Ex-CIA agent gives her top tips for how to travel safely

From apps to which hotel floor to stay on, former FBI and CIA agent Tracy Walder has plenty of tips for extra precautions you might want to take when travelling abroad

Jake Meeus-Jones
Wednesday 13 September 2023 16:40 BST
<p>A former CIA and FBI agent has revealed her top tips for staying safe while travelling - including sleeping on a specific hotel level and avoiding rented accommodation</p>

A former CIA and FBI agent has revealed her top tips for staying safe while travelling - including sleeping on a specific hotel level and avoiding rented accommodation

A former CIA and FBI agent has revealed her top tips for staying safe while travelling - including sleeping on the third floor of a hotel hotel and using a doorstop.

Tracy Walder, 44, worked for the CIA as an officer and the FBI as a special agent between 2000 and 2005 and learnt how to take extra precautions while on assignments abroad.

She has now shared her top tips for safety including using a doorstop, sharing your itinerary and downloading a panic button app.

Before she even steps foot in a foreign country, Tracy researches the area for any threats and sets up an app that alerts contacts to her location in the event of an emergency.

When staying in hotels, Tracy opts to stay in a room located between the third and sixth floors - low enough for emergency access but far away enough from any intruders who might enter on the ground floor.

She also always uses the security lock in hotel rooms and travels with a door stop - she also ensures she has an Apple AirTag tracker in her luggage.

The former agent even uses an AirTag bracelet for her daughter, eight, to wear while abroad, and refuses to use private rented accommodation because of security risks.

Tracy, now a professor of criminal justice, from Dallas, Texas, US, said: “The tips that I was sharing weren’t necessarily things that I was able to take advantage of while working as an agent all the time but I always do them now.

“I was surprised by how much a friend didn’t necessarily think about personal safety when she was travelling alone.

“When it comes to floor level, there’s two things - first is entering. Typically, someone who’s trying to do harm is going to go the easiest way that they can and that would be entering through the first floor as it is most accessible.

“With getting out, if you’re too high on the 20th floor or 21st floor - it’s going to be really difficult for you to get out quickly.

“For me, it’s second nature now, I just got back from a trip to Florida this weekend and they had me on the first floor. I asked to be moved and they put me on the fourth floor.

“The other thing I do is bolt the room and put the security lock across.

“My husband, Ben, 44, teases me about it and while it’s unlikely someone will break in, the reality is hotel staff have a keycard to get into your room.”

Tracy began adopting her new tricks after a certain trip abroad left her feeling like she could be in danger.

She said: “Obviously I can’t be extremely specific as it’s still classified but generally speaking, I am coming at it from the idea that I am in another country spying on them - so I have to assume the other country maybe knows who I am and is maybe trying to do harm to me.

“They refused to move me from the first floor when I was on a job once and so I started putting towels under the door.

“When I was in one particular country that’s when I realised I might need to take extra precaution because all the hotel doors faced outside, and I realised someone could fire something in.”

Ex-CIA and FBI agent’s tips for staying safe on your travels

1. Stay on a hotel floor between levels three and six.

2. Lock security locks in hotels.

3. Use a doorstop.

4. Download Panic Button app.

5. Share your itinerary with family.

6. Put AirTags in luggage.

7. Research the country for threats before travelling

After bolting the door shut, Tracy puts down a doorstop to give herself even more security.

She said: “Put the door stop down straight away and it gives you an extra level of security.

“Some hotels don’t have the safety latch and some hotels don’t have doorstops.

“My hope was to give people all different variations security control and encourage them to use things they can control or already have - without having to buy anything.”

As well as controlling the security of her hotel room, Tracy shares her itinerary with her family as well using the ‘Panic Button’ app which alerts her emergency contacts to her location if pressed.

“I think that’s a really important thing to do - and it’s free as well,” Tracy said.

The mum-of-one refuses to stay in private rented accommodation - calling it “risky.”

She said: “I will not stay in those sorts of places - I find them extremely dangerous and risky.

“You are really putting your trust in someone that you don’t know to stay in their home.

“You also really don’t who is writing those reviews.”

Tracy always uses AirTags, and even uses them in place of a phone for her daughter.

She said: “I always put AirTags in all of my luggage.

“If you are travelling with your child, they make AirTag bracelets so just in case you get separated, they have that on.

“So that’s something to think about too.”

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