Property Casualty

What Color Category are You in When You Travel?

Joe Watts
Joe Watts
Property Casualty

Planning a business trip outside of the U.S. anytime soon? If so, you’re probably thinking of the normal things any traveler would…what should you pack, do you have your passport, what work necessities should you bring, will you check luggage, etc. What you may not be thinking about are the potential issues you might face.

Traveling to another country for business can put executives in questionable — and sometimes dangerous — situations. Unfamiliar surroundings, unique modes of transportation, currency differences, and language misunderstandings can cause a person’s sense of familiarity to completely diminish. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead and be aware.

Before You Leave

Before you head to the airport, you’ll want to make sure you’ve taken some key steps:

    • Contact your credit card/debit card company and advise them you will be out of the U.S. — Most credit card companies will deny transactions outside of the U.S. if they aren’t notified prior to the trip. This can cause a delay of service and time spent on the phone sorting out details. In addition:
      • Carry two credit cards/debit cards. One can be used as your primary card and one as your backup.
      • Arrange for the ability to make a cash advance from an ATM on your credit card if needed.
      • Place your credit cards in radio frequency identification (RFID)-blocking sleeves. Of course, this will keep them safe from those looking to obtain your credit card details, but it will also keep them safe from an accidental demagnification…rendering the card useless. For example: The magnet on the back of your conference name badge or the fridge magnet purchased in the hotel gift shop can demagnetize your card.
    • Arrange for a multinational calling plan on your mobile phone. This will save you a whole lot of money when making calls or sending texts.
    • Take photos of your credit cards, driver’s license, passport, insurance cards, and travel itinerary. Save these photos to your phone or laptop and email a copy to a family member or coworker. This will give you access to the information in the event those items are lost or stolen.
    • Carry two passport photos with you in case you need to get a new passport. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate does not provide passport photos.
    • Plan your wardrobe to not be offensive or draw attention to yourself. Seems odd…but this is important. You don’t have to look sloppy, but travelers perceived as wealthy become targets of street crime. Leave the Rolex at home. Consider an inexpensive sports watch for travel abroad.
    • Leave a detailed itinerary with family or a coworker, including hotel or lodging details. Someone other than you should always have these details on hand in case of an emergency or any other issue that would render this information valuable.
    • Register with the U.S. State Department Smart Traveler Program (STEP). STEP will send you email or text alerts prior to your trip and while you’re away. It also provides details and contacts for U.S. Embassies and Consulates in the country you’re traveling.
    • Consider Travel Insurance. Travel Insurance is inexpensive and can be tailored to meet your needs (Out of Country Medical, Travel Assistance, Repatriation, etc.).
  • Check with your doctor, the U.S. State Department, and travel websites to determine what, if any, immunizations are recommended for the country where you’re traveling. Keep your health top of mind.
  • Never store valuables or electronics in checked luggage. If your luggage gets lost or stolen, what will you do? Keep these items with you!
  • Think ahead. Plan your transportation prior to travelling. Additionally, ask yourself these questions: What will it look like when I land? Where do I find my transportation? What does my hotel or destination look like from the street? Review your destination airport’s website. Search your destinations on Internet mapping websites (think Google Earth, Google Maps, etc.).
  • Arrange to have local currency with you when you land. Don’t rely on credit cards to get you to your in-country destination. The airport will most likely have an ATM, but don’t count on it working.

During Your Stay

All right, so you made it safely to your destination. Now what? Think about the following:

    • Protect your passport. Keep your passport in an RFID-blocking sleeve and always keep it with you. Gone are the days when the hotel front desk will keep your passport until you check out.
    • Don’t develop a routine travel plan or path. You could become a target to criminals this way.
    • Only use authorized taxis.
      • Don’t carry large amounts of cash. Use the safe in your hotel room, if there’s one available.
  • Don’t flaunt your nationality.
  • Don’t leave electronics unattended. An iPhone left unattended on a café table next to a busy street is an ideal opportunity for theft.
  • Think security. Public Internet networks at cafes, coffee shops, and hotels should be considered unsecure.

Understand the Cooper Color Code of States of Awareness

If you’ve never heard of this, I’m about to explain what it all means! Each of the colors stands for the level of “awareness” you are at.

  • White — You’re switched off and unaware of what’s going on around you. You need to ensure that you’re never “in the white” while traveling. What can lead to be in this state? Being engaged in your smart phone, fatigue, stress, or impairment from drugs/alcohol are just a few examples.
  • Yellow — You’re aware and alert but calm and relaxed; you’re not paranoid. You’re alert to your surroundings and the people who occupy it. You recognize body language. In this state, it would be difficult for someone to surprise you.
  • Orange — You have a heightened level of awareness. You sense something isn’t right. This is the time to evaluate and formulate a plan. Evasion and diffusion are best. An example of this would be if I were walking down a street outside of my hotel in New Delhi and I became aware that I might be being followed (still in yellow). I crossed the street to determine if my perceived threat would do the same, and he did (now in orange). I did an about face and turned and walked right past the follower and headed back to my hotel. The follower was near the gate of my hotel by the time I returned. I had been his mark. Note I was carrying only my passport and my room key and had not cash or valuables on me at the time.
  • Red — You have to take decisive and immediate action to avoid an attack or personal harm. Recognizing the three previous levels can help to avoid ever getting “in the red.”

Traveling for business or personal should be a fun and productive time, so I certainly don’t want this blog to sound dire in any way. I simply want you prepared and informed for any travel you may be doing. If you have any questions or further advice, let me know. I love to hear from you!

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