The things that you do right now at home are the things you should remember and follow while traveling.
Yet there are some things that we instinctively know but may fail to follow.
The old saying of "better safe than sorry" is especially true when you're away from home.
Not only will you save time and money on checked bags, but you will have better command of your situation. When you pick a simple color scheme, it’s easy to pack less.
Solid colors in muted tones work well in most situations. Anything you wear that causes you to stand out will point you out as a potential target.
Your demeanor has a lot to do with the way you are perceived. Act like you’re a strong, no-nonsense savvy woman traveler. Not sure you can pull it off? Sign up for a local self-defense course. It will often improve your confidence too.
It used to be that thieves had to grab your bag to steal from you. In today's technological age, all they have to do is swipe your credit card numbers or passport number. With those numbers they can steal your identity, run up charges and so much more. This is why security of your identity is of utmost importance when it comes to safety.
Ever wanted to be an actress? This is your chance to have fun with your identity. If you are traveling alone, always have a "room-mate, spouse, friend, etc.," meeting you. A person that is alone can be an easier target for some nefarious individuals. Don't make it easier for them by letting everyone know that you're on your own.
In your own hometown, you already know of areas that may have more criminal activity or be unsafe. All places have these areas. Find out any areas that you may not want to travel. Find out what train or metro stops attract the most pick-pockets.
What did we do before search engines like Google? Now, you can easily go online and review a visual map to see where you’re going to stay. Look at the opposite side of the street. Travel down a block in either direction. Pick out landmarks that will help guide you when you arrive. It’s easy to get turned around in a new place. Having some visual touchstones helps prevent problems.
Get a remote phone charger. We’ve gotten so comfortable with using our smart hand-held devices that we are often lost without them. If your phone dies, you won’t be able to call for help if the need arises, especially when you’re lost on a dark back street.
Some of the fun of travel is getting lost. Not so much fun if you're by yourself or it's late at night. The way to mitigate this is to memorize your basic route. If you do find yourself lost, go into a local store and ask for directions. Ask your server if you're in a restaurant. You can also download a map to your device that you can access without any service. However, focusing on your device may hinder your situational awareness. Better to know your route, be cognizant of landmarks, and stay alert. If you find that you've gotten lost, and you're alone, go inside a store to get your bearings and check your map.
We’re taught to be polite but when someone you don’t know approaches you, they may be a friendly stranger or a potential threat. This isn't to say that you can't be friendly. Or that you have to fear that every person headed towards you is a thief. In most cases, you will take appropriate measures. Just hold on to your bag or purse and be aware of your surroundings. If you feel any hesitation or a check in your spirit, then move on. In many cases, you don't want to appear rude. Be nice but if circumstances make you uncomfortable, it's better to be rude if it ensures you are safe.
It’s sad that children get pulled into a life of crime by their elders. It’s easy to trust children so they are often used to steal from tourists. They certainly face hardships no child should endure. But many become hardened criminals at a young age. They’ll ask to take a picture with you and the next thing you know your bracelet or ring is gone. A few children will surround you and while you're occupied with them, another picks your pocket or purse. They'll plead for help and it's difficult not to want to help. If you feel drawn to help these children, contact a local charity or nonprofit and make a donation.
Keep jewelry simple when you’re traveling. A ring and some earrings. An inexpensive bracelet or watch. Don't take anything you don't want to lose. Use a scarf instead of a necklace. A leather band instead of a gold bracelet. You don't want to realize after you're on the plane that you left your favorite earrings at the hotel. It's even worse when they're taken from you.
Attach a locking carabiner to your purse and luggage. On trains you can attach all your bags together. A thief may be able to grab one of your items but will have a hard time when you’ve attached them all together and then attached them to a pole.
If someone or someplace feels wrong, trust it! Immediately. Detach yourself from the person or leave the area without delay. It’s easy to stop and question what we’re feeling. In that time, someone can strike. It’s better to feel that you may have been foolish than to be harmed.
Don’t plug your nose into your phone. Look up and be aware. It's easy to get lost in concentration in a game, a story, a message or map. That's when thieves strike. Before you even know what happened they're out the subway door or running down the street. Distraction can also be detrimental to your safety. Many attacks happen at doorways. Have your keys out and ready. If you're in a hotel, check both directions before you open your door.
Traveling with another person or a friend can help you stay safe in some instances. It can also be nice to have another set of eyes and ears available to spot a possible risk. The threat to any assailant or thief increases when your numbers are multiplied.
If possible find a bank ATM that is indoors when withdrawing money. Thieves have learned how to put card readers into some machines. You are also most vulnerable in an outdoor machine.
In case you have to use an outdoor ATM, have another person turn around behind you and stay guard. It’s often habit to focus on the person at the ATM versus turning around to keep alert.
Traveling solo? Purchase a set of frames if you don’t wear glasses. On the glasses, attach a small bike mirror to the readers or sunglasses. This is especially good for seeing who is behind you as you walk or when you have to stop to get money.
Find a local grocer or other establishment and buy one of their sacks. You may give the impression of an ex-pat versus a tourist and thieves will look elsewhere.
Depending on where you’re traveling, single ladies may desire to wear a ring on their left hand as a deterrent from unwanted advances or attention. This is also a way for you to state that your spouse will arrive soon or is waiting for you.
Always ask for two keys. This implies two people will be sharing the room. Any one lurking in the lobby for an easy target may choose to hit another room if they think someone else may be staying in the room with you.
When walking on the street, always secure your purse on the inside walk away from motorcycles or runners. If you are wearing a jacket, keep valuables in interior pockets. Put your messenger bag or purse with a strap on first and then put on your coat.
Often a person will bump you so that you focus on them while another person goes through your pockets or bag. Be especially wary in crowds (on the metro, trains, etc.) where this can occur. Don't become a sandwich where Person A bumps you. While they apologize (or often you do) and you're distracted, Person B is stealing your wallet or watch.
When everyone is distracted is when thieves can easily go after their preferred target. If you see a crowd gathered or looking toward a noise, that’s when thieves strike. they may created a scene for such a purpose.
Carry a portable alarm device. This can be a simple whistle or other noise-making device that attaches to a window or door. A doorstop is also a good thing to include in your travel gear to places that may not have safety latches on the doors. Learn the words for help, fire, and stop in the country's language.
Avoid areas where one person tries to sell you something (postcards, etc.) while another person takes your valuables.
Not only can you fill up a nalgene bottle with water once you pass through TSA, a full bottle can make an effective weapon if you are attacked. It's also handy to use for carrying small items in your luggage or as an easy source to mix up a electrolyte drink.
Get some insights before you travel on safe and unsafe areas. On metros when you hear announcements around securing your valuables, this is a signal pickpockets may focus on that area.Take heed. I once traveled to a city where a policeman stopped me and my travel companion. He noted that the area after dark was not safe. He helped us get what we needed and we quickly left the area.
If you’re traveling solo, you may appear to be part of the group. If you feel you are being followed or watched, strike up a conversation or act like you know someone in the group.
Put this sign out if you will be leaving and not sure when you will return. It gives the signal that someone is in your hotel room. Just remember that maids also won't enter when this sign is on your door. So you may want to come back and put the sign up after the room has been cleaned.
You can also leave a television or radio on in your room so it appears someone is inside.
Change subway cars. Walk on the other side of the street. Go into a store. If you feel you are being stalked or become uncomfortable, then move.
Never leave any of your belongings in a rental vehicle. If you must store your luggage in a separate compartment on a train, have a security lock and also attach it with a caribiner. Thieves want items they can grab quickly. Make it difficult for them to take your items.
Put copies of your passport, any credit card numbers, passwords, etc. in an unsuspecting place. You can carry a stash of money through secret stash pockets. In your room, remember that if it’s hard for you to get to, it will be hard for thieves to find. If your room doesn't have a safe and you don't want to carry a lot of cash with you, put it inside a magazine inside a side pocket of your luggage. But don't forget you put it there!
We women are bad about calling our feelings “silly.” Our intuition is one of our greatest gifts as a woman. Those silly feelings may be the very thing that keeps you safe. Listen to them!
Carry a high quality flashlight with you. This serves dual purposes. It can help you see your way in the dark and it can blind someone that is threatening you. As a last resort, the bevel end of a flashlight can also be used as a weapon.
Ask other travelers about where you’re going to stay. You will often receive not only great safety tips but some insights into where to find that creperie that stays open late in Paris.
In many cases, taking these simple steps will protect you in most situations. Yet, we know that in a few cases, you may find that you may be physically threatened.
Your physical safety, and that of your companions, is worth more than anything in your purse or luggage. Those can be replaced.
If you are being followed, you sense someone may be poised to steal something or someone is threatening you, make confident eye contact. Sometimes the acknowledgement that you aren't afraid and will fight back is enough to cause someone to look for a weaker target.
Back up. Change seats. Move away. Go inside a store. Put something between you (a tree, a wall, a fence, etc.) You want to be far enough away that they can not reach out and grab you. If they advance toward you or follow you, this allows for confirmation that they intend harm and to plan your next steps.
Never leave the area with someone. it is a proven fact that your chances of harm rise when you leave the first scene. Scream, kick, yell. Make as big a scene as possible.
It is important to know at least a few offensive as well as defensive moves. You can take a local class or watch defense videos. Know what to do if you are attacked from the front and back. Learn how to break free from holds. Practice. Practice some more so that it becomes automatic.
For travel overseas, you may not have access to various weapons that you would in the U.S. But there is one thing that you can carry everywhere and that is a quality flashlight. It needs to be heavy duty, project a bright, strong light (blinding the other person so you can get away) and can also be used as a weapon if it has a bezel-edge. Plus, it's nice to have a flashlight if you get lost in the dark.
Just remember that every weapon you carry can be used against you.
In all my travels, and hearing from many other women who travel, I’ve only known a couple who were victims of thieves. I’ve yet to hear of anyone that I know personally being physically attacked. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
Take some basic precautions. These steps aren’t unlike any that you would do in your own home or city to stay safe.
Disclaimer: These tips and recommendations are only for informational purposes. As with any form of safety or product recommendation, consult with a professional.