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30 Travel Tips: Safety, Packing, Etiquette

30 Travel Tips: Safety, Packing, Etiquette

Old Mar 30, 09, 12:52 am
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Lightbulb 30 Travel Tips: Safety, Packing, Etiquette

Using the information gleaned on this site and other internet resources, as well as during my own experience, I have compiled a list of travel tips to make most any trip more efficient and more enjoyable. There are obviously much more things that could/should be considered but I tried to pick the ones that were the most important to me. If you wonder whether I do follow my own rules, the answer is a resounding and proud "Yes!"

This is naturally intended more for the ambitious travel newbie who wants to improve his/her game. The old stogies will know these tips and many others. Feel free to add!

On Safety and security:

Read this for luggage theft prevention:
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trave...spicious+items

And this for list of suspicious items:
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trave...uspicious.html


1. Make a pre-trip packing list. Make the list itemized per bag (but write the entire thing on ONE sheet of paper), so you know what is in which bag. This comes in handy as a reminder when you look for a particular item and don’t remember where you packed what. It also comes in handy as a proof should your luggage get lost.

2. If possible, wear passport and travel documents as close as possible to your body. Not in your jacket or coat, and not in your briefcase or purse, either. All these things are easily stolen, forgotten or misplaced. It’s aggravating enough for the lost item but even worse for the trouble you’ll have due to the lost travel documents.

3. Mail a pdf scan of your travel documents to your own inbox and carry the same copy on a flash drive. Even if your clothing does not allow for the documents to be carried on your person at all time, you will still be able to carry the flash drive.

4. Put valuables and metal objects like watches, belts, coins and jewelry into the closed pocket of a coat or in the closed briefcase BEFORE you even stand in the security line. This will make things almost hassle-free and quicker for you. It also makes it harder for anyone to steal those items.

5. Your shoes go first through the X-ray machine. Your most valuable item goes last. This way your most valuable item is BEHIND you in line. You can always keep an eye on it and there is little chance that it will “overtake” you and fly off to God knows where. Only push your most valuable item in right before you need to go through the metal detector.

6. Use “Search-Alert” TSA locks, that indicate when the lock has been opened by TSA, to prevent “un-noticed” access. Alternatively, use colored zip ties or tamper proof tape.

7. Put your contact data not only on the luggage tag but also on the INSIDE of the bag. Use destination or office addresses only, not the home address. Do not use the full name, only J. Doe.

8. Split your credit cards and money. Leave some in the hotel and take some with you. If any gets stolen or lost you still have a back up. This is similar to cross-packing. When two people travel together, pack some items of each in the other’s bag.

9. Know where you’re going. Plan ahead and take a map. In public transport sit close to the driver and/or close by an exit.

10. A rolled up newspaper, a solid metal pen and keys can make formidable weapons. Strike brutally and violently once (or even thrice but in quick succession), then run. If attacked by a group, hit the leader. More importantly, avoid confrontation!

On packing:

11. Utility maximization: Maximize the utility of each item you bring. Some examples: A bathing suit can be an extra pair of underwear. A plaid can serve as a scarf, rain cape, blanket, carry pouch, tablecloth, room divider etc. Use belts, cardigans, jackets and sweaters that are reversible with two colors. Two light sweaters are better than one heavy sweater. This can become a really nice game if you think of it as a challenge.

12. A ĺ length jacket with many pockets, a hood and take-off sleeves replaces a coat, a purse (daypack) and an umbrella. It can be worn over a suit and does not get in the way when sitting down. It also stows easier than a coat.

13. Be UN-prepared. Don’t pack stuff for every eventuality. Traveling in America and Europe, almost any common thing you might need is usually less than 15 minutes away e.g. extra shoelaces. That said, I do pack a flashlight, a 5g sewing kit, two safety pins, and a universal sink stopper (if I know I’ll be doing laundry). Check the long-term weather forecast. If the chance of rain is less than 50%, don’t bring an umbrella or rain jacket.

14. Wear your heaviest clothes and shoes, pack the lightest.

15. Shoes, toiletries and books go in the bottom and rear of any bag. If it is a wheeled bag, this will also be the optimal position to pack these items. The center of gravity will be lower, the bag won’t tip over so easily, will be easier to maneuver and other items won’t get crushed.

16. Lay low on toiletries and cosmetics. It will make packing the 311 bag easier. The weight will be greatly reduced especially when you ditch those awfully heavy toiletry cases. Most weigh close to a pound, some more; even when empty! Use another Ziploc baggy instead. One cologne/perfume in a sample size will do for the trip. Most places have the basic products on hand. You will not die from using hotel shampoo, you won’t be any uglier but you’ll be richer, smarter and travel more comfortably.

17. Wrap silk ties around folded shirts, place belts around the perimeter of the suitcase once it is packed (you only travel with one reversible belt anyway, but just in case). Stuff the extra pair of shoes with underwear, socks and fragile or valuable things. It helps the shoes keep their shape and protects the other stuff while maximizing space.

18. Use packing cubes wisely. There is no need for each thing to have its own cube. This will only add weight, bulk and work. Use of a packing cube is justifiable if it contains things like cables, headphones and power supplies that are fragile and will clutter the suitcase while possibly ripping up your clothes. Cubes are well used if they work as a compression folder for clothes. In other words: if your clothes in the cube are not compressed, you are adding extra weight and bulk without any gain. Packing pants in cubes is non-sense. But cubes can be excellent cores for bundle packing.

19. Use the right bag for the job. If you pack light enough and smart enough, you can comfortably make a two-week trip with a 22” rollaboard carry-on. If you pack really smart, you will be able to do the same thing with a shoulder bag that shouldn’t weigh more than around 10% of your body weight.

20. Debrief after each trip. Which items did you use and how often? Which items did you not use? Which items do you wish to have had and how badly were those really needed? You will soon be the real travel pro!

On Etiquette:

1. Be friendly, helpful and respectful! The others are only traveling or doing their job, just like you.

2. Don’t carry more than you can handle yourself. This is particularly bad for women but nowadays I wouldn’t count on a chivalrous helper to lend you hand.

3. Bags go in narrow side (wheels or top handle) first, d#*n it!

4. Bags go in ONLY close to your seat. Do not take up overhead space in the front of the cabin and then move to the back. That is outright anti-social.

5. Personal items are called personal items because they stay with you. They do not go in the bin. Once everybody has stowed the bigger bags, if there is still room, you can put the personal item.

6. Put your coat on top of your big bag or as the last item before closing the hatch. Do not take valuable bin ground space for your coat.

7. Do not poach anybody’s seat. Sit in your assigned seat first, and then ask the person in the coveted seat for a switch. If you have a justifiable seat change request, offer a seat that is at least equivalent or better. E.g. don’t ask a person in a window or aisle seat to quit their seat and sit in your center seat so you can sit with your partner. Accept “NO” for an answer without being upset. Doing you a favor is one thing, but doing you a favor and sacrificing one’s own comfort is another thing entirely.

8. Be careful and give a warning when you recline your seat. The person behind you might have a drink or laptop on the tray. Reclining your seat suddenly and without warning can spill the drink and break the laptop’s screen. You’d be responsible for the bill.

9. Avoid air travel with small children that cry, if at all possible. If it is relocation, a medical emergency or similarly important event, by all means, bring the child. If you are just flying around on holiday and you cannot control the child properly, rather think of alternative vacation plans that do not require the use of trains or planes. There are natural potions that will help quiet the child down. These are entirely harmless for the child. Consult with your pediatrician. You, the child and everyone else will have a better trip thanks to this little preparation.

10. If you weigh twice what a person of your age and size should weigh, do yourself and your fellow travelers a favor and book two seats (at least if you fly economy). Or at least, try to book a flight that is most likely not booked out and book an aisle seat.

Till

Last edited by tfar; Dec 18, 09 at 7:21 pm Reason: added UNDERLINE, added links for luggage theft prevention
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Old Mar 30, 09, 4:09 am
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Good list.

I try to split my money and credit cards even when I have them all with me (e.g. some in wallet/pocket and some in a safety pouch that loops over my belt).

And a couple of times in cities where I know that pickpocketing or petty crime is rife I have carried a sort of decoy wallet, with a bit of money in it and some expired credit cards or other, non-essential cards like club membership cards and so on. I've never had to use it, but if I was ever cornered I might get away with handing it over... (It all sounds a bit Maxwell Smart though...)
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Old Mar 30, 09, 10:55 am
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Good list, especially with the packing tips... I'm proud to say I'm an expert carry-on packer, I have done as long as a 2 month trip on a 22" rollaboard (although it was summer, this would be difficult to do in the winter).

Originally Posted by Christopher View Post
And a couple of times in cities where I know that pickpocketing or petty crime is rife I have carried a sort of decoy wallet, with a bit of money in it and some expired credit cards or other, non-essential cards like club membership cards and so on. I've never had to use it, but if I was ever cornered I might get away with handing it over... (It all sounds a bit Maxwell Smart though...)
I keep a similar decoy wallet in my car for would-be carjackers (it's not an uncommon thing in costa rica). Thankfully I've never had to hand it over.
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Old Mar 30, 09, 11:05 am
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Excellent list! Usually, I scoff at these things, but every single tip is good, solid advice in my opinion. Well done!
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Old Mar 30, 09, 11:12 am
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Originally Posted by PTravel View Post
Excellent list! Usually, I scoff at these things, but every single tip is good, solid advice in my opinion. Well done!
As (almost) always, I agree with PTravel...and the OP, of course. Well done, indeed.
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Old Mar 30, 09, 2:08 pm
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The OP certainly has some good suggestions, but the article reminds me of the Saturday Night Live skit The Anal Retentive Chef. Are people really going to remember a laundry list of travel tips or should this be far more condensed. Also, the list doesn't really put much onus on the traveler to be responsible for their actions.

Fight off muggers with with a rolled up newspaper? Are you going to scream, "bad dog" while you do that? I'm sure the knife wielding mugger will be intimidated by Monday's USA Today. Perhaps skip travel to parts of the world with unstable governments or high rates of violent crime would be better advice.

Don't recline your chair and don't bring kids on board? Please. I've never, ever had a drink spilled by a chair reclining. I realize that the person in front of me purchased a reclining chair so I don't jam the top of my laptop against the chair in front of me. I take responsibility for my own actions. How about suggesting that people bring along a $.5 pair of ear plugs before they fly. People are quick to complain about screaming babies, but have a look around the cabin the next time you fly. Few people bring anything to drone out the noise around them.

Do I really need to debrief myself when I land to figure out what I do and don't use? Do I need to cross reference this with my detailed packing list that I spent hours on before I left? Why would I ever need to bring a flashlight and wouldn't the hotel provide a stopper for the bath (that I likely won't get in anyways since who knows how long since it was properly cleaned). Do I really want to use a dirty swim suit as underwear or should I be disgusting and use dirty underwear in the pool? Why would I take a map when I can get one locally. Figuring out what to do when you get there is half the fun for some people.

Since when is 'seat poaching' an issue. Travelers are given boarding passes with an assigned seat on almost every airline. Someone sitting in your seat is easily rectified. The tip is to ask someone to change from the coveted seat? Just so I get it right, the person in the middle seat in the last row next to the toilet should walk up to the person with the exit aisle and ask them to switch from the coveted seat? Umm, huh? A better tip would be to watch for when the boarding door closes. That's when everyone is on board and open seats, at that point, are fair game.

The list has some good advice, but it should be trimmed down to 10 simple things. Oh, and by the way, some bags don't fit in the overhead bin lengthwise even though they fit the airlines guidelines for carry-on bags, darn it.
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Old Mar 30, 09, 3:22 pm
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Originally Posted by tfar View Post
10. A rolled up newspaper, a solid metal pen and keys can make formidable weapons. Strike brutally and violently once (or even thrice but in quick succession), then run. If attacked by a group, hit the leader. More importantly, avoid confrontation!
Please don't tell the TSA!!!

Kidding aside, nice list. The tip about putting your most valuable item through the x-ray last is a good one I hadn't thought of. (I'm usually focused on making polite suggestions to speed up the people/items in front of me without being rude, like putting the trays sideways to give everyone more room, pushing down when you get your items at the end, and reminding them to finish their beverage or of the 3 lb belt buckle they neglected to take off.)
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Old Mar 30, 09, 3:47 pm
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In general I agree and think this is a good list. But:
Originally Posted by tfar View Post
8. Be careful and give a warning when you recline your seat. The person behind you might have a drink or laptop on the tray. Reclining your seat suddenly and without warning can spill the drink and break the laptopís screen. Youíd be responsible for the bill. (Emphasis added.)
I try to recline slowly in order to give the person behind me time to react if necessary. But everyone knows that seats recline. If I put something in the path of a seat that may recline at any moment, it's my responsibility, not that of the person in the reclining seat. I would certainly not accept responsibility for anyone else's failure to anticipate my doing something that the airline and the seat fully allow me to do.
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Old Mar 30, 09, 4:12 pm
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Originally Posted by thegeneral View Post
Since when is 'seat poaching' an issue. Travelers are given boarding passes with an assigned seat on almost every airline. Someone sitting in your seat is easily rectified. The tip is to ask someone to change from the coveted seat? Just so I get it right, the person in the middle seat in the last row next to the toilet should walk up to the person with the exit aisle and ask them to switch from the coveted seat? Umm, huh? A better tip would be to watch for when the boarding door closes. That's when everyone is on board and open seats, at that point, are fair game.
I think I understand what the OP was getting at... It's more about seat-swapping (to sit with your companion) than outright poaching a good seat because you have a bad one.

We just had a long thread about seat swapping, and I totally agree with what I think the OP is trying to say. (1) If you are considering trying to arrange a swap, start at your own seats. That is, don't migrate straight to two optimal seats in hopes that you can shoo the "swappee" off to the less-desirable seat. (2) Use common sense - offer up the best arrangement to the person you are attempting to swap with. We went into more detail about this on the other thread. (3) Be willing to accept a polite "no" for an answer, as some people genuinely prefer certain seats.

Scooting around on a lightly-loaded flight has some associated etiquette as well...there's certainly more leeway but there's still some common sense that needs to be applied. That's a slightly different topic.
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Old Mar 30, 09, 5:06 pm
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Good list.

Originally Posted by tfar View Post
1. Make a pre-trip packing list. Make the list itemized per bag (but write the entire thing on ONE sheet of paper), so you know what is in which bag. This comes in handy as a reminder when you look for a particular item and don’t remember where you packed what. It also comes in handy as a proof should your luggage get lost.
Except for my little digital camera and Bluetooth headset, I have a dedicated power supply/charger for all the other things that never comes out of my bag. I always book a room with double beds and use the second bed to unpack my stuff and spread it out (yeah, I know hotel bedspreads are DNA experiments, but nothing has turned black and fallen off me yet). When I check out, I only have to glance at three places to see if I’ve left anything behind; the desk, second bed, and the bathroom counter.


Originally Posted by tfar View Post
4. Put valuables and metal objects like watches, belts, coins and jewelry into the closed pocket of a coat or in the closed briefcase BEFORE you even stand in the security line. This will make things almost hassle-free and quicker for you. It also makes it harder for anyone to steal those items.
Yes! Why do I see guys futzing around with pocket change, wrist watches, cell phones at the tub table in the Black Diamond lane?


Originally Posted by tfar View Post
5. Your shoes go first through the X-ray machine. Your most valuable item goes last. This way your most valuable item is BEHIND you in line. You can always keep an eye on it and there is little chance that it will “overtake” you and fly off to God knows where. Only push your most valuable item in right before you need to go through the metal detector.

I’m like a pit crew member changing a tire at the Daytona 500 when it comes to the x-ray machine. My strategy is a little different:
  • Laptop sleeve in the tub
  • Laptop bag (with my two cell phones, loose change, belt or belt buckle already in it before I hit the line)
  • Rollaboard
  • Tub with shoes and jacket (and sometimes my Kippie bag, which is in the top outside pocket of my rollaboard)

I don’t send the first tub through until the WTMD is clear. When the laptop bag enters the machine, and there doesn’t appear to be a Logjam O’ Tubs™, I go through the WTMD. Even if said Logjam does occur, the only person that has access to my laptop and bag is the TSO, and I’m looking right at him. Also, I’m right handed, so since I tend to favor my right arm for lifting I find it easier (quicker) to use a lane where the x-ray is on my left.


Originally Posted by thegeneral View Post
<SNIP> Fight off muggers with with a rolled up newspaper? Are you going to scream, "bad dog" while you do that? I'm sure the knife wielding mugger will be intimidated by Monday's USA Today.
The USAToday might not scare them off, but how about the op-ed page from the New York Times?
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Old Mar 30, 09, 6:17 pm
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Originally Posted by N965VJ View Post
Iím like a pit crew member changing a tire at the Daytona 500 when it comes to the x-ray machine. My strategy is a little different:
  • Laptop sleeve in the tub
  • Laptop bag (with my two cell phones, loose change, belt or belt buckle already in it before I hit the line)
  • Rollaboard
  • Tub with shoes and jacket (and sometimes my Kippie bag, which is in the top outside pocket of my rollaboard)

I donít send the first tub through until the WTMD is clear. When the laptop bag enters the machine, and there doesnít appear to be a Logjam Oí Tubsô, I go through the WTMD. Even if said Logjam does occur, the only person that has access to my laptop and bag is the TSO, and Iím looking right at him. Also, Iím right handed, so since I tend to favor my right arm for lifting I find it easier (quicker) to use a lane where the x-ray is on my left.
My list is a little different:
  1. Bin with shoes and Kippie bag
  2. Rollabaord
  3. Bin with laptop
  4. Laptop bag

This way, when I come out the other side, I can slide my shoes on real quick before my bags come out, grab the Kippie bag and put it into the outside pouch of my rollaboard (which is usually just coming out as I get there). I can then get my laptop, put it in my laptop bag and be on my way. YMMV but this seems to work best for me and allows me to put the more valuable stuff through last.
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Old Mar 30, 09, 8:44 pm
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Originally Posted by PTravel View Post
Excellent list! Usually, I scoff at these things, but every single tip is good, solid advice in my opinion. Well done!
Coming from you the compliment is particularly appreciated!

I will try to respond to the other suggestions without doing a huge multi-quote thingy.

I know the list is actually too long. This is the result of my over-"anal"yzing. Sorry!

Pinniped, you understood exactly what I meant. Thanks for clarifying my thoughts. We indeed just had a big thread on seat poaching (and it's not the only one, either). So I can assure thegeneral that this is indeed a problem. Also you are very lucky if you never had a drink spilled or almost spilled as a result of a reclining seat in front of you. In E there is no other place than the seat tray to put the drink. So when the person reclines there is risk of spillage.

I do think that it is the responsibility of the reclining person to watch out and I have no problem taking on this responsibility. It would not be a practical solution if everybody had to hold their drinks in the their hands the entire time to accommodate a potential recliner. The recliner knows full well that there might be something on the seat tray because most likely there is something on his/her tray, too. Regarding laptop screens, most people who were lucky enough not to experience the problem, will not know or notice that putting their screen too far back is dangerous, neither will they know or notice that reclining their seat can break the screen behind them. So this tip is directed at both the laptop user and the recliner. It is just as easy to anticipate the mayhem for the recliner as for the tray user. BUT the tray user has no influence on the recliner and the recliner starts the action of reclining. Thus the onus is on the recliner.

Personally, I use exactly the same order as USPhilly. ^

On a couple of thegeneral's comments:

I never said not to recline the chair and I never said one should wear dirty swimsuits as underwear or dirty underwear as a swimsuit.

I also bring earplugs and an eye mask with me when I fly. I consider this to be so basic that it did not make my list. Earplugs provide a noise reduction of around 30db, mostly in the lower frequencies to drown out the engine noise. For babies they are virtually of no use. If you know any that can shut of the noise of screaming babies, please let everyone know, that would be one great travel tip. Obviously, in-ear noise canceling headphones might mask the noise. But I might not want to have music on but just be in silence.

Unfortunately, going to countries or places that are unsafe is not always an option. I have traveled through Africa and India and Italy without ever having the slightest problem. But I got robbed and physically assaulted by two young guys in Paris on the five feet it took to cross the boardwalk to get to my house door from the Taxi I had taken. So I wasn't in a particularly dangerous place, I sure didn't look like I had money, I took a Taxi precisely because I wanted to avoid public transport and there were tons of people in the street.

So, given that these encounters cannot be entirely avoided, it is very useful to know which items that one carries anyway, can be transformed into effective weapons. I don't know if you ever studied or practiced martial arts but a tightly rolled newspaper is a great defensive weapon, especially against a knife.

And you can easily kill somebody with a pen if you are daring enough and know the vital points. It is certainly not elegant but it works.

Anyways, glad most of you liked the list. I learned a lot here and this list helped me to gather my thoughts on the subject. Thanks to all!

Till
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Old Mar 30, 09, 9:56 pm
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On Etiquette: 10. Large people.
I used to be a large guy, now I'm thin... was hoping for the middle ... anyway, some carriers will actually block off the seat beside you if you are flying in economy. AC will do this if you fill out their paperwork, a note from doctor, and request it ahead of time. They won't do it for business (nor should they), and they have some restrictions.
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Old Mar 30, 09, 10:01 pm
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Originally Posted by skaven View Post
On Etiquette: 10. Large people.
I used to be a large guy, now I'm thin... was hoping for the middle ... anyway, some carriers will actually block off the seat beside you if you are flying in economy. AC will do this if you fill out their paperwork, a note from doctor, and request it ahead of time. They won't do it for business (nor should they), and they have some restrictions.
That is good to know and I am glad to hear this. Obviously, being severely overweight can have a multitude of reasons and often those severely overweight do have medical reasons, in which case on can hardly blame them.

Till
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Old Mar 30, 09, 10:05 pm
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Thanks for addressing them. I do think that you are very vigilant in your travel technique, but for most people it will be overkill. Cutting the list down would be helpful if you're trying to give this as advice to others.

You're responsible for your things on a flight. That includes your laptop and your drink. The seats are designed to recline and still have someone able to drink their drink. A seat recline is not going to be anything as bad as a decent amount of turbulence. People should take responsibility for themselves and not expect others to do things for them.

In terms of the ear plugs, go to a Walgreens or other major store and you should find a box of them for $5. The conical rounded ones made with soft foam work the best. They'll block out everything best including crying babies. The baby factor is actually pretty rare and families have the same rights as anyone else. If it bothers you that much, there's always first class with fewer kids, private planes, etc. You're using mass transit after all. That said, get those ear plugs and you'll do fine. The in ear buds like the Etymotics block nearly as much noise and also have great sound.

I have trained in martial arts for quite a long time and have done training on how to handle being attacked by weapons including knives. I don't ever remember an instructor ever saying to look for the nearest newspaper. Given that you got mugged within 5 feet of your door, I'd suggest that you not give advice to people on weapons. It's rather irresponsible actually. Attacking someone can often escalate the situation. The state department suggests, "If you are confronted, don't fight back -- give up your valuables." That's a better strategy when confronted with a knife. You're writing this thread, so I'm guessing it worked out when you were mugged.

By the way, killing someone with a pen isn't as easy as you would think. You've been watching far too many movies.

I like your safety and security #4 tip and the be polite one. People need to just relax when traveling.
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