In light of the recent tragedies in Florida, we’ve spent some time discussing how to stay safe when we travel. Seven years in the military, two years working for a public school system, and travel to twenty countries has taught me a few things on how to stay safe, and how to react in an emergency.
Why am I going over these basic and easy travel safety tips? Because it’s the “basic” and “easy” things that we forget first when we’re excited or facing the adrenaline rush of a fight-or-flight situation.
Below are some of the travel safety tips that Joe and I have discussed, and we hope you’ll find them useful too.
Maintain Situational Awareness
Any Veteran instantly knows the definition of situational awareness. It was drilled into us day and night. Situational awareness means comprehending and paying attention to your surroundings, especially the little things.
Where are the emergency exits? Does anyone look out of place? Is someone paying too much attention to security procedures? Is someone watching you instead of whatever you came to look at? Do you have a meet-up point in case of an emergency?
Trust Your Gut
Your gut is there for a reason, it’s there to tell you when something’s wrong when your brain is overcome with excitement or fear. Situational awareness and listening to your gut are critical for having a safe and happy travel experience. Paying attention to those two things means the difference between life and death.
Drink Enough Water
This is a simple summer safety tip, but be honest do you spend a lot of tome consciously thinking about your water intake? I didn’t before my time in the military. It’s very easy to become dehydrated. It may sound gross but check your urine, it should be almost clear, if it’s not, then you’re not drinking enough!
I’ve suffered heat exhaustion (one step below heat stroke) on two occasions while I was in the Army. It’s scary. You begin to lose control of your body and mind before you even know what’s happening. Make sure you balance water intake with plenty of salts and electrolytes, or you will suffer from equally unpleasant side effects of water intoxication.
I have suffered a few pretty bad sunburns in my life and they aren’t fun. On this trip my very stubborn (love you Joe) husband, would not listen to my repeated attempts to get him to wear sunscreen. He wanted to build a base tan. The next day he had one of the worst sunburns I’ve seen in a while. I ended up with a minor sunburn myself because I missed applying sunscreen to one spot on the back of my arm.
Watch Where You’re Swimming
Pay attention to signs when you travel. The parents of the toddler who was pulled in the water and drowned by an alligator in Orlando are being heavily criticized in social media. Why? Because they didn’t pay attention to the “no swimming” signs. They probably had no idea about the alligators, but they took the risk anyway. Don’t take that risk, especially in a foreign environment.
Let Someone Know Where You’re Going
This is pretty much a done deal if you are married or travelling with a partner. I never go anywhere without letting Joe know where I’m going and he lets me know what’s he’s doing. This may be a little trickier if you’re traveling solo. When I first started traveling in 2000, everyone was worried about my going off alone. Alone time is still important, so go ahead and enjoy some quiet time on that deserted beach, just let someone know where you’re going to be at.
Stay on the Main Road
Even when we were at Treasure Island Beach in Florida we decided not to cut through back roads when we were walking around. If you are travelling alone, male or female, it’s not wise to venture off the main road down dark and unfamiliar streets, even if it looks like a great shortcut! If you absolutely must venture of the well-lit path, make sure you maintain your situational awareness.
Leave Valuables at Home
This is hard to do if you are a digital nomad, but the fewer valuables you bring with you the better off you are. Leave the diamond and gold wedding bands, Ray-Bans, and expensive bags and designer clothes at home. No one is saying not to dress well and feel nice, but no need to make yourself a target. As much as I adore my engagement ring it will be staying home in a safe-deposit box when we go to Mexico and I’ll be wearing simple silver jewelry.
Carry a Decoy Wallet
Joe and I have saved our cancelled credit cards (with valid dates) to create a fake wallet to hand over if we’re robbed. We’ll have a small amount of cash, expired credit cards with valid dates, and a few receipts or a pic or two in our decoy wallets. We hope we will never have to hand them over, but they’re ready to hand over without hesitation just in case.
Research Your Destination
It doesn’t matter if you’re going on a road trip to a nearby beach, or a round the world flight, conduct the research necessary to know what you’re getting into. A little research and smart packing can mean the difference between a miserable trip or an enjoyable one.
Some questions you should be asking are: Is it safe to be out alone at night? What’s the availability of ATM’s? Where are the local hospitals? What’s the emergency number? Where’s the emergency exit located in my hotel? Try to avoid booking a room on the ground floor, or a room too high up to quickly escape down the stairs.
These safety tips are just a few of the things that I’ve learned from my time in the military and on the road. The travel safety tips above are by no means an exhaustive list, but meant as a guide to get you started on your journey. Bon Voyage and have a safe and happy summer travel season.
Feel free to email me your questions about travel safety or anything else travel related.