Keeping safe while travelling should be as much of a priority as having fun is. With the rise of on-the-fly travel booking and trip planning apps, it makes sense to use similarly-convenient tools for travel safety. Technology has made us our own travel agents and our own travel guides, but how about when it comes to travel safety?
When we think about safety concerns we face abroad, we often think of terrorist attacks, sociopolitical strife or natural disasters, thanks in part to media bias. But there are also more “everyday” safety concerns that travellers have to worry about too, such as petty crime, cybercrime or even general health and safety concerns. Lucky for us, technology can help mitigate these concerns.
Travel safety begins at home
Try to be well-prepared before you grab your luggage and head for the airport. It’ll save you possible headaches by decreasing risk while on your travels and increasing your peace of mind:
- Consider investing in smart devices for travel like luggage, wallets, passport holders and cardholders. These hi-tech devices typically feature innovations that are designed to enhance your travel experience.
- If you’re concerned about pick-pocketers and bag-snatchers, anti-theft backpacks and handbags are designed to prevent just that, and are made of sturdy or reinforced material that can withstand theft-by-slashing.
- Keeping a fully-charged power bank handy will ensure your devices won’t die when you need them most. It’s not always easy to find an outlet to charge your phone or tablet when you’re out and about, especially as you get further away from the city.
- Scan or take photos of important travel documents (e.g., passports, visas, credit cards, IDs, etc.), in case of lost or stolen luggage. You can back them up on the cloud so they’re accessible in an emergency.
Personal safety technology for travellers
There are many travel-safe apps available for mobile devices or wearable tech, which offer varying degrees of security and function. It all depends on what you’re looking for:
- Travel alert apps like the Government of Canada’s Travel Smart app can keep you up-to-date with travel alerts, geopolitical climates and health warnings.
- Emergency disaster apps like the Canadian Red Cross’ Be Ready App or the US Department of Homeland Security’s FEMA app provide preparedness tips and resources in times of disaster.
- Personal safety apps like ICE Contact (In Case of Emergency), bSafe or SafeTrek are especially helpful for solo travellers. Features vary from app to app, but may include panic buttons, alarms and alerts you can send to contacts.
- Voice translating apps like Trip Lingo can help you in emergencies where language barriers pose a problem when getting help.
No matter where you’re going, do some research about your destination and learn how travel advisories will impact your travel insurance.
Built-in safety features on social media and devices
You might be surprised to find that some of the tools we’re already familiar with have built-in safety features that make use of their platforms’ widespread accessibility:
- Facebook maintains a Crisis Response hub, which allows people to use the Safety Check feature in times of natural disasters, terror-related incidents and other crises within affected geographical areas. It’s an effective way to tell friends and family in your network that you’re safe, and a way for you to check if they’re safe, too.
- Twitter, and to some extent Instagram, are useful sources of real-time updates in emergency situations. Twitter has long been an instrumental tool by providing users with instantaneous updates, either through Twitter Alerts or from other users who are on location.
- Google recently introduced SOS Alerts, a feature that prominently displays location-based information in Search and Maps when disaster strikes. In addition to alerts, related news, emergency phone numbers, websites, road closure info and transit updates are also provided.
Tech security for travellers
It’s one thing to keep yourself safe with technology, but it’s another to keep your tech secure. This involves keeping your phones, tablets, laptops or any other devices with connectivity safe. Accessing sensitive information on banking, social security or medical websites, for example, should be kept to a minimum while you’re away from home. The best practice, although costly if you’re from Canada, would be to find a roaming data plan with your network provider.
Using public Wi-Fi
Be wary of using unsecure public networks while abroad, as they can potentially expose your sensitive information to hackers. This includes the use of Wi-Fi in hotels, airplanes, buses, libraries, stores and the like. Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your devices when not in use; this will keep you from automatically logging onto public networks without your knowledge.
If you want to minimize your Wi-Fi usage while travelling, plan ahead by storing scans or images of your travel documents as mentioned above, along with your e-tickets, trip itineraries or travel insurance policies directly onto your devices. This way you can open them up offline. If you must use Wi-Fi but want added security, consider using a mobile Virtual Private Network (VPN). Another great option is to use Google’s travel products—which can let you access a detailed map of your destination offline.
If your device is lost or stolen
The key to dealing with lost or stolen devices is precautionary damage control. Apple users can use the Find My iPhone (or iPad or Mac) feature to locate their devices. Similarly, Android users can use Find My Device (previously called Android Device Manager). These apps will help you remotely locate, lock or wipe your devices clean. Be sure to enable and configure these settings on your devices before your trip.
If you’re still unable to locate your lost device, change the passwords for the apps found on it—this includes cloud, email, social media, online banking and other accounts. This will prompt any apps that are actively open in your device to log off. For more ideas, read up on cyber security tips from the Government of Canada.
Wishing you safe travels,