Security Tips For Travelers

So you’re off! And oh, what a trip it will be! Your bags are packed, and you’re ready to go. You’re thinking of a dream vacation: time to get away from it all, to soak up the sun, to hike up some mountains, to sip tea with dear Aunt Myrtle. But whatever your destination, there are some basic security tips you need to keep in mind to make your trip a safe one.

Set Up Your Phone’s Emergency Contacts 

In the event of an accident — vehicular or otherwise — the first place responders will look to find next of kin is your cell phone, if it hasn’t been broken. Make sure you’ve got mom, dad, your spouse, your significant other, BFF, or whoever you trust on that vital emergency contact list. On that note, it’s always worth saving your mother as “Mom” and your dad as “Dad”, and your spouse as “Spouse/Husband/Wife.” That gives people who don’t know you a fighting chance to notify those you love.

Don’t Forget Your Documents

If you’re traveling out of the country (and I’m looking at you, college students headed to Cancun, because the people headed to Paris probably know this already), bring your passport. Keep it on your person at all times when en route, preferably in an RFID (radio frequency identification) blocking wallet or wallet sleeve. This keeps people with an RFID reader from remotely skimming info from your radio-frequency enabled passports and credit cards. Slate claims they aren’t necessary. But we say better safe than sorry. Do not surrender your passport to anyone but official personnel, the same way you don’t hand over your driver’s license to the waitress at the diner.

[Click here for some suggested products to block RFID-scanning thieves.]

Rely On Your Carry-On

We’ve talked about the merits of using only carry-on luggage versus checking bags here at Security Baron. But it’s worth reiterating: if you fly, you’re vulnerable to having someone rifle through your belongings when they’re out of sight in baggage areas — something that happens with disturbing frequency. (And dealing with TSA about your stolen goods is not a recipe for fun.) You’re also a sitting duck when it comes to milling around the baggage claim. You probably don’t need to take that much stuff with you, anyway.

Plan Your Route

By “plan your route”, I don’t mean “use Google Maps.” Actually look over a map, real or virtual, and decide where you might want to stop for gas (ideally a well-traveled area with lots of gas stations and lights). Plot your Starbucks needs, your alternate hydration needs (for example, I have to figure out, about once per hour, a safe area where I can drive thru for an iced tea), and your preferred food and bathroom break areas. Some rest stops are sketchier than others. You can find out interstate rest stop locations at Interstate Rest Stops; USARestStopLocator offers an app that locates rest stops and lists their amenities.

[We’ve got plenty more travel tips. Check out our security tips for Air Travel, Airbnb Guests, and Transporting Valuables.]

Talking: Quick And Cordial

A friendly “hi” or short conversation with someone never hurt anyone. But if a stranger makes you feel uncomfortable, invades your personal space, or asks you for money — “I just need $10 to get to Dallas!” — do move on. You owe no one niceness. You owe them courtesy and treatment as a full human being with dignity. Which may mean a nod, a smile, and a friendly “have a good day.”

Travel With Others

Sometimes, traveling alone can’t be avoided (maybe no one else wants see Aunt Myrtle). But “safety in numbers” is a saying for a reason. Your posse keeps you in line. They remember the snacks, sure. But they also go to the bathroom with you at that sketchy gas station. They navigate. They help you remember your bags and your purse and your money and your keys and anything else. They give you someone to talk to. They keep you from sitting next to strangers on the airplane or the bus. And when that creepy dude starts asking you for money, they drag you off on some imaginary errand. Bring a friend along. Seriously.

Elizabeth Broadbent

Elizabeth Broadbent

Elizabeth Broadbent lives in a medium-sized city in the South with her three children, three dogs, and patient husband. She works as a staff writer for Scary Mommy, and her writing has been featured in The Washington Post and on

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