For the past decade, we have traveled as a family, but since our son has become a young adult, I realized it would be only a matter of time before he will need or want to travel with friends or on his own.
Trying to plan ahead and start teaching my son with autism valuable travel tips is no easy task.Whatever sounds or would be regarded as common sense to most is totally foreign to him.
So, to teach him and other young adults like him basic safety rules, I compiled a handy checklist of safety tips to master before embarking on any future adventure!
- Check the government’s website about possible travel warnings and vaccine requirements.
- Copy the front and back of credit cards, airline tickets, passports and important documents in case anything gets lost or stolen.
Photograph your suitcases after they are packed along with all valuables you intend to carry with you.
Tag your bags with your email and cell phone number so they can be returned to you but never put your real address since that might lead to your home being robbed, or future stalking attempts.
- Try to book aisle seats as close to an exit as possible on your flights.
- Don’t choose flights or train arrivals after 11 pm since there are fewer cabs available, and fewer people on the streets, which can make you more of a target to become victimized.
- Select a hotel that isn’t located in a high crime rate area and that has modern electronic guest room locks, peepholes, fire sprinklers and smoke detectors installed ( ask before booking.)
- Consider bringing an extra door lock if you don’t feel safe.
- Notify your credit company you are traveling so they don’t block your cards.
- When you are in the airport, train station or bus station as well as on the plane/train, ferry or bus: know where the exits are and keep your belongings with you at all times.
- Never ask strangers to watch your bags for you; even for the shortest period!
- Don’t accept any freebies like food or drinks from people you don’t know.
- Do not agree to take packages to deliver to anyone no matter what sob story you are told.
- Don’t share details of your life including address, job, salary, or disability to anyone, and never give out personal information about your travel itinerary to anyone.
- Carry an ID on you at all times,
- Refuse (politely) invitations to people’s homes, hotel rooms, or cruise cabins.
- Don’t offer rides or take rides in strangers’ cars.The only exceptions are when you use a transportation app like LYFT or UBER.
- Don’t carry large money bills and never tell anyone how much money you have (on you or in your bank account).
- Don’t fight robbers – just give them your money and belongings but never agree to go anywhere with anyone.
- Learn to use a money belt when you travel!
Keep your money and credit cards in your money belt, on your body during a flight, train or bus rides no matter how long.
Keep small change in your pockets for small transactions.
Always go inside a restroom stall to get money out of your money belt to pay for bigger expenses.
Keep your cell phone and camera hidden in a closed front pocket.
In the Hotel:
- Do not accept a hotel room on the ground floor that has doors and windows that open to the outside, facing parking lots or streets.
- Guestrooms that are closer to the elevators are safer but tend to be noisier.
- Be sure to become familiar with nearest fire exit/stairway as soon as you arrive at the room.
Examine the locks on the front door, sliding balcony door, connecting room and windows and make sure they work well.
- Never prop or leave your room door open, and always use the deadbolt at night. If there is none, then use a chair to block the door.
- Never open the door to a stranger even if they claim they work for the hotel or cruise line.Always call the front desk and verify the person’s identity.
- Never leave your key in the lock inside your room since there are ways it can be pushed out from the other side with a pin and retrieved from the outside by thieves.
- Don’t leave valuables jewelry electronics money lying around in the room make sure to put them in the room safe.
- Observe passengers in elevator and exit immediately if anyone looking suspicious enters.
- Always position yourself near the elevator control panel so you can push the emergency button if you are attacked.
Car rental and parking lots:
- Rent a car with air conditioning to be able to keep windows up instead of having to roll them down for air.
- Never stop if you see any suspicious objects activity on the road, just call the police.
In some countries, people put objects to stop cars and then rob the passengers.
- Photograph the spot or street you parked on with your camera or cell phone to make it easier to find and so you don’t wander aimlessly.
- It’s safer to use the valet service at night but never give the valet your room information.
- Always walk in a group at night, especially in parking lots.
- Do not leave valuables in your vehicle.
- Park as close to an exit as possible.
- When approaching your car, always have keys in hand to enable you to get in fast or to serve as a weapon of sorts should you be attacked.
Taking cabs/public transportation:
- Order taxis from hotels and restaurants rather than flag them on the street when you are traveling abroad and don’t speak the language.
- Carry a hotel business cards with the hotel name so you can get back or call if necessary.
- Avoid night travel on public transportation, especially on your own.
Walking in an unfamiliar environment:
- Look around you and be aware of your surroundings; if you see dilapidated buildings, bars on the windows, graffiti, and multiple homeless persons, it might not be a safe place you to be.
- Avoid crowded areas, especially street shows, subways, trains, tourist sites, markets, festivals, civil demonstrations-those are a pickpocket thief’s heaven.
- Don’t walk on the sidewalk next to the street; it is easier for thieves to snatch your belongings while escaping on a motorcycle.
- Don’t walk in alleys or take unnecessary shortcuts, especially in unfamiliar cities.
- Keep alcohol drinking to a minimum and avoid nightclubs and strip clubs–those are scammers’ playgrounds.
- Ask for directions from a person of authority, like the police or concierge at a hotel.
- Avoid buying anything from peddlers, no matter how cheap the price may seem. If it is too good to be true, it is probably a scam.
- Try to pay by credit card so you can contest any false charges. At the same time, don’t let someone take your credit card to another room to make charges; they could be making extra charges on it.
Beware of the following Scams:
- One person is asking for directions while the other is pickpocketing you.
- One person spills a drink or unknown material on you while the other robs you.
- Someone offers to take you on a “tour” and just takes you to individual stores where they get a cut of the profits.
This extensive list can make a big difference for keeping your autistic traveler safe, but it is by no means everything – what would you add to this list?