When I first moved to Los Angeles from New York, a 17-year-old friend was on her way to my home town for her first visit to the Big Apple.
Because this Angeleno was fresh out of high school, she did not possess a credit card, so her travel expenses were to be paid in cash. I didn’t know it at the time, but she did not bother to buy traveler’s checks with the bulk of the money. Instead, she crammed all the bills into her carry-on and headed for the airport.
Overburdened at LAX with too much luggage and not willing to check any, Amy could not wait to board her plane.
Unfortunately, there were technical difficulties so she was forced to wait a solid four hours while the problem was alleviated. At one point, this very green traveler asked a friendly stranger to watch her bags so she could run to the ladies room.
It wasn’t until Amy was sitting on the flight bound for the Big Apple that she discovered all her cash was missing.
Sadly, the new-to-travel sojourner is not the only one in history to make such a dire mistake. Many of us have had similar experiences and that’s no accident. The time one spends in an airport terminal both on the way and on the way back from a sojourn can often be a perilous journey.
With that in mind, consider the following; this advice (a lot of it learned the hard way) may help:
* At all times, keep your wits about you. Do not try to start or end a trip when you too tired to pay specific attention to everything and everyone around you. A traveler who shows he or she is weak is a prime target for any thief.
* Don’t appear flamboyant as this will only attract attention — and not that kind of attention that is welcomed. So, keep your flashy jewelry and wild clothing packed away, choosing instead to dress like the conservative clone of others on the move. A monochromatic look in a low-key color (black, gray) is best, be that in a suit or in sweats. Blending in is your best defense against pickpockets and con artists.
* Pickpockets love an overloaded traveler. So, to better negotiate your trek through the airport, carry a light load and do all that you can to make sure one hand is free from your luggage. Carry-on bags on wheels and laptops in cases with shoulder straps help even if you feel this extra gear isn’t necesary. These types of travel tools allow more leeway to negotiate the crowd and to react to anyone who gets a little too close.
* Currency exchanges at the airport are usually public transactions any thief can witness. Because of that, avoid them if you can. On the other hand, an official money exchange kiosk is the only place on airport premises you should exchange money so if this is a must, make the amount you trade in the least amount necessary for that point in your trip.
* One never knows where a thief can be lurking so keep tabs on your wallet, passport and other travel documents at all times. Although I carry a purse, these important items go into a small pouch I wear around my neck for safekeeping, only to be exposed when absolutely necessary.
* When you are ready to make your getaway from the airport, if you are traveling by cab be sure the taxi you employ is official. Many unofficial drivers love to shuttle people around to pick up extra money. They can be highly untrustworthy and they often charge a really inflated rate to anyone who will ride with them.
Even legitimate cabbies can be cons so make it clear from the outset what the cost will run between the airport and your hotel. Unless you are prepared to pay through the nose, never ask to see the city on the way. That kind of joy ride could cost you even more than you bargained for.
For Los Angeles residents who are novice travelers looking for more tips about traveling safe, contact your travel agent or another travel professional for assistance.