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Traveling Alone? Safety Tips for Women Business Travelers

February 24th, 2017 /

Women held 51.5% of all management, professional, and related occupations in the 2015 workforce and are an increasingly important part of the US economy. To do justice to one of the most talked-about elements of business travel, we asked a professional business woman to speak to some of the particular challenges of life on the road.

I work and live in New York City. So I’ve got loads of experience being catcalled, followed, or approached by strangers when I’m just trying to complete a grocery run, mail a package, or generally exist. In fact, those quietly frantic moments have grown to be almost familiar. I’m no stranger to fake phone calls with hypothetical friends.

I think most women have stories like this—a statement that holds doubly true for female business travelers. Sure, we’re fierce feminist warriors, but we’re also people who put ourselves in potentially risky situations, alone in unfamiliar cities, on a semi-regular basis.

And some of those situations can be terrifying. So, especially if you’re just starting your career, here’s my advice to you.

Be Prepared for Anything

The sun sets at a different time in each city you’ll frequent. An evening run that might have been completely safe in Dallas could be bad news in Toronto. You never expect to be walking alone in the dark, but sometimes it happens.

So there are a few measures I take before even leaving home: I keep copies of all important documents (ID, passport, insurance, credit card info, etc.) on Dropbox so that I can easily get another copy if something happens to my purse or wallet. I also pack extra cash and my backup credit card with my feminine products, which I keep in a pouch in my carry-on regardless of the time of month—thieves seem remarkably reluctant to rifle through tampons in search of cash.

I also regularly use the SafeTrek app when I’m walking in areas that seem sketchy (because pepper spray isn’t sanctioned in all airports). Keeping your finger on the app’s “safe button” allows you to unobtrusively call for help without anyone knowing you’ve done so. The app will alert the police if you need them—but does nothing if it’s a false alarm. I’ve got friends who also swear by keeping a 130 dB personal alarm in your purse.

safety tips for female business travelers

Figure out how to take responsibility your safety without cramping your personal freedom. Image by Flickr user Adrian Snood (CC BY 2.0)

Make Your Hotel Room a Safe Space

The best thing about traveling alone as a businesswoman is that you can request additional services on behalf of your safety concerns. Hey, if we suffer from outdated societal norms, we might as well get some benefit! I always request private transportation from the airport—and won’t get in the vehicle with anyone who isn’t in the loop.

When you arrive at your hotel, there are also a couple of things I’d suggest:  During check-in, the hotel should provide you with two keys automatically. But if they don’t, request them. I always leave one in my carry-on in case my purse gets stolen or lost (which, on some days, is the more likely scenario). It’s also a deterrent to anybody who may be listening in the lobby—you could be traveling with another guest.

We all know to double-lock our doors and always use the security chain. The more intense of us carry portable door jambs or doorstop alarms. Personally, I’m a little more relaxed, but upon entry to my room, I do always double-check closets, make sure doors and windows all lock properly, and even check the shower. An ounce of prevention is better than an unwanted visitor.

safety tips for women business travelers can feel like a hassle but are worth the investment

Take hotel safety seriously—and don’t be afraid to ask for a different room if necessary. Image by Flickr user d’n’c (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Take Responsibility for Your Own Comfort

It’s not my job to constantly negotiate catcalling or unwanted approaches while in public. That being said, there are things I do to prevent annoyances when I’m in public, especially in a new city. Should I have to take these measures? No. Do I anyway? Yes. These actions are preventative—which means you’re taking responsibility for a measure of your own comfort on the road.

At the very least, whether you’re dining alone or walking on the street, if you’re looking to be ignored, one simple fix is to wear headphones. I’d recommend against listening to anything, though—you want to look preoccupied while remaining aware of your surroundings.

If I’m in situations that call for more stringent measures (mostly at bars), I wear fake engagement and wedding rings. I actually had this recommended to me by a married friend, who leaves her real diamonds at home when she’s traveling. Plain old CZ is a lot easier to replace and does an equally fine job of keeping creeps away.

Finally, I’d suggest you keep a small pair of fold-up flats in your daily bag. Bring them with you when you go out at night. Trust me—you never know when a blister might form and cause you to feel uncomfortable in more ways than one as you return to your hotel at the end of a long night. Painful feet can leave you moving slowly and more at risk.

safety tips for women business travelers can encourage you to hit the road

Traveling alone can be empowering, especially when you are prepared for a good experience. Image by Flickr user Anne Worner (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Safety Is a Serious and Worthwhile Concern

When you’re traveling alone, you don’t have to wear a chastity belt and duck around corners, but you do need to be savvy with the precautions you take. This is one area where it pays to be proactive.

Part of every woman’s battle is also finding lodging locations where you feel safe. I don’t have the time to read each Yelp review for every hotel I’m considering—which is why I leave that part of the job to my personal reservationist at JetLux Hotels. I tell her my destination and criteria, and I get a discounted rate at pre-vetted hotels that are high-quality and safe, no matter where I’m headed.

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