Current estimates indicate 50% or more of business travel is by women and 80% of all travel decisions are made by women. Frequently, my job requires me to travel and more often than not, alone. A recent experience has motivated me to share a few thoughts about safe traveling for women.
To celebrate turning 50 this past summer, I booked a gal-pal trip to Park City to stay in an upscale vacation rental. One night there was a knock at the door. Through the door, my girlfriend asked who it was-- "Maintenance, here to fix the towel rack." The rest of us were nearby in the living room, otherwise she might have assumed one of us had called them. Instead, we shook our heads. I immediately called the front desk. They had not sent someone out; in fact there wasn't anyone on staff with maintenance that evening. They sent security but did not find anyone around the building. The next morning at breakfast, we talked to a woman who said someone also knocked on her door, but she ignored it.
Luckily nothing happened, but it was a reminder that traveling can be scary for women traveling alone. My love for travel just keeps growing. There isn't much that keeps me home, so here are some tips for being safe when traveling for work or pleasure:
Never open the door to someone you weren't expecting. I rarely order room service and unless my toilet is overflowing, I shouldn't be expecting maintenance during my stay. It is too risky to trust strangers when they know you are traveling alone and vulnerable.
Ask for non-connecting rooms. I'm a very curious person and a connecting room door just begs to be opened. Last week in Phoenix, I woke up at 2 a.m. to my next door neighbor rattling the door handle. I'm guessing they thought it was the bathroom. Always makes sure a connecting door is locked.
Pretend you are on vacation with someone. I frequently wear an imitation wedding ring. You can find inexpensive rings that look amazing, so have fun pretending you really do own that 6 carat rock. I talk about my fictional husband to waiters and hotel staff. It can be hilarious to make things up. Revive your childhood playmate. Test your creativity and have fun.
Don't fall for the gender bias. Women can be just as dangerous as men. Keep your guard up around anyone you don't know. A close friend of mine was robbed in a parking lot in Vegas by a woman who approached asking for some change.
Leave your outdoor workouts for home. In addition to general safety issues, getting lost while running in an unfamiliar city is risky. As much as I dislike gyms, it is best to stick to them while traveling.
Make friends with security. Don't be afraid or shy to ask for an escort. I have a black belt in Taekwondo, but I'm traveling, not seeking a title bout. I've asked for escorts at hotels, restaurants, office buildings, and bars. Don't play the invincibility game. You might even meet some hunky security guard you can wink at the rest of your stay. Also, this is a very good rationalization for using the valet. Not that one is needed.
Leave the television on when you leave your hotel room. I actually learned this one from a male colleague who said he does it simply to deter theft in his room.
Traveling alone can be exhilarating and liberating. Practicing a little safety and thoughtfulness will help you avoid becoming a crime statistic and provide maximum enjoyment for your trip.