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Staying Safe On Holiday

How to prepare for holidays in 2019

It’s coming to that time of year when many people will be preparing for their summer holidays. It’s a lovely time of year, and many of us will have been planning for it for months!

The suitcases come out. Sun cream, swimsuits, buckets and spades are all dusted off in readiness for the fun times ahead. Yes, holidays are great!

But before you jet off on your vacation, I have a few words of advice for you which may just help when you need it most.  Now whilst I don’t want to sap the joy out of planning for holidays, the following advice is intended to help you and those you love most stay safe and well on holiday.  The advice I’m offering is borne out of both personal and professional experience.

We are all Contingency Planners

When working with businesses to help them prepare for major incidents I often tell them: ‘You can’t prepare for EVERYTHING, but you can prepare for ANYTHING.  It’s all about being ‘Risk Aware’ and avoid being ‘Risk Naïve”.

Of course the advice below will change based on your destination. The steps you’ll take will differ depending on if you’re going to Skegness or Sri Lanka, but much of this still remains relevant so I hope it helps.

Choosing Your Holiday

There are enough sources of information at our disposal these days that ‘choosing’ a holiday should become ‘researching’ your holiday.

  • Talk to your friends. Have they been there? What are their experiences? What are the Do’s and Don’ts of the area? Are there any no-go regions?
  • Read reviews on websites and see what the trend is about the hotel and location.
    • Are they building in the area?
    • Is the hotel in a compound and therefore is leaving discouraged?
  • Research the country you are visiting
    • Visit the Foreign Office website and see what their advice is.
    • What are their rules surrounding clothes and acceptable behaviour?
    • What are their rules surrounding drink or smoking?
    • What are their views on same-sex relationships?
    • What is the political situation there, and of neighbouring countries?
    • Are there areas of the country that must be avoided?
    • What are the seasons like? Are you travelling during a monsoon season?
    • What are the main crimes in the country? Kidnapping? Theft? Gang related?
    • Are there local customs you should be aware of?
    • Check that the travel operator you are travelling with is ATOL registered, which offers you protection should your tour operator go bust so that you don’t end up stranded abroad.
    • Does the holiday include transfers to/from the hotel? If not, then how are you going to get to your destination?  Taking a cab or a bus from your hotel may seem like a simple idea, but make sure you’ve agreed the rate before getting in!

Doing your research is important and it’s a good idea to understand more about the country you’re visiting.  Educate yourself and be aware of local customs and what is seen as acceptable and what isn’t.  For example, some countries expect tips whilst others may be insulted by this act.  In some countries openly same-sex relationships are against the law and of course some countries will not tolerate drinking alcohol and any public displays of nudity can land you in a lot of trouble.

Before you travel

I know how exciting holidays can be! But do you really need everyone on Facebook to know that you’re off for two weeks on holiday? Some insurers are now including clauses in their home insurance that state: ‘This policy will be considered void if the policy holder has not taken due care to protect their property.’ In the event that you’re burgled when you’re away, your insurer may ask to see if you posted details of your holiday before you left. If you did, this could be considered negligent and therefore your policy is void.

If you are a high-paid executive or a VIP then this can land you in very hot water, as your arrival in a country may be met by someone you weren’t expecting. After all, when was the last time you checked the credentials of the person waiting at the arrivals gate with your name on a board? The usual response to seeing these people is ‘Yes. I’m [surname]. Are you my driver?’ before getting into a car with a total stranger, to be taken to a destination that you don’t know.

But there are a few people who need to know that you’re travelling, so call your phone provider and check you can use your phone abroad and that you’ll not be charged for roaming data.  Research the best internet setup for when you’re away so you’re not charged for downloading Facebook and Twitter updates on your holiday!

Also, tell your bank you’re travelling and ask them for a number to call should you lose your cards and need to cancel them (and have new one’s issued).  Put the number in your phone and write it down in a separate place (not with your bank card).

If you’re travelling with another family member, use two suitcases and put fifty percent of your clothes in the other and visa-versa.  If you lose a suitcase, you won’t be stuck with nothing to wear all holiday!

If you’re travelling alone, make sure you tell your friends and family where you’re going and provide them with details of your trip and agree regular check-in times/dates so that they know you’re safe.

Before heading over to the country you should take a list of important websites and numbers, so that you can quickly access them should you need them.

  • Passport - Take a photocopy of it and have this in a different place to the original. If it’s lost or stolen you can use the information when speaking to authorities. Remember to inform the Foreign Office when you get back to the UK, and then apply for a replacement.
  • Insurance details - Put the number you need to call (and the reference number of your policy) into your mobile phone so you have quick and easy access to it.
  • Embassy details – Go to the Foreign Office website and find the number of your embassy in the country you are staying in. Any problems and you’ll have the embassy number to hand.
  • Travellers cheques – If you’re taking travellers cheques, make sure that they are accepted in the country you’re visiting . Take a note of their sequence numbers. If your travellers cheques are lost or stolen you’ll need them these numbers.
  • Driving – If you’re taking your driving licence, make sure you a) have insurance that covers you in that country and b) ensure you have a copy of the licence. Again, you’ll need this if your licence is lost or stolen.

Finally, whilst we’re all very dependent on technology these days, it’s a good idea to have this information printed out and in a folder that you can take with you. This should also include your holiday documents (tickets, boarding passes, insurance etc).  If you lose or damage your device and everything is stored on it, then you’re going to be in very hot water indeed!

Personal Safety on Holiday

Ok, so you’ve researched the location,  you’ve arrived safely and you’re looking forward to a relaxing time.  Great, but there are still things you need to remember;

  • Think about what you’re doing at all times and trust your instincts - don’t take risks that you wouldn’t at home!
  • Don’t openly display valuables (e.g. mobile phones or digital cameras, jewellery etc.)
  • Use the research you did earlier and keep in mind the local customs and dress codes.
  • Behave accordingly and obey local laws.
  • Be careful when taking photographs, videos or using binoculars. You could end up in a lot of trouble if you take a picture/video in the wrong place!
  • Speak to the holiday representative when you arrive and go to their welcome meeting. Yes, they will try and sell you things.  But they are also there to help you should you need it.  Take their contact details and ask for advice about booking trips and about local amenities.

Technical Safety on Holiday

When we go on holiday we are generally looking for some ‘down time’, but in the ever-more connected world in which we live, this rarely involves switching off the phone (or other mobile devices) and leaving them at home.  We have become so dependent upon these small devices that they come with us, everywhere. From secluded beaches to crowded city streets and from snow covered mountains to the Australian outback, the mobile device stays by our sides at all times.

Research from RAC Travel Insurance revealed that British holidaymakers take an average of 3.2 gadgets away with them, totalling 121.4m gadgets being taken abroad over the year. The value of these devices is estimated at a whopping £20.2bn.

Now we all know that phones are often lost or stolen – it may have happened to you. But just how big a problem is that?

Most phones are connected to many different websites. Each of these sites hold our personal details and many are also connected to (or contain) personal and work email accounts and documents.  In addition, many people use their devices now to manage their tickets for the holiday. So losing the device means you could have lost your tickets too! (Unless you’ve already taken the advice above).

So what can we do and what should we do to protect ourselves when on holiday to ensure our personal (and business) information doesn’t get lost or stolen?

Start with the device

Your mobile device will come with an option to set a password, code or pattern – use it.  If your phone is lost or stolen then this is the first line of defence.

You should also password protect your voicemail (if this is an option).  If there is a default password, then change it.  You may be aware of the scandal of the press hacking phone messages, but this was able to happen because these high-powered people simply didn’t change their default passwords.

Choose a password which isn’t too easy to guess (“1-2-3-4”is not a good password. Neither is ‘”Pa55word”) and please don’t use the same password for everything!

‘Bluetooth enabled’

Is your device Bluetooth enabled? Do you need it to be? Bluetooth allows your device to speak to other devices which are also enabled (like your earphones). This is very helpful if you’re transferring information from one device to another, but do you need it when you’re on holiday? If you do then make sure your device has the ‘discoverable’ mode disabled.  This prevents your phone from being detected by others in the area scanning for Bluetooth devices. Even the name of your device can tell me something about you, e.g. “Sandra1972” means I know someone in the area is called Sandra, and 1972 is probably the year she was born.

Mobile Security Software

Most modern phones now are considered ‘smart’ and if yours is smart, then you should consider purchasing software to protect it, just the same as you would your own personal computer. There are viruses which can affect your mobile phone, but more worryingly there is software -  called ‘malware’ - which will entice you to download and install it, and will then steal your personal information.  There are other risks too to be aware of, but being aware is the first step to protection.  If your device allows it, ensure you enable the function which allows you to remotely ‘wipe’ the device should it become lost or stolen.

Location, Location, Location

If you are taking your mobile device away with you, then consider carefully where you use the device too. It’s often said to us that we should be careful about ‘carrying our wealth’ when walking around unfamiliar places. This is also true of our phones. We’ve all seen it and most of us have done it: walked around a city with phone in hand as it navigates us to our destination.  We become oblivious to our surroundings and those who may be watching us, ready to target us.  If you have earphones, put them in and let the device talk to you, and direct you to your destination. Also… as you sit in the open air, in the bar with your phone on the table just remember that it will take only three seconds for someone to come by on a bike and snatch it away.

Finally, if you are going to use your mobile device connected to a free WiFi service then be aware that these services are open to the public and therefore information transmitted over these networks can be easily intercepted and tracked.  Using free WiFi is fine, but don’t use it to check your bank account details or make credit card payments.  The passwords and account numbers you enter may end up in someone else’s hands!


All the above may seem to suck the life out of the holiday! But it isn’t meant to. Being prepared isn’t about not having fun. It’s about being aware of the risks and respecting the fact that you’re (possibly) in a different country, with different laws, different climates and different cultures, but most likely in a place that you’re not familiar with.

So, you’ll probably go on holiday and everything will be fine.  You’ll have a good time.  You’ll take some pictures and you’ll post them on Facebook to everyone’s delight.

But if you have prepared, then the likelihood of something happening will be greatly reduced and if anything happens, you will at least be able to react to it more comprehensively and therefore return to enjoying your holiday much sooner than those who haven’t done their homework.

Have a great holiday!

If you want more advice on travelling abroad and how best to prepare for it, go to