Traveling Without Fear
by Catherine Comer and Lavon Swaim*
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There is nothing worse than becoming ill or encountering safety problems when traveling away from home. Many women travelers are vulnerable to assaults, purse snatches, and sexual harassment, in addition to the numerous travelers' ailments that can affect those who are unprepared.
Knowing how to plan for and travel with safety and health in mind could mean the difference between a rewarding travel experience and disaster. With over forty million American women expected to travel this year, there has never been a better time to learn how to protect yourself while traveling. Learning and practicing good health and safety habits, can give you the confidence to experience the delights of travel without fear. Consider the following tips before taking your next trip.
Research your destination: Learn how to find out as much information as possible about your destination before traveling. Look for ways to keep yourself and your belongings safe. Get brochures and maps of the surrounding area and know what to expect when you arrive. For example, avoid arriving at your destination late at night, especially if you have to find ground transportation to a hotel.
Choose Transportation Wisely: Using reputable transportation providers is imperative! Each time you board an airplane, get into a taxi, or climb onto a tour bus, you are putting your trust in the person operating the controls. It is important that you choose transportation providers carefully. Check airline safety websites before traveling and look on airport websites for sanctioned taxi and ground transportation providers before you go.
Staying Safe in Hotels: When checking in, register under your last name and first initial. If possible ask the agent to give you your room number discreetly so that others cannot overhear. If you are traveling alone, ask the hotel agent for an escort to your room. Do not be afraid to ask about the safety of the guestroom such as; are there sprinklers in the room, is the room centrally located near high trafficked areas on the second to fourth floor, and is there a deadbolt lock on the door?
Make Personal Safety a Lifestyle: One of the keys to practicing good safety habits without fear is to think of yourself as a confident traveling woman, not a potential target. This will help project an image that you are self-assured and may actually draw less attention from someone who may be searching for a victim. Practice safety habits such as locking your doors and keeping your hand on your purse at all times.
Carrying Money Safely: What many travelers do not realize is that professional thieves know how to identify tourists. Once they target you as a tourist, they will search for ways to separate you from your valuables. Many people become careless while making a transaction by leaving their purse gaping open or set aside. Keep an eye on your money, credit cards and passport at all times. We recommend that you always carry your valuables in various places such as a money belt, and an inside zippered pocket, with only those necessary items needed for the day in your purse.
Dress Conservatively While Traveling: In many foreign countries, American women can often be identified because they are very "open" and friendly and dress more casually than local women. This can make a woman stand out as a tourist and a target for purse snatching and sexual harassment. Review your itinerary for the day and dress accordingly and conservatively. Drawing as little attention to yourself as possible will help you fit in with the local population thus reducing your risk of being targeted as a visitor.
Pack Wisely: Choose luggage with pull out handles and pack lightly! Learn how to choose travel wear that can be mixed and matched for a variety of looks and layered for weather changes. Choose travel size bottles of shampoos, etc. When it comes to taking jewelry with you our advice is, "Leave it at home!" Wearing expensive jewelry can make you a target to potential thieves.
Staying Healthy While Traveling: When traveling, drink plenty of bottled water to keep your system hydrated. Whether traveling by air, car, train, or bus, get up and move around frequently to increase circulation. Eat healthy, light meals and get plenty of rest. Make sure you take a first aid kit and sun protection when traveling. If taking prescription medication, take extra in case of prolonged stays.
Know What To Do In Case Of Emergency: Before you go, know what your insurance will and will not cover. If traveling to a foreign country, know how to get help if you need it. If traveling with a medical condition, ask your doctor for a description of your condition to carry with you.
*Veteran travelers Catherine Comer and Lavon Swaim have written the well known travel guide, The Traveling Woman, Great Tips for Safe and Healthy Trips, available from Impact publications. They have conducted workshops for women teaching them how to stay safe and healthy while traveling.
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