Holiday Travel: 3 Tips For a Safer Trip

                        Try these 3-steps for safety while traveling this holiday season.

There is an old axiom pilots use that when things go wrong in the air: you “Aviate, Navigate, and Communicate,” in that precise order.  It is a way to prioritize your actions, i.e. you control the plane (“aviate”) before you answer the radio (“communicate”). Of course,  all three elements are important; however, this method reminds us of our efforts.

As we board planes, trains, and other methods of transportation this holiday season, or drive that SUV five hours to the lake, beach, or mountains,  it is worth taking a few minutes to mentally outline our plans (and backup plans) in case things go awry.  So before that plane takes off, boat leaves port, or SUV roars onto the highway, let’s take a cue from pilots and conduct our own “Aviate, Navigate, Communicate” triad. Here’s how:

1. Aviate – This step compels you to look at your travel plans, in detail, to understand where the challenges and risks can emerge.   Do you have a safe way, and a backup plan, to make your travel connections?  What if you miss your connection? What could impact them?  Is it hurricane season?  Are you visiting a country in the throes of a workers strike or political unrest? Has there been recent violence against Americans?  What does the U.S. State Department say about the destination country?  Can an organization or company help me better understand what risks might be present?

2. Navigate – Our travel destinations provide amazing cues to look at our contingency plans.  If I planto drive from Perth to Adelaide in Austrailia, are gas stations readily available along my route?  And what happens if I do run out of gas?  Another example: If I plan on bicycling from Glacier National Park to Yellowstone and there is a forest or grass fire, what do I do?  What if there’s a thunderstorm?  What if I or someone in my party is injured?  Considering your routes, destinations, and likely contingencies ahead of time ensures you’re prepared for the worst.  Finally, use your resources. Whether it’s a lifeguard, a park ranger, an EMT , or even an intelligence or security expert — when traveling, especially overseas — use the resources available to you.

3. Communicate – This part of the triad is designed to fix your problem.  The “how do I call, who do I call, and when do I call” of your trip.  Do you have phone numbers written down in case your phone is unavailable? A good communication plan always includes an agreed upon contingency plan, i.e. “if you don’t hear from me by 7pm, let’s meet at X address.”  If you are camping and have not checked in with family, when do they call the Rangers? (Do they have the Rangers’ phone number?)  If you are in Mexico and have not checked in, who do you call?  The hotel?  The police? The embassy?

Using the triad can help ensure your travels are safe and fun. Best of all,  these questions can be asked in the  time it takes to order a coffee, and answered in the time it takes to drink that coffee.  And much like you’d ask a barista for assistance on your coffer order, don’t be shy about asking an expert about travel risks.

Happy Holidays!

Chris Pimentel is Senior Director of Global Protective Services at Gavin de Becker & Associates where he leads GDBA’s travel risk mitigation, logistics, and protection practice. Chris also served 6 years as Managing Director at Control Risks and served 8 years in the United States Marine Corps.