11 indispensable items to carry on business trips for security reasons

Este texto foi originalmente escrito e publicado em inglês.

My friends know that I am a kind of guy that thinks about risk all the time. I credit this mindset to my job as an information security expert and by virtue of my work, I’ve read many disaster stories. As part of my job, I must be aware of everything bad that may happen to data and its availability. Therefore, it is not unusual to read the papers about stolen laptops, flooded data center, data media lost during transportation or computer damages in different ways.

All those stories made my mind always think ahead of problems, but even thinking ahead is not enough when you are surprised for the ‘unforeseen’ situations. Living as a consultant for more than a decade, I’ve been traveling across many cities and exposed myself to adversities, what qualifies me as a frequent traveler. Based on my experiences, I built a list with my 11 indispensable items during a business trip and some of the reasons to carry these items.

1 – Portable tableware

Believe it or not, some hotels don’t offer silverware. Other don’t serve food. So on your planning, remember to check for restaurants or groceries store nearby and if you order take out ask for silverware.  For instance, if you go to a grocery store and buy a can of soup, you will probably need to have a can opener.

A second option you may need to have your own silverware is when you are at an office working and your office mates decide to work late and order takeout. It’s ok if the food ordered is a pizza. However, it’s not so nice when they order Indian food and restaurant that forgets to send forks and knives.

The third, if you are visiting Asian countries that do not have the culture to eat with forks but use chopsticks instead. Even if you are chopstick master you will miss using a fork after a while.

Last but not least, having your own mug or cup might be the difference between to having tea or coffee and don’t have anything to drink. I say this because some companies already practice the policy of zero disposable cups and silverware. Thus, if you do not bring your mug, you may get thirsty.

2 – Passport wallet

My first passport wallet was bought without any agenda. I never used it before and in fact, when I saw it in a store, I really did not know what it was and how useful it was. I have to thank my friend Mendes, who explained what was its purpose. Nowadays, I’m so comfortable using my passport wallet that I cannot live without it. Why? Because basically everything fits in this small bag. Looks like a dark hole. I can keep my earphones, mobile phone, passport, travelcards, baggage locks keys, a tool to extract my mobile phone sim card, etc. It might even prevent me to forget something in the airplane seat pocket.

3 – Travel socks

It doesn’t matter if you are healthy or sick,  young or old, air travel exposes you to circulatory problems. The airplanes use pressurization systems to keep the cabin comfortable during the flight at high altitudes and the human body is not prepared for that. In consequence, an ‘accident’ may happen. So even if you are traveling on a domestic flight, travel socks may save you from developing thrombosis. Thrombosis happens when blood coagulates, generating a solid piece of blood moving through your body. If that solid piece reaches your lung or brain, you’re dead. By using travel socks it will compress your legs to prevent the formation of the thrombi, what usually appears on your legs. If after a flight, when you arrive at your hotel you feel your feet is swollen, it may be the first signs that you need travel socks. I got this advice from a flight attendant when I asked her for travel tips.

Another important advice for when buying these socks: they are a little bit different than normal socks. You must know your measures such as the distance between your foot to your knee and the diameter of your leg. That’s important because travel socks will compress your leg and the wrong size or compression intensity can hurt you behind the knees or decrease its effectiveness.

4 – The Weather Channel app

Of course, you do check the weather before traveling, mainly to check about rain and the cold and hot temperatures to correctly choose what to pack in your luggage. You can get the latest on the weather using the native weather app installed on your mobile OS before the trip. But what happens if you are caught in a location that is expecting a hurricane, after your arrival. It happened to me when hurricane Matthew left Haiti. I was working in North Carolina and Matthew turned towards his direction to the east side of the US. The Weather Channel app, a.k.a. TWC, uses your location based on mobile GPS and alerts you about what is coming. I received the notice of Matthew first on my phone only to see it on CNN six hours later. The app also offers videos with experts explaining about weather and forecast of hurricane arrivals. For this particular case, Matthew arrived in NC on Saturday and I monitored the airport conditions to leave NC on Friday, also on The Weather Channel app.

The Weather Channel app alerting about flood

The second use of TWC app happened in my hometown, San Antonio. I was out for a dinner 20 miles away from home and received a notification about a possible tornado in the next 2 hours. I prepared my family to leave the restaurant and drive home. One hour after TWC notification, the city authority launched an advisory on the radio using the emergency broadcast system, alerting about the possible tornado. Again, TWC app was faster on notifying me.

5 – TripIt

Yeap, it’s another app. I will probably write about TripIt again in a full article later, but what you should know now is this amazing of technology can keep all your travel plans on the cloud, shareable with your trip mates and planners. Yes, if you have an assistant that plan your trips or in my case, a wife that always ask you what time you will be arriving, so name her as a planner and everything is solved.

Moreover, when you need to check your plans like rental reservation, connection flights, hotel reservation, it’s everything at the same place. No internet during a flight? No problem, TripIt stores the data locally in your smartphone. As soon as you have Internet access again, TripIt will be able to notify you of your next connection flight departure gate or which belt(baggage carousel) is your luggage. A paid version may(give you access?) extend you features like SMS notification and points tracker on loyalty programs.

6 – Military Dog Tag

It’s unlikely, but a medical emergency situation may arise while on a business trip. I heard about a story of a consultant that found a friend choked up. After working all day long in a data center, the friend got a sore throat and at night he started coughing and he felt – using his own description of the situation –  like his uvula had folded. As result, he was not able to breathe normally and in shock found another consultant in the hotel hallway. Both took the company rental car and figured their way to an emergency room using Waze.

The second case happened with my wife on a business trip.  My wife and her friend went out to have dinner and when back at the hotel her friend went to her room for a shower. During the shower, the box glass broke for some unknown reason. She was alone in the room at the moment of the accident, but she was sharing the room with other two girls that went for a night out. Without help, she decided to walk over glass up to the room to find out some shoes and call for help. She hurt her feet and used towels to stop the bleeding. When her roommates arrived, they found her crying and with her feet wrapped in bloodied towels. For a moment, they all believed it was a rape case, but when she explained what had happened to her friends they got her dressed and helped her finding a taxi to go the nearest emergency room.

Although both cases finished well and they are alive but later discovered that the event and their companies offered medical coverage which could have been faster than run around in the city looking for an emergency room. At these both cases described, the victims were found awake. That could be different if they were found unconscious. For this particular reason, I still carry my military dog tag. They are comprised of two aluminum plates that have engraved my name, social security, blood type and allergies. It’s not a perfect solution, but it helps to identify yourself and some basic information. It is a good idea if you can keep with you at all times like attached to the company or event badge. The dog tag may help to identify you and find appropriate help or medical coverage. Remember when you are out on a trip, you are a completely strange.

7 – Embassy contacts

You may have heard about this, but when you arrive in a foreign country, having a visa is no guarantee you will be accepted into the country. In case you have your entry denied, you may have the right to call your embassy or consulate and they can appeal on your behalf with the foreign govern. If this situation happens to you, you must have in hands the contacts for your citizenship embassy. The immigration department in the foreign country you are visiting is not required to have all embassy contacts. For such case, I carry the phone number and the address of closer Brazillian embassy or consulate. Also, is good to have it available in paper rather than only on your mobile phone. Some countries immigration office doesn’t allow you to use your cell phone even to lookup for contacts.

Another useful thing is when you are already inside the foreign country, I mean after you passed through immigration, and a natural disaster like an earthquake happens. The most appropriate govern unit that may help you to leave the country is your citizenship government authority and since we are talking about a business trip, you may also found help at your company that may offer you other means to go back to your home country.

The third and usually situation are related to lost or stolen documents. If you lost your passport, you will not be allowed to board at any international transport. You first need to find your embassy or consulate, issue a new document and must query the authority of your living country, to check what to do if you are immigrant. For example, if you are green card holder and lost your permanent visa document, but have your passport, you can travel and will need an extra time to explain it to US authority upon your arrival.

8 – Offline Google Maps

Ok, so you arrived in a new city and you need to go to your office or your hotel. The first thing to do is to find a taxi and ask the driver to drive to your destination. Frequently, I got some drivers that don’t know the directions to my destination. You may think with the available technology, every driver uses a GPS device or mobile phone, but the truth is that this is not common.

So, my tip is to have on your phone, at least three itineraries: From Airport to Workplace and From Airport to Hotel and From Workplace to Hotel. And why I need to have it offline if my wireless company guarantees worldwide mobile Internet access. Yes, but your wireless company cannot guarantee you availability in foreign countries. Or if you are on a domestic trip, your wireless company may be affected by an outage.

Google Maps Offline

9 – Handkerchiefs

Yes, I know it’s old school. But I didn’t find any really good substitute to handkerchiefs. Paper tissues, of course, is good but it’s hard to carry and its supply is limited. The cotton handkerchiefs may help you in some other emergencies. I had a nose bleeding during a flight and the cotton handkerchiefs were best than paper tissue. Moreover, it is very easy to carry on in your pocket and it’s washable.

10 – Dual-zone clock watch with solar power

It’s obvious when you are traveling across different time zones or countries, to have a watch that displays two time zones is very useful. Mainly when you are about to get a connection flight when as soon you arrive at the airport. But remember this is important because I have friends that missed a flight when they drove from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City because they forgot to remember timezone. I use to have a Citizen Eco Drive which gave me a fault tolerance feature: Citizen Eco Drive doesn’t use batteries. It is fully solar rechargeable which means you never have it off. I traveled one time using my Apple Watch, which is also nice, that allows you to keep two different time zones on screen but the battery died on the fly back because I forgot to charge it on a night before the flight. So with my Citizen, I’m sure this will never happen.

Citizen Eco-Drive Skyhawk

If you use to hike or camping at isolated places – unfortunately, this is not my case – I recommend you to look up for Breitling Emergency. This watch has an emergency system that sends a signal in two different frequencies like what an airplane black box does. If you find yourself lost and without any form of communication like radio or mobile phone, you can detach the antenna and start sending a signal. I don’t have too much detail about it and how it works, but I have it in mind when I decide to start hiking.

Breitling Emergency

11 – Extra underwear

Last but not less important, I think this item does not require too much explanation, but bring an extra underwear piece in your backpack or purse. It will add minimum weight to your luggage and it might offer you privacy and dignity in the case of a mishap. Remember to store it in a Ziploc bag before put in your bag. The same Ziploc will be used to the store your current underwear if you do not want to throw it away.

Bonus 1 – Enterprise security traveler app

As we are talking about business trips, some companies offer to your employees a service like a security travel agency. This company monitors all employees travels and you receive bulletins by e-mail with important information about your destination like criminal rates, epidemics and diseases risk, water quality or natural disasters. The service also counts on a mobile app, designed to give you faster notification about unforeseen events like riots, terrorist threats, natural disasters. The enterprise app that my employer offers to their employees, I can check-in at different places, giving real position where I am for the team who monitor travelers. I also have a global number that I may call in an emergency situation like described at embassy contacts item. As this is not a public service, I listed it as a bonus item because you need to check the availability with your company.

Bonus 2 – Usually recommended things

I didn’t list here, usual things like headphones, travel pillows, ear plugs or eye masks because it sounds too obvious for me and my purpose here is to write about things related to physical security of traveler but feel free to write in the comments what you miss on my list and to recommend your indispensable items on a business trip.

Feature Image by Jonathan Cohen under C.C. 2.0

Author: fabio

Fabio Sobiecki é analista de sistemas, formado pela Unopar e especialista em Segurança da Informação pelo Senac e possui MBA pela FGV. Desde 2004, trabalha com Segurança da Informação, entre 1998 e 2004, trabalhou com tecnologia da informação, na área de infraestrutura e redes de computadores. Fabio Sobiecki é certificado pelo (ISC) 2 como CISSP e CCSP, desde 2008 e 2017, respectivamente. Atualmente, ele é presidente do capítulo de São Paulo (ISC) 2 e é engenheiro de soluções na RSA.