Don’t let one mistake spoil your travels
A recent stay at a hotel in Buffalo opened my eyes about hotel safety issues. After checking in, taking the elevator to my floor, I opened up the door to my assigned room only to find someone else’s belongings scattered across the bed. I closed the door and retreated to the front desk for another room assignment.
The person at the front desk told me there’d be been a mix-up and apologized. But her explanation left me with more questions. How could this have happened? Don’t hotels have a bullet-proof process in place to prevent this kind of thing from happening?
While I’m grateful the occupant of my first room wasn’t in residence when I entered, I began to think of what I’d do if role had been reversed. What if someone entered my room while I was in the shower – or worse, just emerging from the shower? What if I wasn’t there and the unexpected guest decided to rifle though my belongings? What if?
As a woman who travels alone a lot, I take hotel safety very seriously. Needless to say, my sleep that night was restless. Not only did I not feel safe, I felt my concerns were dismissed far too quickly by the hotel staff.
Hotel safety for women
I’ve been traveling by myself for business more than 10 years and I truly believe there are more people in this world who want to help than those who mean harm. And relying on the kindness of strangers isn’t a bad plan – when you’ve done everything else right.
But that doesn’t mean I take travel safely lightly. If you’re considering your first solo trip or need a refresher on safety tips, browse through my safety strategy:
Get higher – Never accept a room at street level. Having a window or balcony that’s accessible from the street (in some parts of world) is asking for trouble when you’re a solo female traveler.
Take the next elevator – This might be a no-brainer but never get in an elevator with a man you don’t know. A friend of mine did this once. As she stepped off the elevator, he followed and walked past her room as she entered it. Then he called her from his room to proposition her. Inappropriate but not illegal and the only solution was to give her a new room – at 2 am.
Chain the door – After my recent hotel experience, I keep my door chained when I’m in the room at all times – not just when I’m sleeping.
Don’t answer the door – It might seem silly but if I didn’t order room service, I don’t answer the door before I call down to the front desk. Anyone can dress up as an employee and wander a hotel unnoticed.
Be confident – Before I step out of the hotel, I know which direction I’m heading and I move with purpose. Looking lost or confused puts you at the target of pickpockets and other predators.
Drink responsibly – I love lingering over drinks after dinner, but if I’m traveling alone those drinks are carefully paced. Getting tipsy while traveling alone is like pasting a big sign on your back – weakened defenses here for the taking.
Choose help carefully – Confident or not, I still get lost. A lot. But I’m careful who I approach for help – families or couples are safer than a single male. If I’m really lost, the safest option is always to step inside a store and speak to an employee.
Travel safety for women is not about paranoia. It’s about being practical. When I travel alone, I’m responsible for my own safety and being aware of my surroundings and smart about my actions has kept me safe.