Our family is at the center of our personal universe. Most people would do almost anything for the sake of their family. That includes protecting them from anticipated danger and harm while traveling on business or on vacation. This becomes increasing difficult, at times, because we live in an open society where we share the same public places as the violent criminals. This is even more burdensome in unfamiliar surroundings that we might visit while on a combined business vacation trip with our family.
Family Travel Security Plan
Whenever your family walks out the front door your home they leave that zone of protection that you have created. The secret to keeping your family reasonable safe once they leave home is to have a family security plan. To develop a family security plan you must give careful thought to the public routines of each family member and think of ways to make them safer from the violent people in the world. The best way to accomplish this is to hold a family meeting to discuss this plan and play what if games using different scenarios. For example, what if we need to stay overnight in a hotel and you get separated? What steps should we take to make the process safer? What if we want to go to the swimming pool or gym? What precautions can we take to be safer in the parking lot? What if someone approaches to rob us while walking to our car on the street at night? What would we do and how would we react? Where would we go and who would we notify in case of emergency?
Planning is Everything
Most people have no such family plan and have not met as a family to discuss what if situations. When or if a criminal assault does occur, the family will not be prepared and will have to rely on instinct in response to the incident. What if their response instincts are wrong or their reactions inappropriate, under the circumstances? We read about these cases all the time in the newspaper or hear about them on television. For example, where a child was walking in an unfamiliar place and was tricked into a car of a total stranger and kidnapped.
Hotels and Motels
When traveling on business or pleasure with your family, it may become necessary to stay overnight in a hotel or motel. Your hotel room becomes your home for the night and is your sanctuary while you sleep. It is important to give some thought to what hotel or motel you select and what room you are willing to accept. The cost of the hotel room is not always a good predictor of how safe the room or property will be. There are a few rules of thumb that should apply to any hotel room you rent.
Always request a room on an upper floor, if possible. Ground floor rooms are more vulnerable to crime problems because of access and ease of escape. In a high rise building, rooms above the fifth floor are usually safer than those below, again because of accessibility and ease of escape. Criminals do not want to be trapped on an upper floor inside a high-rise hotel. High-rise buildings usually have fewer ground level access points and are easier for the hotel staff to monitor who passes through the lobby after hours.
Room Security Features
Hotel or motel rooms should be equipped with a solid-wood or a metal door for best protection. Room doors should have a deadbolt lock with a one-inch throw bolt. If the lock looks worn or there are pry marks around the lock area, get another room or move to another hotel. The knob lock should be hotel-style where you can push a button on the inside knob and block out all keys. This feature is designed to prevent a former guest or housekeeper from entering the room once you are inside. Hotels with electronic card-access have the advantage of being able to disable former key-cards issued to other guests. The room door should have a wide-angle peephole so you can view who is at the door before opening. Do not rely on door chains or swing bars to secure the doors when you peek out to speak someone. Teach your children not to open the door to any hotel room without knowing the person on the other side.
Make sure all windows and sliding doors are secured if they are accessible from the ground. It is a good idea to pull on all windows and glass doors to test if they are secure. Beware of balconies where someone can climb from one to another and enter through an open window or sliding door. If the windows or sliding doors are not securable, ask for another room or find another hotel.
Children should not be allowed to wander the hotel grounds unsupervised. Everyone at a hotel is a stranger and it is difficult to discern who is a registered guest, who is safe, or who has criminal intentions. Do not leave a child at the pool or gym unsupervised. These are prime targets for predators.
Advice for Women Travelers
If you are a woman traveling alone or with small children, take advantage of car valet service, if available to avoid the parking lot. After checking in at the desk, ask the bellman or desk clerk to escort you to your room. After unlocking the room, quickly inspect the closets, under the bed, and bathroom including behind the shower curtain before the bellman leaves. When you find a suitable hotel that meets your standards and will cater to your needs, try to stick with it or with the same hotel chain.
- Always request a room on an upper floor, if possible
- A solid core door with a good deadbolt lock is best
- Electronic card-access locks minimize key control questions
- Make sure your door has a peephole. Use the night latch
- Use your do not disturb sign whenever you are in the room
- Inspect the room hiding places upon entering and test locks
- Supervise children at all times especially at the pool or gym
- Ask the bellman for an escort and use valet parking, if alone
Family Security Travel Planning