While business travel has gotten safer and easier for female travelers, women traveling alone still need to take some special precautions on the road to protect themselves (as well as their belongings).
Travel Safety Tips for Women
How to Pack
1. Travel Light and Cheap
Carrying heavy bags not only weighs you down, but slows you down as well. You may have to rely on the kindness of strangers to lift your bags. Travel is tough on your luggage — no matter how expensive it is. So buy lightweight luggage (“spinners” only, they’re much easier to navigate) on sale. The point is to get in and out of the airport quickly.
2. Dress Conservatively
It helps you avoid unwanted male attention, whether you’re eating alone in the hotel bar or in a foreign country.
3. Leave the Backpack at Home
Bring a handbag that can be worn as a crossbody and zips close. Backpacks are not a good choice — especially in city environments.
4. Carry a Personal Safety Alarm
If you plan to do any sightseeing on your trip or go for a run, a personal safety alarm is a good addition to carry.
5. Pack a Doorstop Alarm
Stay safe in the hotel by packing a doorstop alarm.
6. Bring Backups
Pack a backup credit card and some cash hidden inside your carryon. If someone steals your purse, you’ll have a backup. Always have a copy of your driver’s license or passport as well.
What to Do Before Leaving
7. Keep Your Home Safe
And make sure you’re safe when you get home by making your home look lived in while you’re away. Use an app like SmartHome to turn lights on and off remotely. Or if you’re not that techie, a simple home timer that plugs in does the trick.
8. Stop Mail Delivery
Keep mail from piling up by having your mail held at the post office. Stop newspaper delivery or have a neighbor pick up your papers.
9. Careful with the Luggage Tag
Use a laminated business card as a luggage tag so your home address isn’t exposed.
10. Give Copies of Your Itinerary
Leave your itinerary with a friend or family member and check in daily.
11. Reserve all Transport
Reserve hotel, car or ground transport. Planning ahead prevents you being stuck at the airport. Register with services like Uber or Lyft. (Uber’s come to my rescue more than a few times.)
12. Make Use of Room Service
Both smaller and larger hotels have their pros and cons. But I prefer staying at larger hotels that offer room service. Large hotel chains will have card keys and better security as well.
13. Join Loyalty Clubs
Join the loyalty clubs of all the major chains. At certain levels, you get perks, in addition to accumulating points towards free hotel stays. Some of the bigger chains (Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Starwoods) have choices at all price points.
14. Get a Room With an Interior Entrance
Whatever type of hotel you pick, request a room with an interior entrance and above the ground floor. You want to be near the elevator, but not too close to the emergency exits.
On the Way
15. Use GPS
Spring for a GPS if you’re renting a car. You don’t want to get lost in a strange place, and struggling with your phone on an unfamiliar road is dangerous in itself.
16. Use Valet Parking
Use valet parking rather than walk to your hotel, restaurant or conference from a distant lot or a parking garage.
At the Hotel
17. Get Two Room Keys
Always ask for two room keys — it helps hide the fact that you’re traveling solo. Keep both with you, one on your person and one in your purse. That way, if your purse is snatched, you can still get into your room. (But tell the hotel so they can change your key code.)
18. Don’t Give Out Your Room Number
Make sure no one overhears your room number. If they do, ask for another room.
19. Check all Locks
Once you get to the room, check doors, windows, closets and the shower. Make sure all locks work, and use them — including the deadbolt and security chain.
20. Don’t Open the Door for Just Anyone
If someone claiming to be from housekeeping or room service shows up unannounced, call the front desk to check before opening the door. Many hotels will give you a five-minute advance call if someone is coming up to your room. You just have to ask.
Socializing and Sightseeing
21. Use Concierge Services
Have some time to view the local sights? Use the concierge’s services and don’t be afraid to ask about safety, whether you’re planning a quick morning run along the river or a fancy dinner, if you’re going solo.
22. Don’t Use a Map
When out and about, use a GPS on your phone instead of a map so you won’t look like a lost tourist. (That said, it’s good to have a map on hand in case your phone dies.) If you still get lost and have to look up new directions, duck into a store or coffee house instead of standing on the street.
23. Keep Your Phone Charged
Keep your smartphone charged. It’s not just a business necessity, but also a smart safety precaution. That’s why my new favorite travel “tool” is the Belkin 3-Outlet Mini Travel Swivel Charger Surge Protector. It’s got dual USB ports and five charging outlets total.
24. Don’t Befriend Strangers
Don’t make friends with strangers. Pickpockets and other criminals prey on solo business travelers. Don’t share too much information with anyone you don’t know, and don’t be shy about cutting off a conversation if it gets weird. Never invite a stranger back to your room.
25. Don’t Drink Excessively
Don’t drink too much. It clouds your judgment and weakens your defenses (not to mention making you look unprofessional).
Bonus: Travel Tips for Comfort
I’d like to add some bonus tips that have nothing to do with safety but are all about comfort.
- Bring slippers or slipper socks. They keep you cozy on the plane, feel amazing after a long day on your feet and keep you safe from that yucky hotel carpet.
- If you color your hair, bring your own (travel-size) shampoo and conditioner. Even the shampoo at higher-end hotels contains sulfates, which is bad for your hair color.
- I often book online and request a small refrigerator in my room. That can save a lot of money if you’re a soda addict (like I am), or if you want to avoid pricey room service or restaurant charges.
- Always bring a laptop mat, especially if you plan to use your computer from the bed. (Hotel desks are never comfortable for me.)
- If you’re on an extended trip and plan to stay at more than one hotel, bring extra plugs/chargers for your computer and phone. It’s very easy to leave these items behind.