If you’re a little paranoid, you’re going to love this summer travel season.
Assuming this spring is an indication of things to come, you’ll have political turmoil, terrorism, natural disasters and airline security scares to worry about. Oh, and don’t forget the 33,700 Americans who die in car crashes every year.
More than eight out of 10 travelers are anxious about their safety, according to the latest Global Rescue Travel Safety Survey. But for every travel problem, there’s a solution. A range of new gadgets and apps, all targeted at security-conscious travelers, are sold to jittery tourists. Though they may address a few of your concerns, they fail to fix the one thing no one talks about. I’ll tell you what that is in a second.
First, let’s talk about some of the gadgets and apps that can ease some of those misgivings:
- The portable safe. Travelers bring their own safes on the road. A portable lockbox such as Safego (safego.us, $39.95), which weighs only 1 pound, can help secure your valuables during outings or add protection in hotel rooms. It can fit all of the important things in your life, including your wallet, phone, a small camera and jewelry. Plus, it’s sand- and water-resistant. Don’t forget to attach its heavy-duty steel cable to something solid; otherwise, thieves could run off with it.
- The auto survival tool. One accessory selling briskly is the all-in-one tool that can help you in a car accident. The SuperVizor (statgeartools.com/supervizor-xt, $9.99) is a combination seat belt cutter and window breaker. The carrying case has a clip that attaches to your visor for easy access. If you buy one of these, don’t forget to tell your kids about it, and explain that it’s not a toy. Otherwise, you could be replacing a windshield.
- The security camera. Travelers are not just concerned with what happens to them but also to their property. Installing security cameras can be a headache. One solution is Manything (manything.com, basic cloud recording plan starts at $2.99 per month), which lets you repurpose an old smartphone into a live streaming security camera that alerts you when it detects sound or motion. It can be used by hotel guests who want to monitor their personal belongings. Note: Do not leave valuables in your hotel room even with a system such as this in place. You’ll get a nice picture of the thieves, but you may never recover your property.
- The locator. Tracking apps and gadgets are becoming more popular. I mean, who wants to lose a family member on vacation? (OK, don’t answer that.) A productivity app such as Picniic (picniic.com) is marketed to worried parents who want to keep tabs on their offspring. As a bonus, it includes a shared calendar and a feature that lets you collaboratively plan meals. The real trick is to persuade your kids to download the app. I’ve been trying to get mine to add it to their phones for the past few days. No luck.
- The secure hotspot. Wireless hotspots do far more than connect your devices. Verizon’s HumX (verizonwireless.com, $99.99) interfaces with your car’s onboard computer, offers emergency roadside assistance and gives you access to a mechanic’s hotline. It connects at 4G speeds, allowing all the kids to download their favorite TV show in the back seat — if you’ll let them. Concerned about computer safety? Then you might want to shore up your wireless Internet connection with an Anonabox (anonabox.com, $119.99), a portable anonymity router that protects your personal information and deters hackers.
If you’re amused by all of these products, you can probably predict what I’m going to write next. None of these gizmos is a substitute for packing your common sense. You can secure your hotspot, track Junior, monitor your luggage and hit the road with all the survival gear you want, but all it takes is a careless selfie to end your life.
This summer, the best advice I can offer might be: Leave stupid at home.
Travelers, beware! Hacking lurks in plugs and ports
Don’t worry — do this before you go
- Back up your devices. Phones and computers can get lost, and often the data are more valuable than the device. “If you plan to bring it, back it up,” advises David Dufour, Webroot’s senior director of engineering and cyber security. “Backing up mobile devices is an important defensive measure in recovering from attacks by cyber criminals or device loss while traveling.”
- Enable security alerts on your financial accounts. Set up auto security alerts on your bank cards that notify you if you’ve made any purchases. “You’ll get a notification to your phone or email detailing purchases,” says Sage Singleton, a safety expert for SafeWise, a consumer website. “This is an easy way to keep track of your spending and be notified immediately if something is wrong.” You’ll want to alert your bank that you will be traveling out of the country ahead of time, so it is aware of foreign transactions.
- Check your car carefully. “Properly inflated tires provide better fuel efficiency,” says AAA spokesperson Cynthia Brough. “So check the pressure before heading out.” Also, ensure the tread on your tires is still good, and check your car’s fluid levels. If possible, ask your mechanic to run a full diagnostic before your trip.