrings, but those can make you a target for theft. Along with a bunch of friends, I co-founded a company called Fixate that makes silicone wedding rings for people who want to show their commitment but want something safer than expensive metal rings. They are perfect for home, work, play and travel and they cost less than $25 each.
Travel Safety Tip #24 – Know How to Communicate
We recommend working with your cell phone carrier on an international plan whenever you travel so you can stay in contact with family and also the people who are part of your travel group. But it’s also very important to have a backup plan and know how to access the United States or your home country from your hotel or resort. Far too many times, the hotel or resort staff did not know how to do this, and time can be extremely important, so know in advance how to dial out.
Travel Safety Tip #25 – Be Prepared on Transportation
Don’t assume that transportation is going to be really solid during your international travels. Even in the United States, I’ve had problems. For example, one of my friends assumed on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai that she could get Uber or Lyft to shuttle her around. Unfortunately, the population is so small that they didn’t offer those services at that time.
Do some checking in advance and also have a backup plan. I typically rent cars from main companies like Hertz, Alamo, National, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, and Enterprise, but you may not have those options in all countries.
Travel Safety Tip #26 - Trust Your Instinct
Use your life experiences and your gut to help you navigate international travel and stay safe. There are so many situations that you can’t plan for, so trust your instincts. If something just doesn’t feel right, do everything you can to change the situation to something where you are more comfortable.
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