I travel around 100 nights a year for business and 75% of that is solo travel. I have been traveling alone since I was 18, so it has just become a normal way of life for me. In my nine years of solo travel, I have had some scary situations and some just plain annoying ones. These travel safety tips may seem simple but just being mindful can substantially reduce uncomfortable situations and can even be life-saving. If you take only one thing away from this post remember, IF IT DOESN'T FEEL RIGHT, IT ISN'T.
1. Don't stay somewhere where the doors open to the outside.
I do not break this rule if I am traveling alone. Hotels with interior doors have controlled access and fewer points of entry. Someone can't just walk up from off the street or follow you from your car directly to the door. Most hotels that have interior doors have camera systems throughout the hallways for liability purposes. Cameras equal more accountability for sketchy people. Also, sound carries better in an enclosed hallway and other guests are likely to hear me if I must yell for help. (Not that this happens on a regular basis but it's good to know)
2. Take a book to dinner.
This is one of those annoying situations. I can't tell you many times I have been at dinner alone and someone, typically a man, will come and just sit down at my table usually accompanied with a cheesy pickup line. What's even more baffling is how many of those same men don't seem to pick up on strong social cues that I have no desire to have a conversation with a total stranger while eating my dinner and most definitely do not want to respond to that pickup line. Trust me, take a book. If you look like you are doing something, other than looking at your phone, most people will get the hint that you do not want to be bothered.
3. It's ok to not be polite.
You are never under any obligation to speak to someone or give them any information about yourself. I once had someone approach me while I was pumping gas and was extremely pushy trying to get personal information. The situation escalated and I was forced to use extremely strong language that would typically not come out of my polite southern mouth. My Dad later informed me that I should have turned the gas nozzle toward him and sprayed gas on him. This is a viable option if someone violates your personal space and is not responding to your verbal warnings.
4. Check the backseat of your car before getting in.
This is scary but it is fairly easy for someone to be hiding in the backseat of your car without your knowledge, even if you locked the door. By the time you get in the car and start driving it may be too late because they already have control of the situation. This can be avoided by being mindful of your surroundings as you walk to your vehicle. It is advisable to not walk directly to your driver's door but to approach your car from a distance in a way that you can see the outside of the passenger side to ensure no one is crouched down waiting for you to come to the vehicle. Even if your car only unlocks the driver's side, someone in that position could be around the car and catch you off guard before you have time to react. Check the surroundings then check the backseat through the window before getting into the car to make sure no one is hiding in the back.
*Side note: I pray you are never in a situation where someone is in your vehicle threatening you with bodily harm but if this happens to you, buckle your seatbelt and drive yourself into a stationary object at a moderately slow speed. More than likely the person threatening you will not have their seatbelt on and will be thrown forward and disoriented. You have a seatbelt and airbags. I would rather take the chances with car injuries than end up wherever that person wants me to go. Take control of the situation.*
5. Be mindful of who gets on and off the elevator with you.
Elevators are small enclosed spaces and if someone who is getting on the elevator with me looks sketchy, I get off. End of story. You don't have to be rude or even justify it but if you feel like a comment is necessary just be like, “Ugh, I forgot something in the car.” When I get on the elevator with someone I always let the other person hit their floor first or I ask them their floor if I am the one by the button. This allows me to know they aren't just going to that floor because I am. When staying at a hotel my anonymity is everything. I really don't want anyone knowing which room is mine. When I get off of an elevator I try to watch the other people getting off to see which direction they are headed and if at all possible I let them get into their room before I go to mine. You may be thinking, oh my gosh is all of this really necessary? I assure when it comes to your personal safety you can never to be “too cautious”. There are ways to stall in the elevator foyer or hallway without being noticed or seeming awkward like going to the vending machine or stopping to tie your shoe. Of course, if I am sharing the elevator with a mom and her kids it's not a big deal but I protect my anonymity especially if it's just me and another man in a hotel hallway. The fact of the matter is that despite going through self-defense classes, I am not as strong as a man and would rather just avoid any type of situation of anyone trying to force their way into my room.
I would love to hear your tips on traveling alone.
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