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New Year's Travel Resolution: Become a Safer Traveler
These eight simple strategies can make your travels safer, more secure, and in the process, a lot less stressful.
As frequent travelers, we often assume that we’re safe travelers—especially after navigating new cities and unfamiliar territory for years without incident. But our sense of security can easily be shattered the first time we (or someone we know) becomes the victim of a crime, or falls seriously ill while thousands of miles from home. Both events can be a wake-up call, signaling us to pay better attention to our travel habits, and to safeguard ourselves against future travel incidents.
This year, resolve that you won’t wait until disaster strikes to make safety a priority. Follow the eight smart strategies included here to do everything possible to ensure that you stay healthy, happy and well protected on the road.
Strategy #1 - Travel Light
You may not think that weight of your luggage matters to anyone other than you and the airline baggage handlers, but it can also have an effect on your safety and security on the road. Whether you are dragging your stuff between the metro station and your hotel or trying to find transportation to the airport, you’re less vulnerable when you’re agile and not heavily weighed down. Shoot for taking one of Eagle Creek’s lightweight wheeled carry-ons, a small backpack or a shoulder bag, and have one free hand at all times.
Strategy #2 – Back Up Your Paperwork
Part of being a safe traveler is being a prepared traveler. Scan all documents and insurance cards and email them to yourself in the case of an emergency. When traveling overseas, have the number of your local embassy at hand and register your trip with the U.S. State Department in case a natural disaster or political crisis should occur. Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally, it’s always a good idea to leave a copy of your itinerary with a trusted friend.
Strategy #3 - Protect Your Personal Data
While having a camera ripped off might set you back a few hundred dollars, having your identity or financial data stolen can cost you a several thousand dollars. Eagle Creek’s RFID-technology enhanced neck wallet, money belt, or hidden pocket will keep your cash and cards out of the hands of all kinds of thieves, from simple pickpockets to savvy information scanners.
Strategy #4 - Get Travel Insurance
Make sure your health and valuables are insured before you travel; it should take some of the stress out of skydiving with your GoPro in Hawaii or taking your iPhone with you on a lion-spotting safari in South Africa. The best way to insure your electronics and other valuables is to add them as riders to your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Some health insurance companies will cover you both domestically and internationally – call your provider for details before you take off. If you aren’t insured while overseas, pick up a travel-specific policy for the duration of your trip.
Strategy #5 - Get Vaccinated
Specific vaccinations are occasionally required for international travel, especially if you are hopping borders – for example, if you are traveling into Brazil from another South American country, you’ll likely need to show proof that you’ve received the Yellow Fever Vaccine. Check with your local county health department for recommended shots and clinics that provide them; you may also get cheaper rates than you’ll find at privately owned travel health clinics.
Strategy #6 - Don’t Look Like a Tourist
Tourists are often victims of petty crime for a reason – they’re easy to spot as targets. Keep your camera tucked away unless you’re taking a photo. Study maps back in your hotel room or inside a cafe, not on a busy street corner. Walk with confidence, even when you’re lost. And if the locals are wearing dark jeans and loafers, don’t tromp around a city in zip-off moisture-wicking pants and brand new hiking boots.
Strategy #7 - Be Extra Careful at Bars
If you drink, alcohol is a common denominator in many tourist misfortunes. The best way to avoid being drugged or duped is to avoid mixed drinks entirely and order beer or wine (you’re likely to drink them more slowly, and ounce for ounce, they have a lower alcohol content). Whenever possible, watch the bartender open the bottle of beer in front of you.
Strategy #8 - Make Connections
If you’ve been a victim of a travel crime, it’s all-too-easy to allow paranoia to take over and convince you to spend your entire trip avoiding talking to strangers. But when you smile at the sweet old lady on the bus, she’s more likely to keep an eye out for you when a notorious neighborhood pickpocket boards the vehicle. If you strike up a conversation with a friendly waitress, she may give you a tip on the best route to walk safely back to your hotel. Remember that most people in the world are out to help you, not hurt you. Be sure to pay forward the same kindness to travelers in your own hometown.
What steps do you take to keep your travels safe? Fill us in via the comments below!
Alexandra Baackes is a traveling writer, designer, and underwater videographer. She is currently in her third year of living as a full-time nomad.