Tidewater Traveler - July 2009
Women on the Go!
George W. Sellers
Women plan about 92% of all travel – either for the family or for business. But women do not just plan travel; women travel! Women travel alone or with colleagues for business purposes. They travel for pleasure, relaxation and education. A girl’s weekend trip, maybe to a spa, is a popular way to break away from the daily routine with a group of friends. Multi-generational travel – grandma, daughter and grand-daughter – is a growing trend to build family bonds.
In recent years the travel industry has modified its practices to make women travelers safer and more comfortable. This article will offer some personal safety techniques for packing, moving through airports and using hotels.
Consider the packing process. The most important advice anyone can give about packing is to travel light! Airlines now have strict rules on the number and size of both carry-on and checked baggage. Less luggage means shorter waits for baggage claim and less need for porters. But most importantly, a traveler who is not bogged down moving through the airport exudes confidence and presents a less appealing target to potential wrong-doers.
Choosing a wardrobe of basics will help you deal with space limitations. Select clothes that will coordinate around one or two colors to avoid needing an entirely complete outfit for each day of travel; go prepared to take advantage of laundry and cleaning services at hotels and on ships.
Choose luggage that is lightweight and flexible, yet durable enough to withstand rough treatment. A suitcase with wheels will help to make trips through the airport, bus terminal or train station easier. Make sure your luggage is in good condition; airlines can refuse to accept fragile or damaged bags. Anticipate that you will do some shopping at your destination and include a folding tote bag to accommodate the overflow of your new purchases.
Luggage identification is important. Make sure that your bags have ID information both inside and outside; and that the luggage tag is securely fastened. Consider using your work address instead of your home address on the tag. Remove old airline claim tags to avoid confusing the baggage handlers. Attach a brightly colored ribbon, sticker or decal to your luggage to help distinguish your bag from similar ones in the baggage claim area.
Use a TSA- (Transportation Security Administration) approved lock; if your checked luggage is chosen for inspection, the TSA will open it. With a TSA-approved lock it can be opened by the inspector without damage. If your luggage is opened for inspection, a written notification will be placed inside to let you know that your belongings were screened.
A passport is your most valuable travel document when heading to a foreign country. Before leaving home make a couple of copies of your passport information page; leave a copy at home and hide a copy in the suitcase.
From your wallet remove all unnecessary credit cards. It is wise to notify your credit card company where you will be traveling; and be sure to carry your credit card company’s telephone number in a separate location in case your card is lost or stolen.
Significant line-waits at the airport can often be avoided by using online check-in to print boarding passes from your computer at home. There are two things needed to be able to enter the security check-point – a boarding pass and a passport or state-issued photo-ID (driver’s license); so if you can get the boarding pass without standing in line at the airport – why not?
Keep a hand free – easier said than done – but if, while walking through the airport or down the street, you can pull one suitcase on rollers, with purse, laptop or day-bag strapped securely atop, and maintain one hand free of encumbrances, the image is one of being in control. It is convenient to keep passport, tickets, essential credit cards and cash in a neck-strap wallet, something that can also be secured beneath your clothing.
Don’t let yourself be surprised or caught off-guard by security screening techniques. Be prepared to remove your laptop from its case; expect to remove your coat and shoes. Research in advance the restrictions on gels and fluids. Basically – know before you go!
While in waiting lounges or on a plane or train, exercise conversational discretion. It is best not to indicate where you will be staying at your destination. Dress down and do not wear a lot of expensive looking jewelry when traveling alone.
Always consider travel insurance – even for a simple trip. Most people do not realize that a good travel insurance plan usually includes a 24-hour emergency contact line that can help with everything from lost passports to stolen cash to finding medical help, including language interpretation if needed. Good insurance plans also include lost luggage tracking service.
Regarding hotels, avoid facilities where the room door opens to the exterior instead of an interior corridor. Better hotels limit access by the general public to interior hallways, providing for better security. For additional security some center-city, business-model hotels have established women-only floors and provide safety escorts upon request. Programmed door locks are a tremendous crime deterrent; every entry into a room is time-recorded and linked to a specific door card that can be traced to its holder. If you suspect that your room has been entered during your absence, hotel staff can download the information from your door lock to determine when and by whom your room was entered. If you are staying alone and decide to order room service by placing a tag on your doorknob, make the order appear to be for two – maybe two cups of coffee.
Because problems may occur, even in the best hotels, conduct a safety and room check prior to unpacking. Check lights, TV, bedding and phone. Turn on shower and sink, make certain tub and sink drain properly, flush toilet, check hair dryer. Check locks on door, windows and any balcony or patio doors for proper operation. Doing this before you unpack can save the frustration of a move or the inconvenience of a repair. If a hotel employee shows up at your door indicating a repair or work order, call the front desk to confirm before allowing admittance.
Travel with a small, high-powered flashlight – maybe several. While traveling, store it in the same location in your purse or briefcase. While in your room keep your flashlight on the bedside table in case of an emergency.
The more you know about your destination, the greater your confidence will be. Work with the Internet or your travel agent to gain as much information as possible about your destination, especially if you will be traveling alone. If you are unfamiliar with the local language, carry a card or matchbook with the hotel’s name and address. You can show them to a cab driver or police officer in the event you get lost. Before leaving home make up several pocket cards with key phrases in the local language. (e.g., “Which way is the airport?” and “Where are the restrooms?”)
It is better to plan and reserve day tours in advance instead of on-the-spot. Some touring companies specialize in women-only travel, and some specialize in the unique needs of women traveling alone.
Most importantly – enjoy yourself!
May all of your travels be happy and safe!
George Sellers is a Certified Travel Counselor and Accredited Cruise Counselor who operates the popular travel Web site and travel planning service SellersTravel.com. Comments or suggestions about Tidewater Traveler articles may be directed to George@SellersTravel.com.