Do you like to travel? Do you appreciate a good happy hour to wind down your day? If you answered yes to those questions, you’re in good company with the rest of us. But while you travel and enjoy those cocktails, what you do (or don’t do) can help minimize risk to your safety.

While on a recent international flight I had the pleasure of meeting two young women on their way to an exotic Asian vacation destination. When they mentioned plans to stay overnight in a city that is considered one the region’s most dangerous, I asked if they had thought about travel safety in advance. Not surprisingly, they were aware of certain dangers foreign travelers could encounter…but did not have much practical knowledge about how to prevent- or worse, respond to- those dangers.

Think about the recent news stories of unsuspecting tourists at all-inclusive Mexican hotspots. A number of resort guests, men and women alike, reported being drugged, raped, robbed or assaulted…and many only remembered having one drink. Those crimes can actually happen anywhere, as I pointed out to the young women on my flight. How? Two ingredients: tainted drinks and opportunity. You can abstain from drinking, of course…but let’s get real, many of us like the thought of that cocktail. So how do you reduce opportunity? Some ideas:

* Order sealed beverages (such as bottled beer) and have them opened in front of you
* Watch carefully as drinks for other patrons, preferably locals, are mixed; order
something that comes from the same bottle(s) and stay at the bar to watch your drink
being prepared
* If with a companion, order different beverages (from different bottles) particularly
if you decide to order mixed drinks
* Don’t turn your back on your beverage, even for a moment, and keep it
covered or in your hand at all times
* Do your own ordering and pay for your own drink each time you get one
* Never be afraid to abandon a drink; be safe rather than polite if something
feels or tastes wrong
* Stay away from overly sweet drinks that can mask the taste of add-ins or tainted
alcohol

What do you do if, in spite of your best efforts, you start feeling like you were drugged?
* Have a plan, a code phrase or word, to let your companion know if something is wrong
* At first signs of something wrong, consider getting to an emergency room rather than
waiting it out to see if you feel better while you are in a restaurant, bar or hotel

Think about it this way: if you stay, you risk being dependent on the same strangers who may have just drugged you. Consider purchasing travel insurance for your trip, and get a list of vetted medical facilities in that area. Write them down and have them handy in case you need them in a hurry. If despite your best efforts you end up with a tainted drink, you don’t want to be further victimized. How can that happen? You could get transported to someplace disreputable, and risk being extorted to get access to treatment.

Most of us never go anywhere without our phones, right? Seriously consider using a travel safety app. Look for one with a panic alert feature that can monitor your location on demand, plus connect you quickly- and independently- with emergency resources wherever you are. Simply put, that capability can keep your bad situation from getting worse.

Vacations are supposed to be fun, and business travel can be enjoyable as well. I encourage you to carefully plan your happy hour before you go…because it’s always five o’clock somewhere!