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Tips for Individuals Traveling Alone

by Lux Joseph 2. May 2014

Now more than ever, individuals are striking out and traveling for pleasure by themselves. From safety issues to cultural variations, individuals traveling alone encounter a variety of difficulties that can be avoided if the necessary precautions are taken. 

PLANNING

While it pays for all individuals to be educated travelers, it is especially imperative for those traveling alone to plan every step of their trip--from packing a suitcase to choosing a hotel room. Learning what to expect is the first step in preparing yourself for anything that could go wrong. As the old adage goes—“You never know!”

One of the initial steps to planning a safe and pleasant trip is learning as much as possible about your destination before you go.

Make sure your passport is valid, or if you don’t have one, apply for one at least eight weeks in advance of your trip.

While most travelers are aware of such travel hazards as robbery and hotel security, many don’t realize the potential risks of not adequately researching their destination.

When caught in the bustle of planning a trip, it is easy for travelers to forget that they can be directly impacted by a region’s religious and societal beliefs. In fact, some travelers might find themselves having to adapt their dress and demeanor to the customs of the country they are visiting.

For some destinations it is particularly important to dress conservatively. A travel agent can provide useful tips about an area as well as suggest travel publications that provide details about dress codes and other restrictions for travelers worldwide. Also, be sure to inquire about State Department information and travel advisories regarding your destination.  

PACKING

It is absolutely essential to make at least two copies of important travel and identification documents. Leave one back-up copy in your suitcase and the other with a family member or friend at home.

When traveling abroad include the address and telephone number of the U.S. embassy and consulate for each country on your itinerary in case you experience any difficulties.

Carry only one credit card, and don’t keep all your money in one place. Use covered luggage tags and write your office address rather than your home. Remember to always lock all suitcases and if you make a lot of purchases, consider having your luggage shrink-wrapped.

If possible, pack light so you won’t be weighed down and look weighed down, both of which make you an ideal target for pickpockets. Keep luggage and attire simple-- leave expensive-looking baggage (including camera bags), suggestive clothing, and jewelry home. Some travelers have stored such valuables as video cameras in diaper-bags to throw off would-be thieves. 

Plan to bring a tote that you can attach to your body or if you must carry a purse, take one that has thick shoulder straps and zippered compartments. If you’ll be carrying medication on your trip, carry an extra supply and a copy of the prescription in carry-on luggage.

The wise packer only brings necessities.

TAKE CARE OF HOME

When traveling, don’t forget to safeguard your home. If no one will be home for several days:

·         advise a trusted neighbor of your trip, or arrange for a friend to housesit,

·         set your lights on timers,

·         temporarily cancel newspaper delivery and ask the post office to hold your mail--a pile of newspapers on your lawn or an overflowing mailbox is a surefire way to announce that no one’s around.

 HOTELS

Another consideration for travelers, especially those traveling alone, is lodging. A travel agent can locate friendly hotels and book the safest room possible. Smaller hotels are often safest since the staff is more familiar with guests and more able to effectively monitor who enters and exits the building. Hotels on a well-trafficked street with an active nightlife will also fend away would-be thieves. Avoid “walk-up” style hotels.

When selecting a hotel, ask if they have staff available to escort you to your room late at night.

When requesting a room, keep in mind that ground floor rooms are more susceptible to break-ins than are higher floors.

Ask for a room near the elevators but away from stairwells and any renovation work. These allow intruders to easily access your room and hide if necessary.

Keep in mind you should never accept a room if the clerk loudly calls out your name and room number.  

Make sure the room’s door has both a peephole and a deadbolt. When given the option, store valuables in the safe at the front-desk rather than in-room safes--the main safe is usually better insured.

Hide more expensive clothes under other garments since robbers are most likely to steal what they can easily spot. If anything does get stolen, immediately ask management for help--most hotel theft is committed by staff.

TRANSPORTATION

How you will get from place to place—from your hotel to the convention center or from city to city--is also an important safety consideration. Travel agents can provide information on whether it is safest to rent a car or take public transportation. When traveling abroad, your travel agent can tell you if an International Driver’s Permit is required. Purchase maps and write out directions ahead of time. You want to learn as much as possible about getting around the streets so that you avoid looking like a lost tourist. 

Make sure to bring a cellular phone and car charger in case of an emergency.  If you must stop for directions, only do so at well-lit public areas. Lock all doors while driving and don’t keep any valuables on seats. Also keep maps discrete to avoid looking like a vulnerable tourist.

Reserving rental car through your travel agent also has its advantages in that agents can refer you to proven and trusted rental companies. At your destination, rental agents should always explain the car’s features, provide directions and, in a foreign country, brief you about international traffic signs and rules of the road. Avoid renting hatchbacks--luggage in the trunk can be easily seen. 

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TRIP

Now it’s time to leave. A map of the area you will be visiting makes good reading material for the airplane. On an international trip, you might also wish to carry aboard a foreign language dictionary and highlight common phrases you’ll need when you reach your destination. Be prepared with questions about the area so you can ask the concierge about where—and where not—to go. In today’s world, many of these things are easily accessible on your mobile phone, but keep in mind that you may not have wireless or single immediately upon landing. Having a guide right at your fingertips is key to success.

As you begin your journey, you’ll find that the most valuable safety tip is to trust your instincts. You might feel silly, but better safe than sorry. If anything does happen, contact the police immediately, if traveling abroad contact the U.S. Embassy, and save all documents--insurance companies will need them.

Your trip will be more fulfilling if you try to meet with some of the locals. Travelers will find that people all over the world are eager to share their unique experiences and cultures and hear all about yours. Also keep an eye open for tour groups or tour guides who could really offer some inside information about what the area has to offer.

Cruises are a great choice for solo travelers who want safety and security with a lot of fun and nightlife and some cruise lines will even pair up single travelers in a cabin to help keep the cost down.

The more you travel, the more confident you become. So get packing and don’t forget to call your travel agent to make your travel experience hassle-free and as safe as poss


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