Playing It Safe at 30,000 Feet

Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,

Right now, I’m writing to you from 30,000 feet over the ocean.

We’re going on vacation, and this is the first time my entire family has flown together. This includes myself, my wife, our 4-year-old daughter, 2-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.

And yes, it’s about as fun as it sounds.

As the plane took off, I leaned over to my wife and told her we’re not doing this again until all of the kids are older. She laughed and reminded me that I said the same thing when we had only one child. And I said it again after kid number two.


Obviously, flying with three young kids makes it much tougher to maintain the same level of security as when I’m flying by myself.

But most of the rules still apply. In fact, I did everything pretty much the same as I usually do on this trip.

Because you may be flying to or from a loved one’s home in the next few days, I want to quickly cover some travel tips today.

Eight Essential Air Safety Guidelines

Whether you’re traveling alone or in a small herd, these recommendations will ensure you make it to your final destination as safely as possible:

1. Gear up — Even when flying, I always equip myself for self-defense and emergency purposes. The tools I carry include my tactical pen, monkey fist keychain and a small pocket flashlight to help see if things go dark.

2. Stay Alert — I keep my shoes on and my headphones out of my ears for the first three minutes of a flight. This is the most likely time for a plane to experience trouble. I also keep shoes on and headphones off during the last eight minutes of the flight because landing is the second most likely time to experience an airplane emergency.

3. Know Your Exits — I always book seats within five rows of an exit. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) studies have shown that if you’re within five rows of an emergency exit, you have the greatest chance of making it out alive after a plane crash. In fact, right now, my family is exactly five rows from the exit, which is the best we could do on this particular flight. (We missed our connection, so this isn’t the flight we were originally supposed to be on.)

4. Food and Water — With three young kids, we have enough snacks and Cheerios on board to feed a small army. But even when I’m flying by myself, I still carry a bottle of water and a few energy bars so I don’t have to depend on others for sustenance or hydration. Although I can’t carry much when flying solo, something is better than nothing.

5. Carry Cash and Credit — I’m amazed at the number of people who don’t carry cash or travel with just one credit card. I always carry at least $300 in cash on me. I’ve also got my Visa and American Express cards with me, since not every place accepts all credit cards. And as I mentioned earlier, we’re not on the flight we were supposed to be on. We were stuck in an unexpected layover for almost an entire day, and having both cash and multiple credit cards came in handy.

6. Get an Encrypted USB Drive — In my laptop bag, which is sitting at my feet, I have an encrypted USB drive loaded with several important documents. It’s nice to have copies of birth certificates, passports and driver’s licenses — just in case. Simply search “encrypted USB drives” on Amazon and you’ll see there are plenty of options.

7. Back up Important Information — All sorts of unforeseen things can happen when you’re traveling: Luggage can get lost, flights can be delayed or rerouted or the weather could derail your plans. This is why I highly recommend backing up your computer using a cloud-based service such as CrashPlan or Mozy. In addition to a cloud-based backup, I also have a physical hard drive at my office so I can back up my files before I travel.

8. Have a Plan — Take a few minutes to plan for an emergency. What if the sketchy-looking passenger two seats over starts going nutso? How would you stop them? If you have to evacuate the plane, did you check behind you to confirm the closest emergency exit? What if something happens and you get routed to another airport — do you have enough cash to make due and buy toiletries for the night? My point is when you’re stuck on a plane anyway, you might as well spend a few minutes playing the “what if” game.

Hopefully, your holiday travels are less eventful than mine — meaning they don’t include screaming children and missed flights — and you reach your journey’s end without harm or hassle.

Stay safe,

Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson

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