The last thing we want is to scare readers, but travelling alone as a woman can come with a unique set of challenges and dangers. Before embarking on your next journey, we want to ensure you have a broad array of tips and tricks to stay vigilant and to keep yourself, and your belongings, as safe as possible. Below is a list of ways you can maximize your own safety, and travel with the most peace of mind. I will repeat this; but the most. important rule is to trust your gut and to not be afraid to advocate for yourself. We also invite all to read this and to help your fellow travelers feel more comfortable. Being an ally to your female travel companions goes a long way in making traveling a safer experience for all.
Airport and Transportation Safety
- Give friends or family a copy of your itinerary. Plan to check in periodically.
- Keep your phone charged. Consider investing in a charging block for the trip as well. You never want to find yourself without access to an emergency number, or an ability to check in with that previously mentioned friend. If you use a smartphone, share your location with a couple people as well.
- Take phone calls somewhere private. Although airports can often get busy, finding personal space, like an empty corner or simply walking away from crowds, is a good idea if you are taking a phone call with sensitive information, including the name of where you are staying or plans once you arrive.
- Wear headphones without music playing. You should always be hyper vigilant of your surroundings, so it’s best to make sure you can hear what is going on around you. However, wearing headphones can signal to others you are not interested in chatting. I find by having the option to be left alone helps a lot when seated beside someone I am unsure of on an airplane or to avoid being haggled walking down a busy street.
- If you are traveling at odd hours wait for the bathroom to be a bit busy or bring a companion. This one may seem strange, but you should try and avoid being alone in vulnerable spaces if possible. This goes for train stations, airports or bars.
- Keep your personal information personal. Instead of using luggage tags that has your home address on it, laminate a business card with your work address.
- Bring a personal safety alarm. You can find many options for safety alarms online. The idea is in an emergency, you activate the alarm that will create a piercing sound, alerting all nearby that you may be in danger. It is an easy alternative to something like pepper spray, as some countries do not allow a weapon and planes will not let you bring pepper spray along with you.
- Pre-Plan your Ground Transport. Planning ahead will reduce your chances of getting delayed leaving the airport. Book the rental car with as much advance notice as possible, Download your Uber, Lyft or other rideshare apps, book a private car or take a look to see what taxi services are available at the airport prior to arrival. If travelling alone, use these services to get to and from conferences, meetings and restaurants. Also, avoid sharing rides with strangers
Hotel and City
- Keep you room number and personal information discrete. When you check in, have the desk attendant write your room number instead of announcing it out loud.
- Always ask for a room with an interior exit and not on the ground floor. No one should ever have access to. your room, besides you. Levels 4-7 are ideal. Just make sure to note emergency and fire exits.
- Room Checks. The first thing to do when entering a hotel room, airbnb or hostel. It takes about 5 minutes, and you can made it into a ritual to do regardless of who you are travelling with or where you happen to be. Check that the deadbolt and the peephole are both working.
- Check behind all curtains also making sure they close properly and while you are there, the windows lock.
- Check in the closet.
- The mirror trick. Sadly, it has been discovered that two-way mirrors are installed more than we like to know, especially in women’s changing rooms and bathrooms. Pressing your finger to the glass, there should always be a gap between your fingertip and the reflection. This not only goes for hotel rooms, but public spaces as well.
- Pack a rubber door stopper. At night this brings genuine peace of mind and an extra level of security. It’s a great item just to throw and live in your luggage, so each you plan a trip you know you’re well prepared.
- Leaving the room. There are a few things to keep in mind when leaving your hotel room to work or explore.
- Close the curtains. No one needs to know your room is vacant.
- Ensure the door closes all the way behind you and put that ‘do not disturb’ sign up. Air pressure, temperature, structure, etc, all can make it so your heavy seeming door does not close all the way. Shut it tightly behind you and check it is locked.
- Take valuables with you or hide them well. A favorite hiding place? Tampon boxes. If I have a passport on me or extra cash, I really do prefer to take it securely with me, but if I have to leave it behind, I make sure it is in locations no one would think to check.
- Once more: give someone your itinerary. Check in once you’re back at the hotel. It’s a small step that goes a long way and you will most likely have the most available service or wifi while you are there, so take advantage and let someone know when to expect a check in text as well.
- Try your best not to look down at a map while walking in a city. We know it’s tempting, and odds are you don’t know exactly how to get where you are headed. However, there are some amazing app options that will read your directions out loud. Waze and Google Maps both offer this feature. By wearing headphones and listening to the instructions, you will not need to look down at a device (staying as hyper vigilant as possible is key) and you will look confident (the more confident you look = the less vulnerable you seem to predators or scam artists).
- Skip the backpack, wear a fanny pack. Dear women in 2021, we are so lucky fanny packs are back in style. But honestly, even if they were not, backpacks are the source for so much theft. Skip the clunky bag and keep your items safe by bringing something you can keep in sight.
- Add emergency numbers into your phone before the trip. Every country has different emergency contact numbers. Before you leave, research who to call in case of an emergency and have it in your phone. You should never have to take time to look these up, or fear not having wifi to do so. Travel Leaders 365 mobile app is essential to have on your phone if you are travelling with us. The app has emergency contact numbers for every destination, as well as 24/7 support. You can call us at any time you may run into a safety concern. The app also has sightseeing recommendations, maps and city information, so having this set up before your trip can save you time and stress in so many ways.
- Dress codes. We know what appropriate business attire is acceptable for most places around the world, but if you are traveling to areas that you aren’t familiar with, check the dress code. Each country and location has its own customs and you want to draw the least amount of attention to yourself. Always pack more conservative attire just in case! Simply throwing in a long skirt and a turtle neck will ensure you have appropriate clothes for anything.
- Keeping other women safety in mind. If a woman comes up to you with that look, pretend to be long lost friends. Check in with the women around you and offer companionship or help when needed. Women are stronger in numbers, and keeping an eye out for one another is vital to keeping our community safe!
As promised, remember to trust your gut and never be afraid to say no or advocate for yourself. If you are feeling uncomfortable in any way, it is far better to remove yourself from a scenario before you find what is making you queasy. Our instincts keep us safe, and at the end of the day it is far better to ask for help and stay prepared than stay silent.