From what I’ve learned while traveling, staying safe should include:
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Be savvy about local scams in the country your traveling to.
- Keep your data and credit card information safe from RFID readers by taking a purse/wallet/passport holder that blocks them.
- Carry a crossbody bag (laying across your stomach and not your hip) with locking zipper closures, and made from slash resistant mesh - like the Travelon Crossbody bag I took on my trip to Krakow + Berlin.
Note: RFID means “radio-frequency identification.” There are RFID tags in passports (issued since 2007) and in new driver’s licenses that hold your personal contact information. A reader can (and will) capture this info via radio waves. RFID wallets/purses/passport holders can help to block this.
And there are more tips on how to travel safely included in The 9 Best Things Women Can Do To Be Safe While Traveling. Get the password for the resource Vault to access the 9 travel safety tips by filling out this form:
The following article is brought to you by my friend, Melanie Ebersole, CEO at 3 Gypsies and a Passport. Melanie’s business specializes in teaching travel safety. Now read on as Melanie breaks down five essential, common sense things to think about before and act on during your travels.
Travel Safety Starts at Home
By Melanie Ebersole
In today’s unstable and ever-changing world, you can’t ensure safe travels 100%, but you can reduce the risk as much as possible - especially women traveling alone. Although these tips won’t guarantee safe travels - they can reduce your risks. They’re mostly simple and mostly common sense, but you need to practice good safety habits continuously.
Not to scare you to death, but take a look at a poll done in 2018 by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and AIG Travel Inc. It showed a disturbing 83% of respondents, women traveling for business, experienced a safety issue or concern in the last year while traveling. And just talking to women, almost everyone tells me stories of travels gone awry because of a safety issue.
Safe travel relies heavily on a confident mindset. You’ll get a confidence boost when you learn to be self-reliant and not overly dependent on a travel companion. Putting all your trust in your companions' ability to keep you safe makes you complacent. And complacency can make you vulnerable to trouble. It could even get you killed!
What I Did to Stay Safe
I’ve had more than one safety scare while traveling, but what happened on a trip I took to Costa Rica was genuinely frightening. I stayed at a 5-star boutique hotel with excellent security that required checking with the guard each time you entered. One night, returning to the hotel at midnight, a security guard offered to walk me to my room. I didn't think anything of it because it was dark, I was alone, and - hello! - it was hotel security.
About halfway to my room, the security guard said something to me that caused me to pause, the hair standing up on my neck. I just knew trouble was looming. When the lights suddenly went out as we were walking, he grabbed my hand and said: “here let me lead you.” I took my hand back and said I knew the way - but he followed me anyway.
The lights came on as I reached my room and the guard opened the door for me. He told me: "I have tomorrow off," and I said, “that's great, I hope you have a nice day,” as he stood between me and the door. I thanked him for walking me to my room and said goodnight, but he still didn’t leave. Suddenly, I forcibly made him leave and quickly shut and locked the door. He beat on the door trying to get me to open it, but eventually went away.
I was lucky; others have not been.
Because of my awareness and intuition, I picked up early that the Security Guard was going to be trouble. I took the stature to secure myself and show confidence. I also know self-defense and acted quickly to push him out of my room. But how many women would have just felt safe because he was hotel security and let their guard down - until it was too late?
Five Common Sense Tips
Adopting and practicing a safety mindset at home will help it become second nature to you when you’re traveling. And that could save your life. Become an empowered traveler by adopting these five common-sense habits in your daily life.
There’s more, but you’ve got to start somewhere - and not get overwhelmed!
#1 - Practice Situational Awareness. No matter where I go, I practice being aware of everything and everyone around me. I started doing this while growing up. In my low-income neighborhood, it was dangerous not to be mindful of your surroundings and the people in them. I rely on this skill in both my daily life and my travels. It saved me from trauma and harm in Costa Rica - and on many other trips.
To start practicing situational awareness, pay attention to what and who is around you at all times. Become aware of where you’re parking and walking - day and night. Is it a dark area, no people, secluded, etc.
Also, know where your exits are in all establishments. Can you get to them quickly if there’s trouble (fire, robbery, any emergency)? Are there shady looking characters hanging around entryways?
And always walk with confidence wherever you go - head up, and cell phone put away to keep your hands free whenever possible. As you go about your daily life think about how you’d react, or what you’d do in certain situations - run scenarios thru your mind, even down to an actual attack.
Your mind will start to remember your imagined responses even though you haven’t experienced the actual trauma. If you ever really do need it, you’re more likely to respond quickly and with less fear. Train your mind and body to protect you.
The police, military, and even I practice something called the Cooper Code. This Code, created by a US Marine named Jeff Cooper, talks about the different levels of awareness and uses a color code to describe them. Cooper said awareness makes up 90% of self-defense, the remaining 10% being physical techniques. If you're interested in going more in-depth on this check out this article.
#2. Be prepared! Basic, common sense actions can help you be prepared and keep you safe while traveling. For instance, if you’re taking a road trip or driving a rental car on your journey, keep your gas tank at least half full at all times.
And always bring a portable battery charger for your mobile phone. Use it diligently, keeping your cell phone battery at least halfway to a full charge. Also, make sure you have extra money in case of an emergency. But hide your spare cash somewhere other than your purse - like in a travel belt, your bra, your shoe, etc.
#3. Self-Defense + Your Health + Etc. Hey, do you have any self-defense moves? No, you don’t need to know how to chop a board in half with your bare hands. But you do need to know some ways to defend against an attacker. Whether you’re traveling far away or in your home town - these skills might help save you and others.
Plus, you should consider checking to see what medical facilities are available where you’re traveling. And how long will it take to access them? If help will be hours away, can you perform CPR or basic First Aid?
How are you at changing a tire? You might need to know how, but maybe not. Car rental companies in many countries advise not stopping to change a flat tire but to drive to safety for help instead.
And before you go - an excellent resource for checking how safe a country and its transportation is - as well as the current health conditions - is TravelRiskMap.
#4.Copy Your Documents. Make a copy of your driver's license, passport, and credit cards, before you leave on your trip. Take one copy with you (keep in a safe place), put a copy online in secure cloud storage (like Box or Dropbox), and leave a copy with someone at home.
Only carry the credit card(s) you plan to use for travel, along with a front/back copy of the card(s). These copies will allow you to easily contact the credit card company if it’s lost or stolen.
If a card is compromised having the front/back copy can be very helpful. I’ve had to use it more than for a compromised card when trying to reset a password or accessing an account linked to the stolen card. I needed the last four digits and the CVC of the card, but since I’d kept a copy - I had the answer!
#5. Practice Safe Social Media!! (You didn’t think I was going to say practice safe sex, did you?? LOL, do that too!) Don’t post every detail about your life for the world to see - and don’t post from your current location.
Save the photo uploads for when you’re home, or keep the date/time of the picture purposely vague. Posting while traveling away from home has gotten many people robbed while on vacation. When you’re back home and posting, clear the location data from your photos before posting.
I use a program called EXF Data that scrubs the GPS location from your pictures. It’s quick and easy, taking only seconds to remove the data giving away details of your location or where you took the picture.
I hope you know how important these five tactics are to keep you safe while traveling - or while at home. You may think “this isn’t important and maybe even paranoid!” But if you’re a woman traveling solo, or even with a travel companion, better to keep safe than experience the traumatic alternatives.
Here’s wishing you happy “safe” trails.
A business leader and COO for the last 8 years, Melanie has been an entrepreneur and business builder most of her life. A Colorado native living in Alaska after falling in love with the state 30 years ago on vacation. Daughter of a German citizen and avid traveler most of her life. Growing up in a less than desirable neighborhood forced her to learn ways to keep herself safe. Now her passion is to use her years of traveling, knowledge, and safety skills to empower women to stay safe while traveling. You can find her at 3gypsiesandapassport.com and on Instagram here.
Melanie also helped me write this article about checking your bag vs. carry-on. I'm team Bag Checking (of course!!) and she's team Carry-on.