Travel for work and pleasure is one of the greatest benefits of our modern age. We can fly half way around the world in under a day, take a bullet train across a small country in that same amount of time, or just cruise down the highway at 70 miles per hour heading for our next destination a few states away. We have a huge amount of freedom to see our cities, states, country, and even other countries with endless locations and new sites, cultures, and cuisines to explore. That said, visiting new and unfamiliar places is not without risk, and neither is the journey to get there. However, being well prepared can greatly minimize any risk and lead to a much better chance of your trip being an enjoyable one.
- US Department of Education: Travel abroad safety and health
- Five College Consortium: Travel safety tips
Preparing Prior to Travel
Before you head out, make sure that someone knows where you are going. Secure your home and belongings that you are leaving behind and have someone watch over them, water plants, and bring in the mail if you will be gone for an extended amount of time. Also, don’t forget to pack!
Things to consider including when you pack:
- Clothing for the weather in the location you are going to as well as the location you are currently in
- Spare cash in case you cannot access an ATM
- Passports, license, photo ID, or other identifying documents
- Proof of health coverage – If you are traveling to another country, consider getting temporary coverage for travel and emergency repatriation
- A charged mobile device – it is helpful to download region-specific apps that you may need in your travels, such as taxi apps for the cities you will be going to or offline maps of the areas
- Any necessary medications as well as accompanying proof of prescription (often, the label on the bottle with your name and physician’s name will be enough)
- Print outs for any hotels, tickets, or other reservations. If it is short trip and there is little to no chance of running down battery power, keeping these things on your mobile device may be enough
- Toiletries such as a toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, travel-size mouthwash, soap, hairbrush or comb, lotion, any makeup, deodorant, and travel-size shampoo
- The addresses of any hotels, airports, train stations, or other locations that you will be going to
- If you will be flying, make sure all your liquids are in small flight regulation-size containers and that they all fit in a standard Ziploc bag.
Avoid putting important documents or money in outside pockets or anywhere they can be easily stolen. Being well-prepared can greatly improve the quality of your trip and help to avoid mishaps as well as reduce your chances of becoming the victim of a crime.
- North Carolina Public Safety: Travel safety
- New York University: Travel safety
- University of California: Travel safety
A lot can happen when we are on our way. A car can break down, important items can go missing, or flights can be missed. In rare cases, even kidnappings or hostage situations can occur.
To/from the airport – Make sure you leave enough time to plan to arrive at the airport two hours early, especially for international flights which may require more check-in time. Be aware that the time your plane departs is not the same time as the last chance to board the plane. Often, there may be a half-hour or hour difference between the two times.
Taxis – Use a trustworthy taxi service with a good reputation. If you choose to use a ridesharing app instead, make sure that the driver already has an established positive reputation. If you feel unsafe, don’t feel bad about turning down the ride or cutting it short.
Planes – If you have any necessary medications, make sure they are in your carry-on luggage and not in the luggage that will be stored under the plane. If you have any dietary restrictions, see if you can pre-order the right meal when you make your reservation. If you can’t, bring plenty of safe snacks along with you. Just remember that you cannot bring liquids, including beverages, from home unless they are very small and packaged properly. Most of all, be patient with security and airline staff. There may be points in which they are making your life difficult in the moment, but they are doing so to ensure that you and other passengers have a safe flight.
Trains – Make sure to arrive ahead of your departure time so that you will have time to locate and get to the correct platform. Watch for the gap between the train and the platform when entering and exiting the train and be careful when walking inside of the train while it is moving.
Rental cars – Always become familiar with your rental car before you start driving. Adjust the mirrors, learn where the fuel tank is located (and how to open it), and learn where everything is located on and around the dashboard. Once you start moving, test the brakes, gears, and acceleration and take your time getting comfortable with them before hitting the open road.
- Centers for Disease Control: Your survival guide to safe and healthy travel
- US Department of Agriculture: Travel safety
- Texas Department of Insurance: Travel safety tips factsheet
Do not leave valuables in a hotel room. If you must, use the safe if there is one provided for you. Most hotel rooms have a way to lock the door while inside. Make sure that it is secure for the night before you sleep. You may also want to learn the emergency exits in the building as well as the number for the front desk in case there is an incident.
- Northeastern University: International travel safety and security tips
- The University of Texas at Austin: Lodging
Travel insurance is available through your insurance company or airline as well as many credit card companies and other sources. Good insurance will help cover lost luggage, delayed or cancelled flights, emergency medical care, and emergency trips back home if you need more extensive medical care. It is often inexpensive, and there are many credit card companies that offer the service for free or at a reduced charge.
- Ohio Department of Insurance: Know what’s covered before you buy
- Pennsylvania Insurance Department: Consumer alert: Travel insurance
- Vermont Department of Financial Regulation: Travel insurance tip sheet
Traveling Alone vs with a Group
Traveling solo can be an adventure all on its own but staying with a group is usually the safer way to travel. It also gives you a chance to bond with others over a shared experience and have someone to explore the area with. If you do decide to travel alone, be observant of your surroundings, make sure that someone knows where you are and check in often, whether by phone or social media.
- University of Florida: Study finds women find solo travel liberating rather than dangerous
- National Park Service: Health and safety on the Appalachian scenic trail
Safety for Women
Use your common sense and follow the guidance above. Women, and even solo-traveler women, are a common sight in nearly all destinations. Learn about the culture and area beforehand, know the local emergency numbers, be aware of your surroundings, and avoid uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situations.
- US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs: Information for women travelers
- Yale Center for International and Professional Experience: What you should know before traveling abroad: Cultural, health, and safety advice for women
Travel can be great fun, especially if you expect and prepare for the unexpected. Here are a few great resources to help you plan for your next journey:
The town of Bethany Beach has some great general advice on their website.
FEMA also has helpful information for holiday travel.
Are you going to travel with a pet? The ASPCA has some helpful advice.