My generation (Gen X) and any generation of women after me has been told…you are capable, you can do anything you set your mind to, you don’t NEED a man for anything. And, while I absolutely believe this is true, I do believe that in some ways women have to work smarter and harder than their male counterparts. There is a huge movement in the travel industry for solo female travel. While some women must travel solo for work or some choose to travel solo for pleasure…myself…well, I whole-heartedly believe travel is best when it’s shared! All of that said, there are some smart things that women should be doing in their travel, be it solo or with a group of gal pals, to make their trip safer and therefore more enjoyable. Safety should be a priority in travel, period. And that safety begins in the planning phases before you ever spend on dime on booking your trip! Here are 5 tips that I hope help your travel safety game.
This one to me is a no brainer. Do your homework…gather information on where your going..especially if it’s out of the country. Check The State Department for travel advisories. Other good resources to check out…read reviews on Trip Advisor, find Facebook travel group…they are everywhere, general travel and travel specific to where you are trying to go. Do you follow someone on Instagram that lives where you want to travel? Send them a message, most are more than happy to give you the inside scoop. My point is, it’s so easy to gather information…you just have to look. Figure out what part of town your hotel or AirBnB is in. Will you be able to safely travel to and from your accommodations to the things you want to do while you are there? Will you be using public transportation? Figure out your safest means of getting around. Check with your accommodations to see if they offer in room safes. Having a safe inside your room is a must. Lastly, spend the extra money to be safe. If you are traveling solo or with a small group of girls, spend the extra money to stay in a safer location, in a place that offers valet service…if you can’t afford to spend the extra $20 here and there for your safety…you probably need to save a little more before you go. DO YOUR RESEARCH! You might find that you enjoy the research part almost as much as the trip…almost. Often times the research part will get you even more excited about your upcoming excursion.
Don’t Travel With Valuables
In all transparency, I struggled with this one for years. I had some jewelry that hubs had bought for me that I never wore unless we went somewhere fancy…which generally only happened on vacation. I left this jewelry in our hotel safe once. My heart sank so low, I felt like I was going to puke. The jewelry was bought for me on our very first trip together…so not only would it have been an expensive loss, but it also was an irreplaceable memento from a very special trip. I did recover the jewelry, Thank God, but I learned my lesson…don’t pack anything that you can’t live without, and make hubs take me to nice places at home so I can wear my “good” jewelry! I understand that sometimes you can not avoid traveling with valuables. In those cases, make sure to pack them in your carry on, not your checked luggage. Always keep them on you or locked up in your room safe. There are lots of good travel bag options with anti-theft type features like this cross body bag, this messenger type bag, or this cute backpack. All of these options are slash resistant and come with RFID technology to keep your credit card information safe!
When traveling alone or in a small group, try to blend in. If you can’t blend in do your best to not stand out! When I travel without hubs I leave my designer purses, clothes, and accessories at home! I don’t even take my designer dupes with me. Designer dupes have gotten really good, and it’s hard to tell the difference from a glance, examples here, here, and here, which is great at home…but I don’t want to give the appearance that I have more than what I actually do on the road. Part of your pre-trip research should be about how you should dress and pack for your vacation. Being overdressed or underdressed paints an unnecessary target on you…unless that is your goal. On my last girls trip to Grand Cayman my friend and I were slightly, and I do mean very slightly, overdressed for a very casual dinner out at a place that the locals frequent. We were enjoying our dinner when we were approached by a couple of pirates…yes, I said pirates.
The pirates ended up being harmless enough, but they definitely had us on high alert! Couple of things about unwanted attention. If you are out, and for any reason you feel uncomfortable make sure that you can be seen and heard by others. Speak louder, so that others around you can hear what’s going on. Don’t be afraid to say no or hurt someones feelings by declining a drink, help, or unwanted attention. In this particular situation, I had my eye on both pirates, our personal belongings and the waitress….who I made eye contact with frequently. Being cautious is not rude…it’s necessary. No one has ever died from hurt feelings. That being said, if my friend and I would not have been overdressed for this establishment, we may have gone unnoticed, and may not have been the recipients of some unwanted attention by a couple of guys who were clearly bigger than us and knew the area much better than we did! Do your homework, and blend in!
Technology…The Blessing And The Curse
Technology is truly the double edged sword in every occasion! That being said, when traveling alone or with a small group, check in frequently. Schedule check-ins, or make sure to let someone know when you are leaving your accommodations, where you are going, and how long you expect to be. I do this whether I’m going shopping. out to lunch, or doing something more adventurous like hiking, zip lining, or going on a boat tour. If you are traveling internationally make sure that you add international service to you cell plan. Most companies will charge you a certain amount by the day for data and cellular use…but having access to data while traveling is vital anymore! Make sure to have at least 1 portable charger. Other options are here or here. Technology can not help you if you have no juice! There are plenty of location finder apps like Find My Family, that you can share with loved ones not on the trip with you. But, as I said technology can also be a safety hang up. Technology can be a huge distraction. Distracted individuals can easily be taken advantage of. DO NOT BE DISTRACTED BY YOUR TECHNOLOGY! If you get turned around or flat out lost, slip into a store or a coffee shop to use your phone to get your bearings. Remain cool and confident and let Google Maps save your booty somewhere outside of absolute public scrutiny. Let your technology help you, not hinder and distract you.
Ah, the dying art of common sense. This will be my catch all category of things that are just good to be aware of, or ideas you might want to give a try. Never travel with original copies of important documents except for your passport. Make 2 copies of things like passports, insurance cards, important phone numbers and credit card info. One copy can stay in the safe in the room, the other can stay in your purse or day bag. Another idea for this is to make a document or take pictures of these items and save them to a cloud, like Google Docs or Dropbox. Then, you can have access to them even if all of your physical information gets taken. Always keep a little bit of cash stashed back at your accommodations…keep it in the safe, or some suggest stuffing it in socks or in the bottom of a tampon box, just somewhere that isn’t obvious. I think travel insurance can be a good idea, especially for international travel. Policies are cheap and there are several good companies out there like Travel Guard or World Nomad.
As for personal safety items…pepper spray is allowed in checked baggage as long as it’s under 4 fluid ounces. Items like a personal alarm or a whistle can be life saving! I know that there is a stigma with selfie sticks, but there is an element of safety that comes with not giving you phone to a stranger for that perfect instagramable picture. Lots of women whether single or married wear fake wedding rings as an easy deterrent for unwanted attention. Be mindful of how much alcohol you consume. Also, if someone wants to buy you a drink, get that drink directly from the bartender. Stay in control. Most of all, try to use some common sense, trust that feeling in your gut, don’t put yourself in isolated situations…meaning, stay with crowds, don’t sit on the empty train car or in the part of the bus that isn’t crowded. There can be safety in numbers, even if they are not your numbers. Do all that you can to put yourself in good situations. Do your homework before hand, and then go and enjoy your trip!
I hope these 5 items have brought some awareness to you, and that they get you thinking about incorporating safe habits into your travel!