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Stay safe abroad.

Jess McHugh
August 16, 2017

Unless you're a celebrity or a high-profile CEO, you've probably never traveled with your own personal security detail.

While the rest of us might imagine a fleet of buff men in crisp suits with headsets, the people who actually do it for a living claim their day to day is far from Men In Black.

"It’s completely the antithesis of what we do,” said Shawn Engbrecht, president of CASS Global Security, adding, "Most of it's in the preparation."

Because many of the strategies used by bodyguards can be adopted by travelers of all stripes, Travel + Leisure spoke to Engbrecht and Jason Porter, vice president at the security guard and detective agency Pinkerton, to get their tips for staying safe on the road.

Always be aware of your surroundings

It may seem obvious, but maintaining a level of situational awareness is key to staying safe while in unfamiliar surroundings. Don’t walk around while looking only at your phone or a map.

“The longer you stumble around and clank and clunk and look like prey, the more time you’re going to give the predators...to develop that plan,” said Engbrecht.

Don't make yourself an easy target

Wearing a T-shirt or baseball cap that immediately identifies you as a tourist, keeping your wallet in your back pocket, or carrying a purse that could be easily stolen are all ways to make yourself a target. Try to blend in with neutral clothing that doesn’t advertise your nationality, and secure your valuables by tucking your wallet in your breast pocket or carrying a cross-body bag, Engbrecht said.

“[Criminals are] looking for the path of least resistance,” Porter added.

Plan in advance

Both Engbrecht and Porter stressed the importance of planning ahead of time. That way, you'll be aware of any potential threats specific to your destination. Setting up transportation in advance can also remove you from potentially predatory situations while on the ground.

Ask locals about their preferences

While hopping on the local bus in New York might be a perfectly safe way to get around, the same isn’t recommended for tourists in every city. Porter said he always works closely with local partners to get their recommendations on where to go — and how to get there.

Be cautious on social media

It’s tempting to post an Instagram of your dream vacation in Europe the moment you land in Paris, but you’re essentially advertising to the world that you’re not at home. While most travelers aren’t targeted in the way that celebrities are (Hillary Duff’s home was recently robbed after she posted photos on vacation in Canada) social media snapshots can be a problem for regular travelers, too.

Protect your technology

Always secure technology in a locked safe and avoid using public Wi-Fi, which can be easily hacked, according to Porter. “Keeping physical control of your computer and your equipment is crucial," he said.

Carry a burner wallet

Even the most cautious travelers can find themselves the victim of a mugging. Engbrecht recommends carrying a "burner wallet," with an old ID and a few $20 bills, to give to an assailant in the event of an assault.

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