Many of us enjoy traveling and if you like seeing new sites and meeting new people, you would've enjoyed the 16th annual LA Times Travel Show held last weekend at the LA convention Center. Destinations abounded including Spain, Israel, Mexico, Romania, India, Costa Rica, Croatia, cruises, Arizona, Asia, South Africa, Hawaii, and many California locations. I found many time share organizations present on the floor and a preponderance of African Safari trips being offered. There were demonstrations of cultural cooking and lectures of all sorts, including dealing with medical emergencies and LGBT travel. Stars there included Alyssa Milano, Adam Richman, Henry Rollins, and the famed Arthur Frommer.
One of the neatest things I saw was the Jucy champ travel car, which rents for around $35/day and has everything including the kitchen sink packed into the car so that you are self-sufficient almost wherever you go.
The trouble is most of us, when were traveling, forget that criminals travel too. Most of us are not aware of our surroundings as we should be. So it was with great interest that I listened to Detective Kevin Coffey of the Corporate Travel Safety organization and Catherine Hamm of an editor of LA Times Travel, discuss with us how to be safe while traveling.
”Experience is the worst teacher. The wolf," said Coffey, "looks for the sheep." It's crucial to know how pickpockets operate and how seasoned travelers can lose their carry-ons. It's necessary to always be aware of our surroundings especially in a new urban environment. The majority of us will not fall victim to crime, but those of us who persist in being oblivious will suffer. There is a thin barrier between the hiccup on our trip, which will make us uncomfortable, and the disaster, which will ruin our experience. He gave us several tips on how to stay crime free.
1) have a "what if" file and plan before you leave for your trip. Know what will happen and how to face it if you lose your passport, your wallet, your phone, or get into a traffic accident. He showed us slides of airline lost and found rooms where people lose drivers license, luggage, and other property. Most are not claimed because people don't know how to deal with this. He let us know how important it is to mark your property with your phone number and email n the inside. This will tell lost and found how to get hold of you. Do not use your home number because you won't be there to answer the phone. Use a phone number you can be reached at while you're on a trip. An email address that you check frequently is also helpful.
2) Sanitize your wallet. That doesn't mean with hand sanitizer, it means take out the Macy's and other credit cards or appointment cards or other junk that you're not going to need on your trip. Men routinely carry their wallet in their back pockets making them easy marks for the pickpockets. Women, he said, never put your purse across your chair as it's easy for the criminal to walk by and slide it off.
3) Keep your luggage safe. Pack as if you'll never see it again. Never put valuable items inside your luggage. Keep medications, your laptop and other crucial information with you in your carry-on. Make sure your luggage looks different than everyone else's. There is an abundance of blue and black suitcases. It's easy for someone to grab it off the baggage counter and if you think it's yours, all they have to do is say, "Oh I thought it was mine." Station yourself near the baggage chute as the bags come off the plane so you can see when your bag comes down. Don't just wait for all the bags to come around. This way you can prevent the loss of your bag by mistake or on purpose.
The company sells special luggage locks, as well as other safe travel gadgets, so that you can tell if someone has opened your suitcase in your absence. Other items include mobile safes that look like backpacks to store your laptops in. This is especially handy if your room does not have a safe. He showed us that all it took was an ordinary pen to undo the zipper on a soft sided luggage. They do make luggage now with the zippers lock and cannot be picked as easily. He highlighted a company called Pacsafe, which they also sell.Luggage, when you travel internationally, has a higher percent of pilferage especially when going to lower socio-economic areas. "Most crime is one of opportunity and they want to be quick about it so if it takes them longer than a moment to get into your luggage, they'll choose another victim."
4) Going through the screening station, watch where you put your valuables and make sure you pick them up after TSA is through with them. Too many people, especially when they're rushed or distracted by children or other people, leave items behind and lose them forever. Mr. Coffey puts his wallet and other items in the top pocket of his carry-on before he goes through the screening line.
5) While on the plane, put your carry-on in the compartment opposite you not above your head. This is especially true when you're going on international flights. It's easy for thief to wander by and pretend he is going into his luggage when he's really going into yours. If you are sitting opposite you will see what he is doing with greater ease. Criminals are very good actors and actresses. They look a lot like us and it's hard to tell the difference even when you're aware of it.
6) When traveling internationally, taxi drivers sometimes try to scam you by putting a counterfeit bill under their receipt book and make you think you have given them a fake bill. The driver gives you back the fake bill, which he usually paid half for, and gets you to give him more money. The general reaction is to double pay without realizing it. Always ask the driver, before you get in, how much the ride will cost to your destination as some will sometimes take you on a roundabout journey.
Mr. Coffey had numerous other tips for us, many of which can be found on their site. He warned us to understand the pickpockets who try to overwhelm you and distract you see you don't notice their hand going in your pocket. Be careful anyplace you set your property down as Westerners are easy to notice and you might be targeted for crime. He ended his speech reminding us that most of the people in the world are honest, however, there will always be those who target travelers for their valuables because they find us "easy prey."
Sponsors of the 2014 travel show included the Guam Visitors Bureau, Singapore airlines, Changi, South Africa, American Express travel, Cruise planners, Hoy, KCET, PBS So Cal, KTLA, incredible India, Turkey, and Villa Del Palm Sun