Tactical Travel Tips

Don't Be A Volunteer Victim On The Road
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It’s easy to get complacent when traveling, but you need to remember it’s an often ugly world out there, and predators — of the worst variety — are waiting, stalking, planning and actively trying to get to you, what you own — and even your life sometimes.

The best defense is a strong offense. Some simple things you can do easily can help to harden your target to the point bad guys simply pass you by. Here’s some easy-to-remember things.


The Big Rule:

Take personal responsibility for your safety. Trust me when I say this: Exactly nobody else can fully be relied upon to assure your safety. The cops can’t, hotel security can’t, the guy sitting next to you can’t, I can’t — nobody can. You control your safety. Don’t be a volunteer victim. Don’t be stupid with your personal safety. Learn and think about the following things. Then apply them — and don’t be lazy about it.

Basic Tips:

1. Be aware of what’s going on around you all the time.

2. Harden your target, take advantage of locks, lights, alarms and anything that will invite a bad guy to go someplace else. Carry a few important tools like a light and a knife, if you can.

3. Hotel security: Double lock doors and use other methods to prevent entry, like moving furniture in front of the door, leaning the ironing board against it, etc.

4. Stay out of bad places.

5. Be assertive and speak up if you think something is wrong. Call the police or security or tell other people something is wrong. Believe your gut feelings or “spidey” sense.

6. Admit something bad is happening when it does, don’t go into denial, think beforehand how you’ll react — fight back, run, hide, etc. — then do it.

If you want to learn more, read on for specific details and ideas about these tips.


On the road or at home, it’s a good idea to make sure the windows are secure.

Be Aware

There are color codes to describe the various “awareness” or threat levels. White mode means you’re sleeping and utterly unaware of what’s happening around you. Frankly, most people are in white mode all day too, texting while they walk to their car, back to the door at a restaurant, car doors unlocked while they drive, failing to look in the back seat before getting in, not noticing somebody hanging around the parking lot … the list goes on. You’re an easy target and the bad guys spot it right away and will get you.

Condition Yellow simply means you are aware of your surroundings constantly. You look at things and see them. “Why is that guy looking at me? Why is that person hanging around the parking lot. Is my purse safe? Did I look in my car window before I got in? Are my car keys in my hand as I approach my car?”

You can be in Condition Yellow every waking moment. It’s easy, it becomes a habit. You’re not paranoid, you’re simply safer. You are expecting something to go wrong, so are making plans to avoid it, and if it happens, you are hopefully informed enough to manage it to save yourself. Watch, look, listen — and listen to your gut. If something looks bad or wrong or unusual — it is. Trust your “spidey” sense on things.

People get killed, robbed, raped, beaten and more simply because they were unaware of what was going on around them. Then, when something did happen, they didn’t believe it was happening and failed to act/react. The single thing I heard most often during my police career when taking reports from victims was: “I couldn’t believe it was happening to me.” Believe it, because it does happen to nice people. All the time.


Double lock your door the instant you’re inside.

Make sure you plug that hole with a bit of tissue to prevent people from peering in using a simple optical tool.

Harden The Target

Turn your car alarm on. Lock your doors and windows. Carry a bright combat flashlight in your purse, pocket or clipped to your belt. I do, always. There are reasons you should. Always — every day — I have one with me. It’s a distraction to a bad guy, helps you down a smoky hallway at 3:00 in the morning, finds your lost keys, signals for help and, interestingly enough … gives you the ability to see in the dark. Have a knife with you too. You can cut stuff with it if you need to, and a pocket tool is a good idea and could easily save your life. Easy, eh?

Traveling: Don’t get in the cab if you’re uncomfortable with the look of the driver. Don’t ride with a stranger. Don’t stay in a room you can’t secure safely. Demand to change rooms. When opening your hotel door, wait until people walking in the hall are well past you. Act like you’re lost, as if you’re looking for a certain number so they don’t know your room. Then once they are past, unlock your door, look inside, move inside quickly, and lock and double lock the door — now. Bad guys push people into their rooms as their victims unlock their hotel doors — then rob and kill them.

Immediately check exterior windows and doors. Lock them and make sure the locks work. At night, secure the hotel door with a simple plastic doorstop you brought yourself. If not, use a chair, hang the coffee pot on the handle (I do that) and lean the ironing board against the inside of the door. These are all things “hardening” the target. If someone gets past the lock (and they can), the coffee pot, chair, ironing board, hangers you’ve hung on the knob, etc. will make a ruckus and they will run.

If there is a door to an adjoining room, don’t trust the lock. Double-up on that too. Push a table in front of it, anything to harden your target. I don’t care if you’re in the presidential suite. I do it every time, in every room. Be creative, be pro-active and think!

Put a post-it note over the peephole (or stuff a wad of toilet paper in it). There are simple optical tools you can buy on the internet so you can see inside the room from the outside. I’ve tried them, cops use them all the time, they’re $10. Don’t let them see inside your room to see who you are, what you’re doing, etc.

When you’re in your room (or gone for the evening) hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign out. It will make someone think somebody is home and likely leave you alone. When you leave for the day, remove it so the maid will clean up. Hide/secure your stuff when you’re not in the room. You’ve seen when the maid cleans, they leave your door wide open. People do walk in, past their cart (while the maid is cleaning the bathtub …) and steal laptops, jewelry, anything of value they can see walking by, then slip back out. It takes ten seconds. Think. Harden your target. Don’t be a volunteer victim.


If it looks like trouble — it usually is. Avoiding trouble spots increases your chances of not being a victim.

Stay Out Of Bad Places

A really easy way to not become a victim is to stop going where victims go. Don’t stay at a sleazy hotel, don’t ride in a crappy cab, don’t go gambling in Las Vegas at an out-of-the-way place, don’t be out alone at night, don’t park in the dark corner, don’t wear expensive jewelry while you travel, don’t trust strangers, don’t assume anything is automatically right or okay, don’t get intoxicated in public places, don’t pick fights … are you seeing a trend here? If it sounds like a bad idea, it is a bad idea.


Extra security doesn’t cost much.

Be Assertive — Don’t Be Afraid To Rock The Boat

People are afraid to rock the boat, to speak up, to say no, to be embarrassed. That’s ridiculous. It’s your life. Say, “I’m not getting into that cab” no matter how pushy the doorman is. Say no to any situation you’re uncomfortable about. Say, “No, that’s too far for me to travel alone to meet you. Let’s choose a restaurant in the hotel instead.” Just say it. It’s okay. And if someone is upset about it, so what?

Admit to yourself: “That man on the plane might be up to something!” Then act on it. Cops run toward gunfire — they’re paid to do that. But while you don’t have to run toward gunfire, you should recognize it (or any emergency), understand and acknowledge what’s happening, and be willing to move, run, hide, fight if you have to, tear your clothes, stop the bleeding, yell at people to run, carry a child and cut your hand on glass to break out a window to escape. Move. Do whatever it takes — and social protocol be damned. People who worry about such things die.


Poor decisions or actions can lead to you being a victim. Don’t be that person.
Stay in “yellow” mode all the time!

One Step Ahead

Most victims I’ve known over the years have broken one or all of these rules. I know you have too, and still do. You can get lucky and break some of the rules all the time. But I promise you, one day; a very bad person will find the chink in your armor and attack. And if that happens, you need to believe it’s happening to you right then, and act defensively, offensively, and aggressively — or do whatever it takes to survive.

But mostly, just think, stay ahead of the game, be pro-active and play the “what if” game: What if that guy comes over here? What if I look in my car and find someone there … what if? Then when it actually happens, you think: “Hey, I’ve practiced for this.”

Something to remember: When something happens, you’ll revert to your training to handle it. If you’ve never trained or thought about it, you’ll revert to nothing.

And work on staying in condition yellow. It’s easy, and it will save your life. It saved mine many times.

Having the right software — how you think — is more important than having the right hardware. Work on it. Now.

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