air travel

General Hotel Safety Tips

General Hotel Safety Tips 300 300 Greg Ellifritz

My friend Annette Evans has penned two excellent articles on travel safety in hotels and airports.  The information in these articles is valuable both if you are traveling out of the country or staying stateside.  Check out the articles linked below.

 

Travel safety: hotel and vacation rental edition

Thoughts on airport safety and security

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New TSA Experience

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This was a new TSA experience for me…

 

On Friday I flew from Austin to Atlanta to teach classes at The Complete Combatant. I had to check two bags because of all the training aids I need for my classes. I checked in, dropped off the bags, and went to wait in the security line.

 

Preparing to go through security, I put my phone in my carry-on bag. When I cleared security, I pulled out my phone and found I had three missed calls from “US Government.” I called them back. It was the Austin airport TSA.

 

The officer told me that they had been trying to get into my bag to inspect it and were calling to get the combination to my luggage lock. He continued by saying “We got in. There’s no problem. Your bags are on the way and you are good to go.”

 

As a side note for you medical instructors Phokus wound cube wound packing simulators will ALWAYS get your bag inspected.

 

I arrived in Atlanta. Both bags arrived as well. Everything was great. Until I tried to get my medical gear out for class on Saturday morning. I tried my combination and the lock wouldn’t open.

 

I studied the lock and realized that it wasn’t my lock on the bag!

 

The TSA had broken my lock, checked my bag, and then put a new lock on my bag without telling me the combination. I tried all zeros. I tried 1-2-3-4. None of the common combinations worked. I had to break the lock with a pair of channel lock pliers to get in.

 

I’ve traveled a lot of places. That was the first time my stuff has been locked up with a different lock. I always carry a spare luggage lock, so I’m going to be fine when I fly home.

 

I often fly Delta, so I carry trauma shears in my carry-on to snip the zip ties Delta uses to close all bags with guns. Now I suppose I’ll have to start carrying lock breaking/picking tools as well.

 

 

Violent Airplane Passenger- When to Get Involved

Violent Airplane Passenger- When to Get Involved 240 135 Greg Ellifritz

Recent news has been full of stories about violent and out of control airline passengers.  It’s fairly common.  People get nervous about flying.  They often use alcohol and drugs to self medicate.  On my flight home from a training class last Monday, there was a passenger in first class (a white male in his mid 60s) who was so drunk he actually fell down on the jet bridge getting off the plane.

 

Other passengers become irate with crowded airports, regular delays, cancelled flights, and mask mandates.  They lose their shit and attack passengers and crew.

 

Take a look at the article below about the passenger trying to open the door and breach the cockpit in flight.  The airline crew beat him over the head with a coffee pot until fellow passengers restrained him.

 

Emergency Landing After American Airlines Crewmember Hit Erratic Passenger With Coffee Pot

 

What would you do if you were on the flight described above?

 

For me, I’m not getting involved if a passenger attacks another passenger or a crew member.  If I am attacked, I’m going to fight.  If the cockpit is attacked, I will fight.

I’m especially worried about the cockpit attack.  If the attacker crashes the plane, we all die.  I also worry that an armed pilot will fire on the attacker.  Where is his backstop?  That’s right, his backstop is all of us riding in the plane.  Less than ideal.  I’ll beat someone’s ass to prevent being hit by a miss or pass through bullet the pilot fires.

Plane Exercising

Plane Exercising 748 498 Greg Ellifritz

With plane seats getting smaller and smaller while airline delays skyrocket, it becomes more and more important to maintain circulation during your flight.  Twenty years ago, walking in the aisles was common.  Airline bathrooms were big enough to do a short workout routine.  Now bathrooms are too tiny to move and security concerns prohibit random walking.

 

While it has become more difficult to exercise on a plane, our culture has also become less fit.  Blood clots and deep vein thrombosis are now serious threats to the traveler’s health.  How does one stay healthy and mobile on a long flight?

 

The article below offers some very good options and is well worth your effort to read.

 

10 Simple Circulation Exercises You Can Do In Any Airplane Seat

 

 

 

Long Haul Flights

Long Haul Flights 645 363 Greg Ellifritz

Good advice for optimum comfort on a long haul flight.  I’ve made several 22+ hour flights to Asia and Africa, along with dozens of 10+ hour flights to South America.

 

My advice to you is to pay for the business class upgrade.  It’s worth the money.

 

How to Make the Best of a Long Haul Flight

 

 

Travel Apps

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This might be a useful app for those of you who spend a lot of time in foreign airports.  $1.99 is a good insurance policy if you don’t have a foreign data package and a long layover.

 

WiFox App Is A Continuously Updated Map Of Wireless Passwords From Airports And Lounges Worldwide

 

Speaking of traveling Apps, this article gives you some unique alternatives to booking your accommodations on AirB&B.

 

 

Airport Security

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A look at some of the varied security practices in airports around the world.  Not surprisingly, it concludes that more security doesn’t always keep you safer.

 

Does More Security at Airports Make Us Safer or Just Move the Targets?

 

If you are interested in airport security, you may also want to read Seven Ways to Stay Safe in Airports.

Traveling with Pets

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The rules with regards to traveling with your pet as an “emotional service animal” have recently changed.

 

This article explains everything you need to know about flying with your pets.

 

Flying With Pets? Read This Guide Before You Book Your Next Trip

 

 

Travel Hacking?

Travel Hacking? 1196 399 Greg Ellifritz

There are dozens of websites and books dedicated to the fine art of “travel hacking.”  A travel hacker often tries to game airline, hotel, and rental car “loyalty” programs to get free trips.

 

I travel a lot.  I think travel hacking is a waste of time.  I don’t even belong to any airline frequent flyer benefit programs.  For me, the money I save wouldn’t be worth the hassle involved in the process.  I like my freedom and don’t want to be tied down to a single airline or hotel chain.

 

My opinion is the minority in the travel world.  I’m glad someone else recognizes that travel hacking isn’t always the best way to do business.

 

“Let me tell you what you do – this is the new travel hacking I’ve adopted as someone living the Nomad Capitalist lifestyle: when you go to book a ticket or hotel, you take out your wallet, look at your credit card number, and then you simply pay the full price. 

That’s my new way of travel hacking.”

 

Read the article below for more details.

 

The New Travel Hacking For Nomad Capitalists

 

You may not agree with my opinion.  That’s OK.  If you are going to “travel hack” your way to cheaper vacations, do it right.  Join the Facebook groups described in this article.

 

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.

 

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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”…

 

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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.