Risk Insights
August 26, 2019

Anticipating Pre-Airport Travel Security Issues

Vacation packing
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In this blog post, the third in a series, Thomas Pecora stresses the need to secure important documents before — and while — you travel. He is director of Pecora Consulting Services, which provides consulting services in security vulnerability and threat assessments in Asia and the United States, as well as personal safety and crime prevention and avoidance, and travel security skills training. Pecora is also author of the memoir, Guardian: Life in the Crosshairs of the CIA's War on Terror, and served 24 years as a CIA senior security manager. He managed large complex security programs and operations in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Middle East and in war zones.

Pre-departure preparation is a key element in ensuring that any travel will be safe, enjoyable and productive. The first concrete steps in this process are done at home prior to departing for the airport. By planning to specifically deal with issues associated with air travel and the airport we start our trip off on the right foot.

Travel Documents

There are key travel documents that you need to protect while traveling and these include your airline tickets, your passport and any required travel visas. Ensure your passport has more than six months of validity before booking a trip. Other items you need to protect include your money, credit and ATM cards and medical records. Avoid using debit cards because they have no daily limit when used as a "credit card" so if someone steals a debit card, they can drain the entire bank account it is associated with. ATM cards on the other hand, have set limits per day - usually $300 or $400. Make two copies of your passport, identification cards, credit and ATM cards and any other important documents. Leave one copy at home with someone you can reach should there be an emergency. Keep the other set with you in a safe place separate from the originals. If your passport or any other identifying information is stolen, immediately report this to your embassy and the local police. Try to get a copy of the police report, because your insurance company will likely require a copy if you ask to replace stolen items such as a watch or cellphone.


If possible, obtain some local currency from your destination country. If you can't do this before you fly, most airports have a currency exchange. But in most cases, these exchanges do not give you a good rate, so only change the minimum amount of money to local currency that you will need to get you to your next destination where you can use a reputable exchange service or an ATM.

Secure Items

It is critical that you keep your travel documents (passport, visas, and airline tickets) as well as your valuables and any other identification with you on the plane. Also, any prescription medication and medic alert information as well as your "Point of Contact" information (including cellphone numbers). Basically, carry-on anything you cannot afford to lose or replace at your destination.

Often, the best option, and the cheapest, is a money pouch that stays on your body all the time, concealed under your clothing, attached to your belt or worn around the neck, waist or calf. These pouches are particularly useful on aircraft, in a train, using public transportation or when you are staying in lodging that is not very secure.

It is a good idea to keep another copy of all your important documents and financial materials (credit cards, ATM cards, etc.) in an email in the cloud.


It is a good idea to keep another copy of all your important documents and financial materials (credit cards, ATM cards, etc.) in an email in the cloud. This will allow you to access this information if you lose the originals and need to acquire a new passport from your embassy; to provide specific credit card and ATM card details to the financial companies to shut off these cards and/or issue emergency cards. Many can deliver to you in the foreign country via courier service. You can also keep electronic copies on your smartphone provided you keep it password-protected.


If possible, travel with carry-on luggage only to avoid dealing with lost checked bags. Plan your packing, use a list, and pack your own bags. Understand airline restrictions as well as the restricted items in the countries you will visit. Pack the right gear for the climate, culture, and your activities. While in transit do not leave your bags unattended.

Summing Up

Prepare ahead. Taking the time to do some preparation before heading to the airport is one activity that we can take to ensure that we are ready to travel and that we are prepared for some of the possible issues that may occur when we fly or when we arrive at our destination.

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