You might be pushing a stroller, lugging a backpack, or clinging tightly to little hands as you trudge through the airport. Maybe it’s all three. You might be feeling more plain Jane than James Bond. Hustling to juggle bags and snacks, kids and complaints (all while trying to get to your flight on time to nab some of that carry-on bag space) can occupy most of your attention.
But forewarned is forearmed, they say, right? CSIS, Canada’s Spy Agency, has released a document titled Far From Home for those who travel and carry classified information. While you might be pretty sure no one is concerned about the classified information you carry (Mom, you can’t tell anybody!), we have 5 tips to help you travel like a spy: smart and savvy. It’s useful information for anyone who travels. Keep yourself, your family, and your data safe while you’re on the go. No cool tech or catchy theme songs here, but just the knowledge that you’re prepared and alert and can protect yourself. Besides who could suspect a frazzled parent doling out Goldfish crackers to wound-up kids?
Travel Like a Spy
1.) Remember that travellers don’t have the same rights as citizens at home
CSIS tells us that security is a state of mind and you are not safe simply because you are Canadian. It’s easy to adopt a sense of worldly confidence as we travel, falling back on the perceived Canadian good reputation and assuming we’re under the same laws we are at home. But it’s our responsibility to make ourselves aware of the laws and regulations of the country we are visiting, and act accordingly.
An example of this concerns privacy rights: border agents have the right to search your personal belongings without a warrant and they say that right applies to digital devices, too. Knowing what the laws are can help you be aware and feel like you have some mastery over the situation.
2.) Plan Ahead
Sure, plan the fun part of your vacation! But also make yourself aware of the political situation in the country and be prepared for the usual questions at customs: things like why are you visiting, where are you staying, and when are you leaving. Scan a copy of your passport and leave your itinerary and emergency contact information with someone at home.
3.) Be Aware
You don’t get to decide if you are worthy of being a target for someone else. Assume you could be. Keep a low profile in the area you’re visiting and try not to stand out. Dress in a commonplace fashion for your locale and don’t flash your cash, electronics, and jewellery around. Keep your head up as you navigate the streets and be aware of your surroundings. Just like at home, when you review emergency or in-case-of-a-fire procedures with your kids, make sure that you have an escape route planned from your hotel room, or wherever you’re staying.
4.) Be Technology-Savvy
Remember to always password protect your mobile phone – you’d be surprised how many people don’t! Plus, keep in mind that any mobile phone can be tracked; CSIS also suggests that any device you carry have as little data as possible on it and is wiped clean and set up again when you return home. Never leave your device unattended, as compromise takes mere seconds. In other words, travel light and don’t take more than you need, including personal information. In the event of any gifts, be especially wary of those that plug into your computer.
As usual, be very careful on any public wi-fi, whether in your hotel or at an internet cafe, as those connections can be easily intercepted. (So no credit card online shopping!) It’s also not a bad idea to let your credit card company know where you’re going to be and to monitor transactions on your credit card to prevent fraud.
5.) Don’t be Too Trusting
Of course, if you never can trust anyone, the world is a cold and difficult place. But don’t be too trusting when you travel. You may have heard the stories of airline travellers who put their name and full address on their checked luggage and came home to a burglarized house. Don’t advertise your identity when you travel; keep that information, and your luggage, close. Plus, in this online world, considering waiting till you come home to post all the amazing photos and stories about your vacation on social media. Sure, you trust your friends, but it can be a small world, and you don’t necessarily want to tell everyone that your house is sitting dark and unattended while you’re thousands of kilometres away.
Don’t Forget to Enjoy Your Trip!
Maybe no one is trailing you, wiring your hotel room, or trying to seduce you into a compromising situation for the purpose of blackmail. (Hopefully. I imagine it’s more exciting in a book or movie than in real-life, anyway.) But you can still use foresight and discretion to be a shrewd and prudent traveller. And while you’re away, don’t let fear and the potential for disaster ruin your trip. Take the appropriate precautions and rest confidently in the knowledge that you are prepared for threats that may arise. Then you can relax, explore, and otherwise enjoy the great vacation you have planned!
And if anything too exciting happens to you, you might be relieved to go back to being a frazzled parent, just schlepping through the airport with your kids. Forget James Bond.