Like many of you, I’ve had my fair share of foreign and domestic travel. The world is on edge today with the anticipation of another terrorist attack. Even in the most hostile environments, you can make yourself a very difficult and less attractive target by applying simple preventive security measures. Terrorists and criminals will always conduct surveillance of their intended target. If your preventive procedures are good, they will most likely opt for an easier victim.

I’ll give you one measure I used in South America as a CIA operative. Bogota, Colombia is known as the kidnapping and robbery capital of the world. A few tricks I used there were sewing a handcuff key in my waistband and carrying a robbery wallet. I bought a cheap wallet and filled it with all those generic credit cards you get in the mail. I tossed a small denomination of local currency inside along with some old photos. If I was held up, I would toss the wallet and run, forcing the mugger to choose between me and the score.

This article will provide you some fundamentals on how to keep a low profile while traveling so you can live to fight another day. You will need to use common sense, be disciplined, and always think worst case. When you apply these measures, you’ll present a harder target.

Air travel

Sometimes the “I” in CIA doesn’t equate. I was issued hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear. This gear included four pieces of tactical Blackhawk luggage. I immediately went out and bought a set of commercial luggage to travel with. The CIA flies on commercial, military, and private aircraft. I have even traveled on Jennifer Lopez’s plane, which we nicknamed “The Rock Star.”

It’s not hard to pick out who is military or a security contractor in the airport. If you walk through the airport in Dubai, it looks like they are setting up a photo shoot for Galls magazine. Dudes parade around in 5.11 pants and North Face flannel shirts like they are giving them away at duty-free. Here are a few tips to consider while traveling on aircraft.

  1. Choose a window seat toward the rear of the aircraft. A window seat affords you greater protection in the event of a hijacking.
  2. Regularly review where you are in your journey by flicking over to the trip display. Knowing where you are at any point in time is a consistent theme in preventive security.
  3. Label your luggage with your information in a concealed area (so as to not display your nationality).
  4. Don’t discuss your travel plans with fellow travelers. Careful here. You don’t want to lie and see the same person on a later flight.

Hotel security measures

I was taught early on to behave normally, not like a spy. Only amateurs will hide their passports behind framed wall art and set up concealed booby traps on dresser drawers. Think about it: You’re obviously up to something if this kind of behavior is spotted by someone. Here are a few tips on hotel security:

  1. Acquire or make a copy of the fire escape plan on the back of your door. Most of these just slide out.
  2. Do not stay on the ground or the top floor. The ground floor is readily accessible to intruders and the top floor does not allow any maneuver room. The first or second (European) floors allow access for most Third-World country emergency vehicles.
  3. Keep the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, even when you are not there.
  4. Always assume the room is bugged. Keep the radio or TV turned on with the volume on low at all times—even when you are not in the room.
  5. Keep the drapes/blinds pulled at all times, even when unoccupied.
  6. Keep a light on in the room when unoccupied.
  7. Know the fire escape routes and the locations of all stairwells and elevators.
  8. Keep a small “bug-out bag” packed with must-have items (money, ID, passport, etc.) in the event of an emergency departure.
  9. Carry a screw-on-type lock or a 2.5-foot long, 1″ dowel with you to block any sliding doors. The screw-on-type locks can be found at most hardware stores in the States.
  10. Carry a motion alarm that can be placed over the doorknob. They are inexpensive and can be found in most electronics stores.
  11. Keep a flashlight next to the bed and within arm’s reach.

I’m only scratching the surface with the content in this article. I look forward to hearing any recommendations that you may have been taught and utilize.


*Photo courtesy of Pixabay