Safe Travels: On-the-Go Awareness

Wherever your travels take you, there are specific safety protocols that one should consider. Learn what it really means to have Safe Travels.
When a loved one tells us that they are going on a trip, our response is usually, “safe travels”. We expect them to reach their destination safely and return home unscathed. Safe travels is a common phrase, but do we fully understand the magnitude of this phrase. Wherever your travels take you, there are specific protocols that one should consider every time he or she decides to visit unknown territory. Whether you travel abroad for vacation or travel across town to get to work, the safety measures should be the same.

Situational awareness is vital, especially when traveling.

Scanning your environment for anything that seems out of place and for anyone who seems suspicious is where you want to begin. If after scanning the area you find anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, you should execute the predetermined plan you’ve been practicing for a scenario such as this. Your plan must include an exit strategy that you have identified prior to entering the space in which you found the potential threat. It may mean going back to your vehicle or “stepping off the X” (going in a different direction) and exiting the area, calling for help, readying your defense tool(s), or actually defending oneself based on the level of the threat are additional options.

The Lay of the Land

By researching an area before your visit, you can identify specific problem areas that you may
want to avoid. The U.S. Department of State provides a travel advisory page for every country in
the world by threat level, and it includes any current threats to visitors’ safety. The Travel
Advisory Threat Levels include Level 1: Exercise normal precautions, Level 2: Exercise
increased casual, Level 3: Reconsider travel, and Level 4: Do not travel. You can also sign up on
their website at to receive up-to-date safety information.

Knowing the crime statistics for your destination will help you choose your lodging options and tourist attractions.

Travel by Motor Vehicle

If you are driving, you want to ensure that your vehicle has been serviced and is performing well. Check your spare tire and map out the safest rest areas ahead of time. Carry emergency roadside tools in your car, including a flashlight, beacon or flares, jumper cables, screwdriver, glass breaker, blanket, seat belt cutter, gloves, and emergency cash to name a few. Know who to call in the event your vehicle becomes disabled. Learn how to change a flat tire, how to jump start the
vehicle, and have the phone numbers for your emergency roadside assistance company, the rental car company, or a local towing company, if the need arises. Keep your seat belt cutter and glass breaker within arms-length reach for easy access, such as the side door compartment or center console. Be sure to forward your itinerary to a trusted friend or family member and let them know when you arrive and when you are expected to leave the area. There are many crimes that happen at gas stations.

Always fill up your gas tank prior to you leaving for your trip and maintain a gas tank level of no less than a quarter tank.

Fill up as soon as possible when your gas levels reach this mark. When stopping for fuel, choose a gas station that is well-lit and busy. Choose a gas pump that allows easy entry and exit and does not allow you to be blocked easily blocked in. Slider crimes typically occur when a motorist exits his or her vehicle and leaves a car door unlocked. The criminal slides into the vehicle, often from the opposite side of the vehicle, as it is difficult to see from the driver’s side of the car. These crimes usually take place at gas stations or convenience stores when the driver is away from the car for a brief period. Sometimes the thief will steal the car if it’s left running, but it’s more likely that they will grab belongings from the car, then hop into a trail car to leave the scene quickly. Often, the driver is not aware that he or she has been victimized until after the crime has been committed and completed.

Always lock your doors whenever you exit your vehicle.

Never leave desirable items of value in plain view. Pay attention to everyone in the area until you
have safely re-entered your vehicle. Once inside your vehicle, immediately lock the doors and
drive away. This is not the time to become fixated on your phone. Pay attention to anyone who
may be leaving the gas station or convenience store at the same time as you to ensure that you
are not being followed. If you believe that you are being trailed and your safety is at risk, call the
police and alert them of your suspicion. Gather the make and model of the vehicle that is
following you and identify your location to pass along the information to the dispatcher. Try to
obtain the license plate number and issuing state, if possible.

On a related note, if you noticed that you have seen the same person in three different places and
believe that you are being followed, the rule of thumb used by the intelligence community
according to Ex-CIA Officer Jason Hanson:

One time = an accident
Two times = a coincidence
Three times = enemy action

Practicing the skill of situational awareness will better prepare you to be able to identify the
threats around you. Having a plan of action will help you to better respond to those threats
wherever you are and wherever you go.

Wherever your travels take you, there are specific safety protocols that one should consider. Learn what it really means to have Safe Travels.
Travel by Motor Plane

When traveling by plane, there are also opportunities for criminals to take advantage of you. Everything that happens on the ground has the potential to occur at 30,000 feet in the air. During airport travel, we are typically bogged down with extra bags and luggage. If we park onsite at the airport, the parking lot may be very isolated, which could make you an easy target. When possible, try parking near the elevator or stairway. Pay attention to your parking level and space location. Take a picture of the signage with your cell phone. If time permits, wait for others to park their car, and walk closely behind them. If you park offsite, choose a shuttle service that will pick you up and return you to your vehicle regardless of the time of day. If alone, walk quickly to your destination. Use wheeled luggage and attach your extra bags to the luggage which will free up your hands to defend yourself, if necessary. If you carry a purse, use a crossbody type or carry a backpack and place your purse inside of your backpack. When your hands are available, you can fight back and run quicker. When attaching your luggage tags, use an email address, as opposed to your phone number, along with the first initial of your name and your last name. Take a picture of your luggage prior to checking it in case it is rerouted. At check in, pay attention to who is paying attention to you. Be mindful of expensive jewelry when traveling, as not to become a desirable target. If possible, wear comfortable shoes that will allow you to run if there is a threat during your airport travels. Be careful about discussing your destination and detailed plans with strangers. The less they know, the better, especially if they are on your same flight. There is no requirement to be truthful when talking to strangers! While waiting to board your flight, watch for pre-attack indicators…that is, anyone who looks suspicious or leaves a bag unattended. If you see anything out of the ordinary or any person who makes you feel uneasy, report it to the airline personnel. Once on the plane, the airline attendants are trained to respond to emergencies. Use them to relay anything that feels threatening or out of the ordinary. It’s better to be safe, than sorry later. Pay close attention to the people who are seated next to you. Be observant of everything and everyone around you. Listen to your intuition and act accordingly. Remember, your primary goal is always to return home to your loved ones safe and sound. I wish you “safe travels”.


  1. Excellent information
    Thank you

  2. Christina

    Great reminders! Thank you.

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