I spent most of last week at our US headquarters on Merritt Island and all of this week at the European headquarters in Toulouse, France. There’s been so many people to meet, things to learn, and work to be done that it’s hard to believe two weeks has come and gone already.
I when I got to Florida, I was joining my team at a three day annual meeting in nearby Cocoa Beach. Because I was a late add to the meeting having just been hired, I wasn’t able to secure a reservation at the sane hotel as my colleagues and had instead booked somewhere nearby. Well, when I arrived at that hotel, I immediately noticed that the rooms had access from the outside, rather than a central building that you get to by first entering the building before getting to the door to your room.
Outdoor entrances is one of my red flags for solo travel, and I immediately went back to the front desk, left, and switched to a different hotel.
All that got me thinking, especially since I’ve been on the road for two weeks straight, that I would share some of my safety tips and tricks when traveling alone.
The world is a scary place these days. In addition to generally being a target as a woman, being in unfamiliar places means that you are inherently not on guard as you might otherwise be. You’re distracted trying to figure out exactly where to go. You may be somewhere where you don’t speak the language or understand the culture. Depending on how you travel, you may be bogged down by heavy suitcases. And it’s highly likely that you just don’t know the places to avoid.
I will also add that while I’ve always been extremely street smart, I take my safety to an entirely new level since becoming a mom. I take it more seriously, I plan more and better, and take as little risk as possible to still achieve whatever objective needed.
That’s why I’m sharing these tips today – and I encourage anyone reading to leave any additional ones you may think of for the benefit of everyone.
1. Have boarding pass, identification, and credit card in an easily accessible (by you) separate part of your travel bag.
2. Separate your money. Never put all your money in the same place. If you lose it or are pickpocketed, you have nothing. I now usually have decoy money on me when in a town- something I could give if held up that won’t leave me without resources. Secret money in your shoe or bra is always a good idea too.
3. Avoid placing your purse or travel bag somewhere where you can’t see it. For example. under your seat at a restaurant or hanging on the bar stool at a lounge. Good way to guarantee something is taken!
4. Be extra vigilant. High alert at all times. End of story.
5. Don’t flaunt valuables. Yes you love your Gucci belt. I love your Gucci belt too. But this isn’t the time to show off anything that might indicate “because I wear a $400 belt I probably have lots of other valuables on me too.” Not the time.
6. Mind the booze intake. It’s okay to have a few drinks, but lowering inhibitions when you’re in unfamiliar territory is a recipe from disaster.
7. Always leave the television on in your room. One good way to never appear alone (see next tip) is to act like you’re not alone. Leaving the tv on is one way to make it seem like you’re not alone. I go as far as to leave a note for the housekeeping to not turn the tv off.
7. Pretend you’re not alone. Greet your room upon entrance or exit with an audible “hi babe!” Or “see you later, hun.”
8. Request an escort to your room after dark.
9. Never go to your room if someone is loitering in the halls or you suspect you’re being followed.
10. Have your phone easily accessible.
11. Get your room key out and ready while in the lobby. This is a big one. You never want to be standing in front of your room fumbling through your purse to locate your room key. That makes you extremely vulnerable. Always get your room key out in the lobby.
12. Use all available door locks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in my hotel room and the hotel assigned someone else to my room. If I hadn’t used the second lock, they would have been in my room too.
13. Avoid hotel bars. Of course, drink moderately. But especially avoid drinking at hotel bars. These are known targets for travelers. Better to be in a restaurant than drinking where you’re sleeping.
14. Don’t invite trouble. Dress appropriately. Enough said.
15. Keep your things with you. If you have to take a taxicab or Uber or car service, it’s much easier to escape a sticky situation if you don’t need to use the trunk. It’s also easier to avoid ending up in the trunk if you don’t need to put a bag ethere.
16. Stay close to others, if possible. When I’m walking through a town, particularity later in the afternoon or evening, I usually try to attach myself to a family or couple by walking close to them. It gives the appearance of not really being alone.
17. Never get in an elevator with just one other person of the opposite sex. Slow down, pretend like you forgot something at registration, or just simply refuse to get on. You do not want to be in a confined space with someone of the opposite sex prior to going to your room.
18. Always be the last person off the elevator. If you’re in a crowded elevator, this might not be a huge deal. If it’s just a couple people, it is. I am always the last person to hir my floor and the last person to get off on any particular floor. This avoids someone simply following you or saying they’re on the same floor as you and then following you.
19. Arrive by light of day. Post-twilight arrivals just invite more risk.
20. Take a hotel business card with you. Once in Prague, while traveling Europe for the summer, I forgot the name of the random hotel I had booked and I didn’t remember how to get back after a long day. The business card became a rule following that trip- now I always have it with me.
21. Assume the worst in everyone. I know this sounds harsh. But this isn’t the time to assume people have good intentions. It’s the time to assume everyone is a potential total threat. You won’t regret it.
22. Share your specific plans with at least one other person. I’m not just talking about your flight number and hotel name. I’m talking about the name of restaurants, shopping malls, whatever. Anywhere you plan to go. If you go missing, you want someone to know where you were supposed to be.
23. Carry travel hair spray or mosquito spray. Many countries consider pepper spray a concealed weapon, and plus it’s hard to travel with that. Hairspray or mosquito spray works pretty effectively as a close range defense if ever needed.
24. If you don’t see the drink being made, don’t drink it. And don’t take your eyes off it for one second. It is way too easy to skip something in a drink. Don’t accept a drink from someone, even if you know them, if you didn’t watch the bartender make it.
25. Trust your gut. If something seems off, assume it is. Your safety is worth it.