Traveling is often a fun and enchanting experience which can distract you from the potential dangers that come with it. Similarly, if you often travel for business, the repetition or tediousness of travel can desensitize you to the risks. For some, however, travel safety is always at the forefront of their minds. This can be particularly true for female travelers, as demonstrated by the 2018 online survey conducted by AIG Travel Inc. and Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) which found that 83% of women travelers experienced a safety-related event within the prior year.
Whether travel safety never crosses your mind or risk mitigation is all you can think of while packing, the tips and tricks outlined below are simple and easy precautions to take to ensure your safety while traveling for pleasure or for business.
Even though some shared service providers like AirBNB have made strides in the safety area, for women traveling alone, hotels are still the much better option.
Generally, the higher the level of service amenities, the more likely additional layers of security will be provided. Another helpful safety precaution is to check out ratings and review sites, such as TripAdvisor, to glean the wisdom of the crowds – but be mindful that this is only one source of information.
If you are going on a business trip, ask if your company has a relationship with a travel advisory service such as World Aware, Global Guardian or ISOS. These organizations can provide pre-trip intelligence and safety/security guidance throughout your trip.
Google “high crime areas” in the cities you’ll be visiting and avoid any identified areas. Also, download and utilize the Smart Traveler App provided by the US Secretary of State’s office which will send you travel alerts and provide the location of the U.S. Embassy should you need it.
If at all possible, avoid hotels that allow smoking or e-cigarette/vapor use, as the risk of fire is much greater at hotels that allow those activities on the premises.
Once you have narrowed down your hotel selection, call the hotel to ask if they have an electronic locking system. Also, find out if they have a dedicated security staff, which is always a plus.
When booking your reservation, opt for the third or fourth floor, as these floors are considered by safety experts to be best for personal safety and evacuation if necessary.
If you are a celebrity or experiencing domestic/stalker challenges, consider using an alias to book your room, but be sure to let the hotel staff know your real name for security and billing purposes.
When available, plan to use your phone to access your preassigned room instead of a key card and avoid the front desk.
It is common to utilize ridesharing services such as Uber or Lyft while traveling, however, precaution must also be advised during these circumstances. Do not get into a car until you have verified the car’s make, model, color, license plate, and driver’s name with the information on your app. Be sure to ask the driver, “What is your name?” Do not ask, “Are you Stanley?” If anything seems wrong or does not match the information on the app, cancel the ride and order another one. (An extra thought: I am big on air quality, so as soon as the driver is identified, I call to ask if he or she smokes or vapes and if so, I cancel the ride. I find most drivers will reply honestly but that some will say, “I do not smoke in the car,” revealing that they are totally oblivious to the hazards of second- and third-hand smoke. In this case, I cancel, requesting a refund if a cancellation fee is charged.)
When considering personal security for the flight, aisle seats are best. Always stand up and move into the aisle when other passengers want to enter or exit your row. If you have the aisle seat, gently advise those in the inside seats to let you know if they need to exit or to ask the flight attendant to wake you if you happen to be sleeping so that they don’t try to climb over you. Additionally, be mindful about overhead storage bins, as many people become injured by falling bags and objects. Travel with a package of sanitizer wipes and wipe down the arm rests, seat belt buckles, and food trays.
Upon arriving at the hotel, the best way to ensure your safety is to be assertive and proactive.
Verify with front desk staff that your room is on your requested floor. Be sure to only get one room key at a time and double check that the key does not have the hotel address or room number on it. Most hotels will not announce your room number out loud and will instead write it down on a key cover or pocket card and show it to you. If your room number is disclosed aloud or seen by others, request a different room and that this one be kept confidential. Leave the key cover in your room, as it typically includes the name of the hotel (and now your room number), which means that if you drop it or lose it and it contains the key…Well, you can see why that wouldn’t be a good outcome.
If you do happen to lose your key, ask the front desk to create a new code before issuing you a new key. Never complain about having to show an ID to obtain a key, as this is for your security.
Protect your information throughout your stay (i.e., name, room number, etc.). Do not say private information aloud (e.g., hand the front desk clerk your ID instead of announcing your name to the lobby) or in writing, such as at spas, workout centers, business centers, etc. Guest checks that include your name and room number need to be handed directly back to the server – do not leave the folio on the table or bar for anyone to see and pick up or photograph.
Upon arriving at your door, count the number of doors between your room and the emergency exit so that if a fire breaks out and you have to crawl to the fire escape, you know how many doors you have to pass to reach the stairs and hopefully safety.
When inside your room, always keep the deadbolt and/or security bar engaged. Some guests also travel with a door stopper that can be placed under the foot of the door.
Travel with a sticky pad and place a note over the viewfinder in the door.
Unless you are expecting a call, let all calls on the landline in the room go to voicemail.
Do not use the breakfast room service door hangers; call for room service instead. These hangers give strangers too much information and you have no way to confirm whether the form was retrieved by the hotel staff or someone else with bad intent.
If someone knocks on the door, check the viewfinder for familiarity and ask who it is to confirm. If it is an employee and you are not expecting someone, call the front desk to be sure the visit is official and necessary.
The best practice is for housekeeping and maintenance to be in the room while you are out (assuming you secure your valuables, which can include creams, makeup, and perfumes).
Remember, a concierge floor is not necessarily a more secure floor, so be mindful of the people in the elevator that get in after you. If you are uneasy, take the elevator to the concierge lounge floor and walk straight to the concierge lounge. A good practice is to be the last person to get on the elevator, that way you can easily wait for the next car if you are concerned about any of the occupants.
If you go to the hotel restaurant or bar by yourself, sit at a table rather than at the bar. The table seating typically makes it more difficult for somebody to put something in your drink without you noticing. Wherever you are seated or standing, if you have a beverage, with alcohol or otherwise, keep the drink in front of you and have a small beverage napkin available. If someone engages with you, place a napkin over the drink while you are speaking to them. Always be mindful of how much alcohol is included in each drink and avoid ordering doubles or multiple shot drinks. Martinis are particularly potent these days, so beware.
When going for a stroll or run, if you must use earphones, only use one. Pedestrian incidents resulting in injuries and deaths are the most frequent during trips. You need to stay alert to traffic, horns, and anyone who might be approaching you from behind.
One major thing you can do to help improve your safety and security while on a trip is to already know many self-defense techniques, so do yourself a big favor and take a self-defense class. This will help you become more aware of your surroundings, deliver a degree of confidence, and provide you with basic skills and tools that can keep a challenging situation from becoming tragic.
Whether your travels are for fun or work, always remember to keep safety in mind. Many of the tragedies we read about in the news are preventable as long as travelers take the right precautions and go into situations knowing what can possibly go wrong. While you cannot prepare for everything, by managing the inherent risks of traveling, you can help to ensure that your trip is memorable for all the right reasons.
Hope for the best, plan for the rest!
Executive Administrative & Marketing Assistant, HospitalityLawyer.com