Best of the Drop: Travel Advisories

Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,

Since many of you will be taking to the skies and hitting the roads next week, I figure it’s the perfect time to revisit some travel safety questions.

And don’t forget to send any other safety and survival questions you may have to

Let’s get started…

One of my personal concerns is remaining safe when traveling by car. Road rage is one obvious issue. However, I’ve heard about incidents where people have been pulled from their vehicle in urban areas and beaten, simply because they “look” the wrong way. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

— Brian C.

The No. 1 thing to remember while driving is always keep your doors locked and your windows rolled up. Most new cars automatically lock the doors when the vehicle is in motion, but I always double-check.

The second thing I recommend is keep a paper map in your car. If you are driving in an unfamiliar area, you’ll want to be able to quickly identify an escape route. You don’t want to end up stuck on a dead-end street in the wrong part of town with a malfunctioning GPS.

Also, if you are driving in a dangerous area and you see someone broken down on the side of the road, be extra cautious. If you don’t feel safe stopping to help, you could call the police and ask them to check on the person. Criminals sometimes use a fake disabled car to get a good Samaritan to stop so they can rob them.

Finally, carry a gun where you legally can. In my opinion, if some psycho attacks me in my car, the best way to save my life is with a firearm.

Re: the question of traveling with a gun… There is an excellent app out there — at least for Android phones — that is very up-to-date and updated at least weekly that helps a traveler sort through the hodgepodge of different state concealed carry laws. Workman Consulting LLC calls it CCW Concealed Carry.

— Allen D.

Thanks, Allen. I checked it out, and this app is available both for Android and iPhone owners. It looks like a great tool to use when trying to untangle the web of concealed carry laws.

The app allows you to input which CCW permits you have and then uses their mapping system to help you plan a trip, so you can see which states honor your permit. According to the company, they update the information on a monthly basis.

My wife and I are retired and are about to take a long trip in our new RV. Although I own several guns, I am reluctant to take them along. What can you recommend as the best nonlethal method of self-defense to travel with?

— Gabe P.

Great question, Gabe. I recommend purchasing a self-defense stun gun flashlight. The great thing about this handy device is that you can use it as a regular flashlight, which means it would blend in easily with the rest of your gear, since you and your wife are traveling and staying in your RV.

However, if you are walking around a strange town at night and encounter a dangerous person, you can use the stun gun to give you the chance to escape. In addition to this flashlight, I also recommend you and your wife carry tactical pens with you everywhere you go.

Will my credit card knife make it through TSA?

— Carson A.

Unfortunately not, Carson. Your credit card knife counts as a real knife, so it won’t be allowed on a plane. Look into getting a tactical pen if you don’t already have one.

Click here for a great deal on this super-discreet yet super-effective self-defense tool that covertly travels anywhere. You can even take it through airport security, no problem.

First, place the cap on what I like to call the business end so you can only see the writing end of the pen. Then simply put the pen in your laptop bag or a zippered compartment of your carry-on with other writing implements. Never take it out and put it in the screening tray and don’t leave it in your pocket.

Easy, right? I’ve flown all over the world with my tactical pen and have never had a problem getting through airport security this way.

Maybe I missed it, but would you give us a selection of emergency/survival items that fit an Altoids can? I feel like this would be handy for traveling. Thanks for you service and for your help in these days…

— Endo R.

Using an Altoids can is a popular way to carry a small survival kit — you can customize it any way you want, and it’s inconspicuous and easy to carry. Here are some items I would put in my Altoids can kit:

  • Fishing kit with hook, line and sinker
  • Three Band-Aids
  • Hand wipes
  • Mini compass
  • FireSteel
  • Water purification tablets
  • Any medication (pills) you might need
  • Folding knife
  • Superglue
  • Razor blade.

Keep in mind these are just suggestions. See what else you can pack in there, and don’t be afraid to switch it up if you find there are other things you need or want to have on you.

How do I escape the trunk of a car?

— Gavin R.

Most newer cars have a glow-in-the-dark trunk release built into them. Or you might be able to kick out the back seat and crawl out of the trunk through the car itself.

For a demonstration on how to free yourself using the trunk release, check out the second half of this video segment where I show Harry Connick Jr. how to escape from a close-quarters crisis.

My granddaughters are traveling with Students International to the Dominican Republic to support a Christian charity helping kids there. Can you recommend an electronic tracker for this situation, or do you have any other recommendations?

— Stephen B.

The thing about electronic trackers, Stephen, is that you have to take into consideration their battery life and the network they operate on. What I mean is if the tracker uses a 3G or 4G wireless connection and the local network isn’t up to speed, the tracker’s battery life will drain even faster while it continuously searches for a connection.

Instead, what I recommend doing is tracking your grandkids with their cellphones. Look for a tracking app that allows you to be aware of where they are at all times. Since most people (especially teenagers) always have their cellphones charged and on their person, this is a good way to keep tabs on your loved ones.

What about protecting your personal information in rental cars? When I charge my iPhone in a rental, sometimes it uploads my address book and who knows what else. I have rented cars that have previous renter’s data in them. (When I return the car, I delete theirs and mine.)

— Ann L.

I’m glad you delete your information from the car, Ann. And you’re absolutely right. It amazes me how often I get in rental cars and see all the information from the previous driver.

To protect your privacy, always turning off your phone’s Bluetooth function when using a rental car. And be careful when using the USB connection. I recommend setting up your smartphone so that when you connect to another device via USB, it asks for permission to access the information on your phone. (Obviously, the answer is no.)

Finally, to be extra cautious, always check the rental car’s database before you return it to make sure it hasn’t stored any of your information.

Wouldn’t it be a good idea if car manufacturers redesigned the tongue portion of the seatbelt in a way that it could be used as a glass-breaking tool? Is there anything else inside your car that would work?

— Steve T.

While that’s a good idea, Steve, I’m not sure car manufactures would ever go for it. Which is why I always have a knife or some sort of glass-breaking device close by when I’m driving.

Of course, if you do have a heavy object in your car, you might be able to break the window with it, although I wouldn’t make this plan A. The fact is when your car is filling with water, you typically have less than a minute to get out before it’s submerged, so you don’t want to have to root around for something to free yourself.

I recommend planning ahead by keeping a glass-breaking tool in your glove box or center console in case you ever find yourself trapped in this dire situation. And if the device doubles as a tool to cut through seat belts? Even better.

About that survival bag for cars… You overlooked something. How many people are in the car at a time? They EACH need a space blanket, MREs, compass, whistle and water purification tablets.

— Bruce B.

You’re absolutely right, Bruce. Ideally, you should have a bug-out bag in your car for each member of your family. That’s why I have a bag for myself, my wife and each of my kids in each of my vehicles.

Stay safe,

Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson

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