I’m often asked what I do to stay safe while traveling, either with family or on solo trips. Here are my top 5 travel safety tips to maximize safety, comfort and fun on the road whether you’re an experienced world traveler, or just beginning your journeys:
1) Avoid being conspicuous.
It’s easy to stand out as a tourist while traveling, but there are a few things you can do to be less obvious:
- Carry little cash and keep your money, maps and latest tech toys out of sight. I once made the mistake of taking out my money in clear view of my cab driver on the way to my hotel. Once he saw how much I had with me, he charged me an exorbitant rate that the local hotel clerk called – you guessed it – highway robbery. So that’s where that term comes from . . .
- Avoid making inflammatory remarks (e.g. politics, religion) and don’t take the bait if others goad you into taking a political stand. It’s one thing to enjoy a spirited discussion for the purpose of greater cultural understanding; it’s quite another to feel under siege and have to defend the actions of your government in other countries.
- Dress appropriately. This includes clothing and accessories. On one of my flights abroad, a kind gentleman advised me to remove my large hoop earrings or else run the risk of having them ripped out of my ears while out and about in the local community. Ouch!
2) Pay attention to your surroundings.
This is what’s known as “street smarts.” If you grew up in an urban environment, like New York City or Los Angeles, no doubt this was part of your upbringing. But if you’re from a small town like me, learning to look around your surroundings discretely is an acquired skill that’s essential to develop.
- People – In his book, The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker stresses the importance of listening to your intuition when assessing a situation. Listening to and acting on your intuition is a valuable travel skill.
- Places – Get your bearings quickly. Know where you are and learn where the exits and escape routes are located. If you’re in a tsunami zone, for example, find out where the evacuation routes are and decide on a plan of action ahead of time should a natural disaster strike.
- Things – By now most of us are accustomed to looking out for unattended bags at airports and on public transportation. Don’t forget other public settings like museums and markets as well.
3) Read, listen and follow the safety guidelines & procedures provided.
The safety guidelines are in put in place for travelers’ protection. Look for printed copies here:
- hotel room
- airline flights
- cruise ships
- Log onto the U.S. State Department website for current info.
4) Stay in touch.
- Let people know where you will be traveling and your expected arrival times. You might want to get off the beaten path to delve more deeply into the local culture. I hope you do! Just be sure to give your contacts a general sense of where you’re heading in case they need to reach you.
- Check in from time to time at whatever intervals you decide upon with your contacts before you take off.
- Keep your cell phones charged at all times. Need I say more?
5) Travel light.
- Leave your cultural baggage at home. One of the great joys of traveling is making new discoveries. By leaving your cultural baggage at home, you open yourself up to learning about new customs, cuisines, and communication styles which makes for a much more interesting journey.
- Pack only what you can carry whenever possible. Do you really want to be lugging around more than one bag if you don’t have to? Trust me on this. You don’t.
- Stay fit and healthy and be ready to move quickly in unexpected or threatening situations. Whatever you can do to stay fit while traveling, including exercising, will pay off in your ability to participate in as many of the local activities as you desire.
What are your favorite travel safety tips? Drop me a line and let me know.
Glad you found the tips useful.Thanks for stopping by!
Very helpful, and very savvy tips. I’m sharing this with my daughter who is planning to go abroad for her junior year. As someone who grew up in NYC, I know about always being on the alert and cautious, but my daughter grew up in sunny San Diego’s suburbs which is very, very different. So this is great. Thank you for letting us know about your post on She Writes! 🙂
Great advice. A couple I would add that fall neatly into your categories:
(1) Don’t under-estimate the value of the ‘buddy-system’ (great for families)
(2) Don’t stare (more for kids – make you very conspicuous)!!
(3) Always have a Plan B!
Wonderful additions to my list – thank you! If you ride the subway in NYC, one of the first tips you learn is not to stare. Sometimes that’s a hard one for us travelers to remember because we’re trying to soak up everything we see. It helps to always have something to read with you.
Thanks, Monica! You also might want to check out Gavin de Becker’s book on personal safety for kids: Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane)
Here’s wishing your daughter wonderful adventures on her junior year abroad!
Along the lines of the hoop earring comment, I often would wear a simple silver band rather than my actual wedding/engagement ring when traveling. A sparkly diamond is bound to attract more attention, and should you find yourself in a bad situation (being robbed) you won’t be worried about losing something so precious.
Read travel guides/blogs before you go. In some places, what you think is friendly eye contact might be an invitation for trouble. 🙂
Excellent points, Amber! Best to leave your valuable pieces of jewelry at home and always do your homework on etiquette norms wherever you plan to be traveling. Thanks for those reminders.
Living out of the country myself, I’d like to add one more for international travel…to be sensitive to your surroundings, especially to the people of your host country, being mindful/honoring their chosen way of life as best you can:)
Absolutely, Brynne! That’s such an important consideration. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.
I haven’t yet achieved the point in my life where travel like this is entirely possible, but I am getting closer!! I especially loved the advice about leaving cultural baggage behind. Great tidbits! MMF
Thanks, Meagan! I hope you can use these personal safety travel tips even close to home. All the best on your future travel plans – any day now, right :-)?
Donna Hull says
Excellent tips. I like to keep my hands free when going through airports, etc. So, I wear a cloth money belt tucked into the waistband of my pants that holds id/money/passport. Purse? Pack it empty in your carry-on. Instead, I carry a larger briefcase type bag that fits over the handle of my roll-aboard. This eliminates a purse hanging off of my shoulder that would be easy to swipe.
Thanks, Donna! Very helpful suggestions. The more compact we can make everything when we travel, the better.
Samantha Sotto says
Great tips! Going on vacation with the family next week. Glad I read this post. Thanks! 🙂
I’m glad the timing worked out for your trip, Samantha! Have a great time. Thanks for stopping by.
Kim Kircher says
I agree that packing only what you can carry not only makes you safer, but also happier. Being light and fleet is one of the greatest joys of travel. Thanks for the great tips.
You’re welcome, Kim. I have to keep reminding myself to travel light, but I agree with you: I’m so much happier when I do!
I suppose it depends on how long you will be traveling for and what you’ll be using each item for but if you can avoid taking high priced valuables then certainly do so. If you can avoid taking laptops (I can’t!), iPads, expensive jewelry, etc it will be one less thing to worry about on your next trip. Here are some more tips : Don’t Act Like a Tourist, Take Photocopies of your Documents, Label Your Luggage, Carry Limited Amounts of Cash.
Nancy Mueller says
Thanks, Janice! Great tips ~
Heather Larson says
Very savvy tips. I learned one from our mutual friend, Sue Frause. She takes a photo of her hotel room door so she doesn’t forget what room she’s in. When you’re moving from hotel to hotel in the same trip, this works well.
Great tip, Heather! Thanks for sharing with us here.