A solo woman traveler has so much to think about. Here are a few good tips or at the very least some good advice to consider before you go out on your adventure.
- Whether or not you are married, wear a wedding ring, It cuts down on the unwanted attentions from men. If you get into a tight spot, then you can casually mention that you are “waiting for your husband,” etc. You can find a simple gold band for not too big of an investment.
- Pack so you can carry all your belongings with one woman-power. Use a folding luggage trolley or wheeled luggage. If you go the route of a luggage cart, don’t get a flimsy one, but instead, get a good, sturdy one. You can find them on line or even an office supply store. If you use wheeled luggage get a bag bungee to secure your tote or another smaller bag to the wheeled bag. Combining your bags as one makes moving with them so much easier.
- When you fly, pack a carry-on bag with enough clothes and toiletries that you can go a day or so without your checked luggage, should your checked luggage be delayed by the airline. Be sure you triple-tag all luggage pieces.
- Outside bag tag should have your name and office address, not a home address, and destination. Use a quality tag that can’t be easily separated from your bag. If your bag is lost it can be forwarded to you at your next destination. Cell phone # is critical too.
- Inside your bag place contact information with full name and travel schedule with hotels, dates, and instructions to call cell phone number.
- Airline destination tags are put on when you check in. Be sure the destination on the airline tag is correct. With computer generated tags these days, it’s rare to find a mistake.
- Leave a copy of your itinerary with a trust family member or friend.
- Resist posting on social media that you are gone, it makes your home vulnerable to a break-in.
- Pick the clothes to wear on the flight. You want something loose and comfortable, plus comfortable shoes. Given a choice, try to go with natural fibers which are safer in the case of fire than synthetics. Your chances of being in a fire are very, very, very small, but all else being equal, pick the cotton outfit over the polyester one.
- Do not wear spiked high heeled shoes on the plane. Besides the fact that they are dreadfully uncomfortable, they are rough in the case of evacuating the plane with an inflated plastic evacuation slide. You are well advised to wear flat shoes when flying. Some women wear high heels so much that flats are actually uncomfortable. In that case, wedged high heels are preferred.
- Be sure to take something interesting to read on the plane (book, tablet loaded with entertainment and earbuds). If a loutish boor sits next to you, bury your nose in the book. (If it’s a handsome, interesting single guy, then joke about how the wedding ring is just for show, but, I digress.)
- When you arrive and need a taxi, it is safer to go to the taxi queue and take the first taxi in line, rather than accepting the offer of someone who approaches you in the airport. In other words, you choose the taxi. Don’t let them choose you. Sometimes in places where there a few taxis, that isn’t possible, but try to make the taxi your choice. Phone apps like Uber and Lyft are helpful within on-demand service. They also provide the security of having each driver thoroughly background checked.
- If you rent a car, check the car out thoroughly before you leave the rental lot. Then, if you see anything wrong with the car later, turn right around and go back to switch cars.
- At the hotel: Don’t let the receptionist “announce” your room number out loud. Here you have to have some common sense. Hotel personnel are (should be) trained NOT to say “Here is your key for Room 306.” Instead, they should say “Here is your key. The number is on the key envelope.” If the room number is announced out loud, and there are other people in the lobby who might have overheard, just hand the key back and ask for another room. Be very polite, friendly, and say you are nervous about others knowing your room number. On the other hand, if the lobby is totally unoccupied, except for you and the desk clerk, no big deal.
- Ask at the front desk if the hotel has an evening “turn down” service, and what it entails. I was scared out of my wits one night when I got back to my room late at night, opened the door and heard the TV. The “turn down” service including turning on the TV. My room was vacant, except for CNN blaring away. Best to request no turn-down service.
- Oh, yes, and sign the register as “Mrs.” when you get to your room, have the bellman wait while you do a thorough room check. If you are alone, prop the door open with your luggage while you do the room check. A flight attendant had shared that she had been raped in her hotel room. The man hid under the bed, inside the “box” formed by the bed platform. She took a shower, and then the man came out and raped her. If you look at hotel beds, they appear to have a board that prevents anything from getting lost underneath the bed. What it actually it is a four-sided box, where the floor makes the fifth side and the bed platform makes the sixth. There is plenty of room for a man to hide there. You can lift up the bed platform and look in the box. Then, check anywhere else a man could hide – behind drapes, in the shower, behind the shower curtain, etc. After the room check, thank and tip the bellman, or close the room door.
- Take a doorstop with you in your toiletry case. When you leave your room, pop it in your purse or pocket. Then, when you come back from being out, use the doorstop to hold the door open while you do the room check, a bit paranoid? Perhaps – but better safe than sorry. At night, use the
doorstop to keep the door closed or use a portable door lock that prevents intruders who might have a passkey, and might have tampered with the door chain from gaining entrance. Hotels with electronic key-cards change the access code for the hotel room with each guest. Yet they too have passkeys.
- If someone knocks on your door, and you didn’t order anything like room service, call the front desk to verify that a hotel employee was sent to your room. The obvious exception to this is in the late morning when the housekeeping crew is around. No intruder in his/her right mind is going to break into your room with all kinds of hotel employees in the halls.
- When you are out and about, walk with some purpose. If you are lost, it is better to stop and ask directions and head in the proper direction, than to wander around hopelessly. Take a magazine or tablet to read in the restaurants. Someone said once it is difficult for a woman to dine alone without looking like she is afraid she had been stood up. True. I try to beat that by walking in with a magazine or a small book to make it look like I am there by myself on purpose.
- On the other hand, don’t be afraid to get into conversations with strangers. It can be fun to meet new and interesting people. The deal is to recognize the con artist types from the genuinely friendly types. The “OK” person will engage in light conversation only and not try to get you to do anything or go anywhere. Avoid the type who wants you to leave the secure area, restaurant, park, etc., and go for some other reason. Stay in public places, in other words.
- A lot of solo women travelers deal with the dinner problem by just eating room service meals. I have done that when I was really tired, but generally, I prefer to go out and eat alone in a restaurant. I get cabin fever when I spend the whole evening in my hotel room.
- As at home, it’s not wise to carry a lot of cash. ATMs are everywhere. Carry a small amount, and then replenish from the ATM as necessary. Use the normal common sense around the ATM as you would do at home.
- Hotels have safe deposit boxes at the front desk. If you are going to be in one place for more than just a night, you might leave your airline ticket in the safe box. International travelers should leave their airline ticket and passport in the safe deposit box, and walk around town with a photocopy of their passport for their official ID.
- A few words about hotel fire safety. When you get to your room, check out the emergency exit route. Do I need to mention that you should not use the elevator in case of fire? Figure out how you will get from your room to the stairs. I am in the habit of always putting my hotel room key on my bedside table next to my phone. That way, I always know where it is. When I leave the room, I don’t have to search for it, or possibly lock it in the room. (Saves embarrassment at the front desk, too.) In the case of fire, therefore, you would have the hotel room key right next to your bed. If you decide to leave the room, take the key with you. The door will probably lock behind you as you leave. If the situation is worse outside your room, you will need the key to get back in. Open your window and throw out a sheet or something similar so the fire rescue people can see clearly that your room is occupied. Stuff wet towels under the door to prevent smoke from coming from the hall. Never stay on the 7th floor or higher as ladders of the fire department don’t reach beyond that.
In all the places I have been, I have never been in any kind of serious trouble. The worst thing that ever happened to me was hearing the TV on in my room when I came back late at night. There is nothing wrong with taking a few precautions, however, so you can relax and enjoy the sight- seeing, the museums, the hiking, the scenery, the people, the restaurants, the food, the smells, the ambiance and all the wonderful reasons you left home in the first place.