Travel Tips

Facebook Travel Groups

Facebook Travel Groups 600 900 Greg Ellifritz

I’m fairly active on Facebook, but I tend to avoid a lot of the groups.  I can’t stand the constant arguments and bickering I see in so many of them.

 

With that said, some of the travel groups have top notch information.  Check out the post below for a list of 40 of the best Facebook travel groups.

 

The Top 40+ Active Facebook Travel Groups to Join in 2021

How Not To Get Killed at the Airport

How Not To Get Killed at the Airport 569 1024 Greg Ellifritz

Written by Greg Ellifritz

 

LAX Shooting 2013 5

Since the shooting at LAX airport on November 1st, I’ve received lots of questions about how to stay safe in an airport when traveling.  Most of my readers carry weapons that can’t be carried past airport security.  Thus, their commonly relied upon means of defense isn’t available and they need an alternate defense plan.  It’s actually hard to give solid self protection advice for surviving airports.  Few good options exist.

 

America is one of the few countries in the world that allows relatively free access into the ticketing area of an airport.  In other countries, you will see lots of rifle-toting soldiers, checkpoints, and bomb sniffing dogs even before passengers get to the ticket counter or security lines.  It was only a matter of time before a terrorist or criminal chose to exploit this weakness.

 

Think about it…a terrorist could cause exactly the same result (mass casualties and a crippling strike to our economy) as bringing down a plane without ever having to board.  If terrorist groups bombed or shot up the unsecured ticketing areas of several airports sequentially, they would kill thousands and force Americans to stop flying.  And the terrorists could do it without having to remove their shoes at the security check or try to smuggle a bomb past the body scanner.  It would be easy.  That’s why the shooter at LAX chose that location to fire his weapon.

 

In reality, this has been done before.  Have you heard of the Moscow airport bombing?  It happened in January 2011.  Up to three Islamist suicide bombers set off bombs in the ticketing area of the Moscow airport, killing 37 people and injuring more than 180 more.

 

Here’s a brief video of the immediate aftermath…

I predict that we will see more attacks like this in coming years.  So what can we do to avoid getting killed?  Here are a few suggestions….

 

1) Don’t rush.  Get to the airport with plenty of extra time to spare.  When you are hurried and worrying about catching your flight, you aren’t paying good attention to what’s going on around you.  Not rushing to catch your plane will give you more time to keep an eye on your surroundings and avoid anything that makes you uncomfortable.  Download the My TSA App for your phone to get real time updates on delays and specific security wait times at the airport of your choosing.  Check the data and plan ahead so that you don’t have to hurry.

 

2) Do as much as possible to avoid standing at the ticketing counter.  Check your luggage at the curb (not allowed if you are checking firearms) or travel with a carry on only to avoid standing in the ticketing line.  Print your boarding pass at home.  The less time spent where people gather (especially lots of clueless people) the better.

 

3) Get through security as quickly as you can.  Even though our airport security is a farce, you are still safer inside the checkpoint than outside.  Don’t eat or have coffee in restaurants outside the security checkpoint.  Clear security quickly and then find a place to eat.  The best advice for clearing security quickly is in this Wired Magazine article.

 

Airsecurity2

4) Once you clear security, find your gate, any emergency exits, and any place where you might be able to acquire weapons for a more serious hostage situation or terrorist bombing.  Food preparation areas will generally have knives.  Maintenance areas will generally have tools.  Look for cleaning carts to find irritant chemicals.  You might need any of those items if things go bad.

 

5) Get away from as many people as possible.  Terrorists target large groups of people.  I’m a big fan of avoiding such groups and thus, I’m also a huge proponent of using airport lounges.  You will most likely have access to a lounge if you are traveling in Business or First Class or have preferred status with a certain airline.   Lounge Buddy is an App you can put on your phone that will tell you all of the available lounges and what the requirements are for entry.   You can also become a member of Priority Pass.  For an annual fee, you can get a set number of free lounge visits every year, even if you are flying coach.

 

Lounge Buddy Screen Shot

Lounge Buddy Screen Shot

 

6) Weapons and Equipment.  To be honest, for most terrorist attacks, any weapons that you are able to legally carry through security are likely to be inconsequential to the overall outcome.  I really don’t think you will take out multiple suicide bombers with your “tactical” pen.

 

But most of you carry weapons on a daily basis, so I’ll go over a few options for airport carry.  My first recommendation is to NEVER SMUGGLE ANYTHING ILLEGAL THROUGH SECURITY.  Yes, some things may make it through, but I don’t think the risk of spending years in prison is worth the advantage of having a small knife or something of the sort.  There are better defense options available that won’t get you thrown in prison.

 

– Canes: Canes are legal on an airplane.  You don’t even have to feign a limp.  As long as the cane doesn’t have a sword inside, it’s pretty much allowed to go through….even nasty fighting canes like the TDI/KaBar model.  While I don’t think canes are the best weapon to use ON a plane, they work well in the airport and in the terminal.

 

– Flashlights:  You should definitely have a flashlight in your carry-on.  I always carry at least two.  One of them is a headlamp that allows me to see and operate without tying up my hands.  It also works great when you are trying to read and you happen to be in the seat with the malfunctioning overhead reading light.

 

In addition to the headlamp, I also carry a flashlight that I can hit someone with.  I usually end up carrying a Surefire or Fenix brand light that uses two CR123 batteries.  They are bright, durable, fairly light, and perfect to use to defend yourself from a serious criminal

 

– Tactical pens:  Some pens are made stoutly enough to serve as impact weapons.  I would avoid the ones that are spiky or look like a weapon.  Those may be confiscated by TSA.  I prefer the lower profile tactical pens.  I carry one made by my friend Rick Hinderer all over the world and have never had an issue.

 

It’s probably a good idea to pack a pre-stamped, self addressed envelope in your carry-on bag.  If for some reason the TSA doesn’t like your pen or flashlight, you can mail it home to yourself.

 

-Improvised impact weapons.  Think along the idea of “a rock in a sock.”  A couple of D-cell batteries inside a long tube sock (put together after you clear security) makes a very nasty impact weapon.  I generally use an old biker weapon instead…a bandanna threaded through the hasp of a padlock.  You are limited only by your imagination.

 

Neither bandannas nor padlocks are prohibited by the TSA....

Neither bandannas nor padlocks are prohibited by the TSA….

 

7) Medical Supplies.  Don’t forget medical supplies.  The first aid kits on airplanes are laughably sparse.  And if something really bad happens in the airport, you shouldn’t expect to get help quickly.  Check out this article if you don’t believe me…

 

LAX security officer bled for 33 minutes as help stood by

 

In addition to the large medical kit I have in my checked bag, I also carry a smaller kit on my person or in my carry-on.  All the items inside must be TSA-legal and small enough that they don’t take up much room.   Mine is carried in a small Blackhawk nylon pouch.  Inside, I carry the following:

 

– A “snivel kit” with bandaids, OTC meds, antibiotic ointment and the like

– A CAT Tourniquet

– A Triangular bandage, carabiner, and key ring.  The bandage can be used for many conditions.  When I put the three together, I can make another tourniquet ala Paul Gomez (see video below)

– Duct tape

– Chest seals

– Pressure Dressing

Celox Hemostatic Gauze

– Prescription pain meds, anti-nausea meds, and broad spectrum antibiotics

– Safety pins

– Gauze pads

-Water purification tablets

Blister treatment

Here’s my “plane kit”…

 

Open

My airplane first aid kit (since photo was taken, I’ve replaced the TK-4 tourniquet with a CAT)

 

Having traveled to more than 50 countries in the last 15 years, this stuff is important to me.  I hope I gave you a few ideas to help keep yourself safer.

 

 

 

 

Language Learning Tips

Language Learning Tips 1200 448 Greg Ellifritz

I think it’s important to learns a few words of the local language wherever you travel and covered a few language tips in Choose Adventure.  Here are a bunch more.

 

Mark Manson is a veteran world traveler and one of my favorite authors.  He knocks it out of the park with the article below.

 

25 Tips For Learning A Foreign Language

 

 

 

 

Some of the above links (from Amazon.com and others) are affiliate links.   As an Amazon associate I earn a small percentage of the sale price from qualifying purchases.

Bribery Etiquette?

Bribery Etiquette? 695 493 Greg Ellifritz

I wrote a whole chapter on the fine art of bribery in my book Choose Adventure.  I find it a fascinating topic.

 

Most Americans fail to understand that bribery is just another travel expense.  You pay extra money to have better experiences or make things happen more smoothly.  That’s all it is.  Nothing worth getting angry.

 

If you want some tips on better bribery, read my friend Daisy’s article below.  It has some very good advice.

 

The Fine Art of Bribery

 

 

 

Some of the above links (from Amazon.com and others) are affiliate links.   As an Amazon associate I earn a small percentage of the sale price from qualifying purchases.

Everyday Carry Survival Kit

Everyday Carry Survival Kit 620 465 Greg Ellifritz

I spend a lot of time traveling to dangerous third world countries.  Most of the places I go are actually fairly safe overall, but there are always dangers when you travel overseas.  I worry a little more about being stranded in the wilderness…either the jungles I’m hiking through or the concrete jungles of the cities I visit during a riot or insurrection.

 

When I travel, I carry a very simple survival kit with me wherever I go.  It can be carried in a cargo pocket or a day pack.  It’s lightweight and takes up virtually no space, yet gives me the basics to survive for quite awhile in almost any environment.  If you travel, or even if you just want to be more prepared in your daily life, you might consider making and carrying one of your own.

 

Here’s a list of the supplies I carry and why I chose them:

 

The entire kit began as a Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Series Basic Kit.  It has a durable carry pouch, is cheap to purchase, and has a few other useful items.  I kept the outer carrying case and a couple of other things and then added additional items to make it more useful.  You don’t need something like this, but it’s handy.  You could put it all in a quart sized Ziploc bag and be fine.

 

Gerber’s basic kit. I kept the bag and the whistle and got rid of most of the other items in favor of some of my own favorites that will be more useful.

 

On the outside of the case (attached to the zipper), I have:

– Two large safety pins.  These are useful for everything from removing splinters to popping blisters to repairing clothing.  In a survival situation, you could even use them as fishhooks.

– The included whistle.  It’s an easy signalling device to get help to my location.  It’s louder and takes less effort than yelling.  In a wilderness area, the uses are obvious.  In an urban setting, think about situations like a being trapped in a structural collapse after an earthquake or bombing.

– A handcuff key and handcuff shim.  You just don’t know what will happen in a foreign country.  If taken hostage and cuffed, these could be useful (assuming they aren’t found in a search).

Photon Microlight II mini flashlight (red LED)

 

Inside I have:

 

– A large piece of aluminum foil.  Can be used for water collection, cooking, or emergency signalling.

– A small lighter.  Much better option than matches for fire starting.  I also have a spark lighter and some quick igniting tinder as a backup plan in case the lighter stops functioning.  Fire is an important and life saving asset, especially in cold weather.

– A scalpel blade.  The smallest knife available.  I generally carry at least one other blade, so this one is just for backup.

– Four water purification tablets and a Frontier Emergency Water filter straw.  It’s small and weighs less than one ounce, but still filters 20 gallons of water.  The water filter is good for most contaminants, but won’t get rid of viruses.  If there’s a chance that your water has been contaminated by feces, use the straw in conjunction with the tablets.

– A small roll of duct tape.  This has countless uses from first aid to shelter making.  If you can’t find a tiny roll, wrap some around a small pen or pencil to place in your kit.

– A flexible plastic Fresnel lens.  This is a magnifying “glass” that is the size and thickness of a credit card.  Useful for older folks who have lost their reading glasses, for signalling, or for removing small splinters or pieces of debris in the eye.  It can also be used as a backup fire starter.

 

Fresnel lens

 

– A small fishing kit (line, sinkers, hooks)

– Signalling mirror

– A small roll of wire for constructing shelters or making snares.

– 20 feet of paracord.  Useful for emergency shoe laces, shelter construction and lots of other handy things.

– 30 feet of waxed Kevlar cordage.  It’s the same material that is used in ballistic vests.  The strongest kind of thin, light cordage available.  It’s suitable for numerous tasks.

– A first aid kit containing: 4 caffeine pills (for additional energy or wakefulness if I am on the run), 4 Imodium tablets (for diarrhea), 2 broad spectrum antibiotic pills (for most infections or serious traveler’s diarrhea), 4 Ibuprofen tablets (for pain), 2 Hydrocodone tablets for more serious pain or a bad cough (prescription only), 2 Pepto-Bismol tablets (for stomach upset), 2 Diphenhydramine tablets for allergies or allergic reactions, blister treatment.

– Button Compass

– Wire Saw

– A couple of sheets of paper for leaving notes or as fire starting tinder.

 

 

That’s about all I can fit in a truly pocket sized container.  It works well for me.  I carry the kit everywhere in foreign countries and occasionally have it on my person here in the USA as well.

 

My kit’s contents, may not be appropriate for your individual needs.  I’d encourage you to develop your own by using my list as a starting point and then personalizing the contents to fit your own mission.  If you need any more ideas, send me an email or post a comment.

 

 

The entire unpacked kit

 

 

 

 

English?

English? 738 492 Greg Ellifritz

On my very first solo international trip, I ended up camping with a large group of Australians in Peru.  I quickly learned that thongs and jumpers were things that men could carry in their luggage.

 

If you are heading to the UK or Australia, understand that a lot of words you know in English may not mean the same things in another country.  The article below provides an entertaining introduction to some of these critical language differences.

 

30 Slang Translations Americans Need Before Visiting UK, And Vice Versa

Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro 2560 1920 Greg Ellifritz

I recently saw this article and think it’s the most comprehensive guide to climbing to the top of Africa currently available online.

 

Climbing Kilimanjaro Trek Guide – Successfully Summit the Roof of Africa

 

I climbed to the top of Kili in 2008.  It was one of the worst travel experiences in my life.

 

I had previously climbed several 14K foot mountains in the Andes.  I never got any altitude sickness.  I didn’t expect any illness on Kilimanjaro.  I was very wrong.  I failed to consider that Kili was a full mile higher than those big mountains I climbed in Peru and Ecuador.

 

I was in excellent shape and booked the shortest hike available.  It was three days up and two days down with the summit attempt starting around midnight so that we could summit for sunrise.

 

The altitude made me feel like crap.  I started projectile vomiting soon after the final night hike began.  I puked for almost six hours straight on my way up to the top.

 

At the summit, I took a couple of photos and then passed out.  The guide woke me with some coffee and I started hiking back down.

 

I was delirious and couldn’t walk well.  I kept falling.  I had the advanced medical training to recognize high altitude cerebral edema and the drugs to treat it, but I was too disoriented to recognize the symptoms in myself.  I only realized what was going on after I dropped down about 4000 feet and regained my senses.

 

I’m honestly lucky I made it.  Some of my falls could have been fatal.

 

Kilimanjaro is no joke.  Take it seriously and take extra time to acclimate on your hike.  I later found out that the five-day route only has a 54% success rate.  If you make it an eight day trip you will have about a 95% success rate getting to the summit.  Go slow!

 

Climbing through the cloud forest near the base.

 

Day two. The first view of the peak.

 

Late in Day 2. Still a long way to go.

 

At the top just before passing out.

 

Sunrise from the peak looking down on the clouds.

Luggage Tags

Luggage Tags 554 386 Greg Ellifritz

Ever wondered what you should write on those luggage tags affixed to your suitcase?

 

Here is the answer.

 

What You Should — and Should Not — Write On Your Luggage Tag (Video)

 

 

Even on the covered tags, I turn the paper around backwards so that thieves and scammers can’t  casually read it without a little work.

 

 

Travel Tips

Travel Tips 1000 750 Greg Ellifritz

Mitch has been traveling non-stop since October of 2015.  Here are his 50 best travel tips.  Pay attention here.  There is a lot of useful knowledge in this post.

50 Epic Travel Tips from 5 Crazy Years on the Road

 

 

 

Best Onward Ticket

Best Onward Ticket 221 54 Greg Ellifritz

Some countries won’t approve your visa application if you don’t already have your flight home booked in advance.  That makes it difficult for travelers without a fixed schedule or people who don’t know exactly how long they want to stay in a particular country.

 

Previously, if you needed a return ticket, you had to book a fully refundable flight (very expensive) and then cancel the flight as soon as you clear immigration in your target country.

I recently learned of another option.

BestOnwardTicket is a service that books a legitimate and valid airline ticket for onward travel to the country you desire in your name.  You choose the ticket departure date.

 

The ticket they send will be valid for 48 hours.  They will then do the work of cancelling the ticket.  They charge $12 for this service.

 

I have no personal experience with this company, but I would use them in a heartbeat if I needed some real (fake) onward tickets to show an immigration official in another country.