I have been traveling to tournaments for almost ten years now.
Sometimes I hit the road with my husband, sometimes with friends and sometimes by myself. No matter the company, safe practices keep me and my belongings protected.
1) Call your bank.
Before your trip, be sure to call your bank and let them know where you will be traveling to and the dates so they can monitor spending. Let them know what your spending habits will consist of (bar tabs, fast food, fuel, hotel, etc.) That way, if they notice irregular spending, they can alert you immediately.
2) If you carry cash, split it up.
Carry some in your wallet, some in your pocket and some hidden in other places. This way, if you get pick pocketed, they don’t take every dime you brought with you.
3) Be cautious using social media.
In this day and age, we are compelled to post our every move on Facebook and other social media. This is a beacon that lets potential burglars know that your home will be empty for the weekend. Instead of saying, “Headed to Texas for a tournament,” make up an imaginary friend and post a thank you like, “Thanks Mary for watching my house while I am at the tournament in Texas.” This way, you are still letting people know where you are going but giving the illusion of a house sitter.
4) Leave your itinerary with a friend.
If traveling by yourself or with friends, make sure to let people know where you are going and staying, the dates and contact numbers for a couple of people that will be there if possible. If you are in an accident and no one knew you were traveling, there would be no way to find you if you disappeared.
5) It is always safer to travel in pairs or groups.
Not only are fuel costs and hotel bills cheaper when they are split, with but you can help keep an eye on each other’s things and provide support at the event. There is a false sense of security in groups but precautions should still be taken. When women leave the event venue, they should ask an employee to walk them to their vehicles or at least watch from the door. This is especially true for those players who finish in the money at the event. Everyone knows you won, just watched you get paid and now know you will be walking through the dark by yourself. Perfect target…
6) Invest in a Taser or pepper spray.
If you insist on walking around by yourself, it is strongly advised that you invest in a Taser or pepper spray. These are non-lethal ways of protecting yourself long enough to get to your vehicle or back into the venue. If you do not own one of these, there is a ‘home-made’ weapon that women have been using for years. Simply take the car keys in your fist and place one key between each of your fingers. This turns previously bare-knuckles into spiked knuckles. One punch and Surprise!!!!
7) Be aware of what is going on around you.
When you get to your car, check the vehicle next to you for someone sitting in it like they are waiting. This is a common practice used in shopping mall parking lots. They wait until the person is at their vehicle, jump out and hit them on the head. Check back seats and look around for people lingering in the area. If you see any of these things, head back inside and let someone know.
Make sure your keys are in hand before you ever leave the building. Many innocent people are taken by surprise because they are giving their attacker time to pounce while they are bungling around for keys. If you use the keys-in-the-knuckles technique described above, they are already in hand when you get to your vehicle. Once you get in, lock the doors and drive away.
Do not linger in the parking lot.
8) Pay attention to where you park.
Speaking from experience, thieves don’t always care what time of the day it is when they strike. I had my vehicle cleaned out in the middle of the afternoon because I made the mistake of not paying attention to where I was parking.
Parking in lit areas exposes thieves and makes your vehicle less of a target. Parking near windows means anyone breaking into a vehicle will be seen. Make sure your vehicle is locked and hide all valuables that you don’t take with you in the trunk, under the seat or in a glove box. Vehicles can be broken into for a pack of cigarettes or a couple bucks left in the cup
9) Be safe at the motel.
If you stay in a motel, make sure you always lock the additional bars, chains or bolts on the inside of the door. Keep your phone on and handy at all times. Do not answer the door for anyone you don’t know. When traveling, I never order room service or have anything delivered because it forces me to open the door to strangers. It is much safer to go out to eat with friends or pick something up on the way back to the room.
10) Keep your cues at your side.
One of the most common and most heartbreaking crimes that can happen to a pool player is when their cues are stolen. This is almost always due to human error. Someone who is too lazy to pack their things up or doesn’t want to lose his or her table will set their cue down and run to the restroom or the bar quickly. It only takes a second for someone to grab your cue and walk out the door. Either have someone watch your things or pack them up and take them with you. There is always an alternative to leaving them lying around.
Another thing you can do to help protect yourself is to make sure your equipment, specifically your case, is personalized to the point that anyone would recognize it if they saw it walking out the door in someone else’s hand. My case is a plain black 4’ X 8’ cue bag, but I have covered it in pool patches that I have collected up over the years. I have two small stuffed toys hanging off the top. It is a hideous site to behold but it is more noticeable than the plain old black leather case that looks like everyone else’s.
11) Thieves know exactly what they are looking for…cash, wallets, jewelry and electronics.
Never leave tablets or phones in your hotel if you can help it. All it takes is the cleaning staff not pulling the door closed all the way and anyone can walk off the street and grab your things. I trade in my purse for a small backpack when I travel so that I can keep my valuables on me. If you don’t want to do that, find ways to disguise them.
For many years, I have been converting everyday items into “costumes” for my belongings. A Band-Aid box is perfect for sticking jewelry or cash into and then leaving in your suitcase. No robber in his right mind thinks, “Oh look, Band-Aids! I hit the jackpot!”
Look around the house for common items that can be used to conceal belongings inside your luggage. Never leave them out on the counter because if they are moved, your cover will be blown.
I have collected these tips up over the years after making many mistakes. I am proud to say I am incident free for about three years now and hope they help you travel a little more safely.
Carry on, road warriors!
Photo: Dominik Mobitzer/Flickr Editor: Marcee Murray King