Top 10 Tips for Travel Safety

June 2009


The most important issue raised by women travelers is that of safety. Whether traveling by air or car, with family or friends or solo, women are concerned about their safety. When safety strategies are put in place, women feel more comfortable in their travels and can really enjoy their journeys.

Here are some easy to implement safety strategies that can reduce the chance of a perilous event occurring.

Car Safety:

  1. Always have your rental car key in your hands before heading out to your car. Have the key ring around your finger and the key pointing forward in a firm grasp.

    • This eliminates fumbling for keys while outside at your car
    • Allows for quick access to the Panic button on the car key
    • Good for jabbing an attacker
    • Attach a penlight to the key ring to temporarily blind an attacker with the bright light
    • Write down the 800 # from the rental car key or put in your cell phone in case the car key needs replacing

  2. As you are walking to your car, act as if you are talking with someone on your cell phone, even if you are not. Let a would-be attacker think that you are not alone and have someone to scream to.
  3. When nearing your hotel late at night, phone ahead and ask for an escort to meet you at the main door. Hotels would rather have you request an escort than to risk your safety in their parking lots. With 68% of women travelers having reported traveling solo at least once in the past three years, this is a great tactic for ensuring your safety.
  4. Place maps, car rental agreements, GPS systems and anything else that marks you as a tourist into the car’s glove compartment or your bag so it is not visible.

    Telephone Tips:

    While your cell phone is used for calling family and friends, there are also several key safety uses for your cell phone as well:

  5. Keep key information in your cell phone.

    • Add a contact called ‘ICE’ – In Case of Emergency into your contact list. Add the phone number of your spouse or key contact. Set up’ICE2’ and ‘ICE3’ if you have several emergency contacts. Many police, fire and paramedic personnel are now looking for the ICE number for an emergency contact in the event of an accident. Less than 25% of people are believed to have emergency contact information in their cell phone, so this is a key safety strategy.
    • Add your hotel phone number into your cell phone for those late night escort requests and for getting directions to your hotel.
    • If you have an auto club membership, add the telephone number and account number to your cell phone in case your car is stranded. Also, phones are doing a lot these days with applications. Auto clubs such as AAA have applications for the iPhone, for example, that allows a stranded driver to easily contact AAA and have them determine your location.
    • Based on many experiences of not remembering where I parked my rental car (and not remembering what the car looked like!), I recommend that you take a photo of your rental car and where you parked it so that you are not wandering around a parking lot looking for your car.

    Hotel room safety:

    Hotel room safety is the number one area of concern to women travelers. With the recent incident of Erin Andrews, an ESPN reporter, having video taken of her in the nude in her hotel room, the concern of hotel safety has been elevated.

  6. Request room locations that are more secure.

    • Ask for a room away from a stairway.
    • Ask for a new room if a desk clerk mentions your room number out loud
    • If staying in a hotel with an outside entrance to your room, try to stay near the hotel’s office where there is more activity going on rather than a more remote room.

  7. Upon entering your room, do not use the double bolt until you have checked that there are no unwanted visitors in your room (behind the drapes, in the shower, in the closet); then latch the door with the bolt. You want to be able to easily escape the room if there is someone else in the room.
  8. Upon entering a hotel elevator, stand near the controls so that you have access to the Emergency button, if needed.

    Other Safety Ideas:

  9. Have identification on you at all times. Have a copy of your passport and drivers license. Take a photo of your passport and drivers license. Have a file in your phone to put your most important numbers, and password-protect this file.

    • When going for a run in your visiting city, have some identification with you in case of emergency. There are companies that create name and phone number labels which can attach to your running shoes or wrist.
    • Keep a hotel business card with you. Take two cards–one in your bag and one in your pocket. When hiring a taxi to return you to your hotel, show them the business card. This is especially useful when in a foreign-speaking country when you cannot distinctly pronounce the hotel name or street.

  10. For international travel, dress like a local. Learn the local dress code as soon as you arrive; buy appropriate local clothing if necessary. Do not stand out as a seemingly rich American.

    Final points:

    Overall, trust your instincts. If you feel something is off, strange or wrong, then take quick action to move away from the situation. Travel is meant to be enjoyed, not feared. By using common sense and making smart choices, along with following these safety tips, your travels will be pleasurable.

    Items in Your Purse or Laptop Tote that Could Save Your Life When Traveling


    Forget the beautiful red lips in an emergency situation. If you’re stranded in your car, use lipstick to write SOS on your windshield or roof.

    Perfume spray:

    Gag your attacker with a heavy dose of perfume in their face.

    Car Keys:

    Always have your car keys in hand to jab an attacker. A ball point pen can also work.


    Shine the bright light in an attacker’s eyes to temporarily blind him/her.


    Since you’re traveling, you most likely have a small camera in your purse. Pull it out and snap a photo.

    Laptop power cord:

    Not only is it heavy enough to bop someone in the head, but the cord could be used to wrap around someone’s neck.

    Sage travel advice from my grandmother:

    Grandma would keep a man’s hat in her car and don it when driving at night to give the appearance of a man driving the car.

    While our safety methods may be different today, this shows you that safety has been of concern to women for many years.

Carol Margolis is founder of Smart Women Travelers, Inc., author of the newsletter Pearls of Travel Wisdom and international speaker. Join our global community of smart women travelers with free membership at Follow Carol on her blog at

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