Whether your trip is for business or pleasure, the opportunity to stay in a hotel when traveling alone can be exciting. Solo travel offers a change of scenery, an opportunity to try new restaurants of your own choosing, and a break from the normal routine.
When traveling alone, however, the solo traveler must be acutely aware of personal safety and security. Travel takes you into areas with which you are not familiar; you may be in an unsafe neighborhood or a city with a high crime rate. Male or female, travelers can be an easy ‘mark’ for predators and thieves.
The following tips will help assure your personal safety when traveling alone:
• If you are driving, be sure to have detailed directions to your hotel, especially in large cities. You don’t want to get sidetracked into a maze of one-way streets in an unfamiliar area. In many urban areas, a few short blocks can carry you into neighborhoods that are unsafe for travelers. Keep the hotel’s direct phone number at hand (not the 800 number of the hotel chain) if you need to call to clarify your directions.
• Use valet parking when available. The extra cost is worth it when you do not need to make your way through parking structures and down unfamiliar streets alone.
• If you park your own car, use the main entrance to the hotel and park as near as possible to the main entrance, especially at night. Often, hotels will suggest that you use a side or rear access door that may be closer to the elevator or to your room. However, these entrances are often darker and not directly monitored by hotel staff, even if they may save a few steps.
• Carry your luggage and purse in a neatly organized way. Carrying too many loose items can make it difficult to escape from an unsavory person in a hurry.
• Upon check in, be sure that your room number is confidential. While this is standard practice in most hotel chains, if the desk clerk inadvertently announces your room number aloud (such as, “Take the elevator and room 404 is just down the hall on the right.”), ask for a different room.
• In large cities, ask if the hotel has rooms on key-restricted floors. For example, certain floors at the Sheraton University City in Philadelphia and at the Affinia Manhattan Hotel in New York require the guest to scan a room key in the elevator in order to access the guest rooms on certain floors.
• Be aware! As you enter the elevator and walk down the hall to your room, be alert to anyone who may be overly attentive or who appears to be following your movements through the hotel. For example, did a man follow you into the elevator and then not select a floor, as if he was headed to the same floor you are? If a situation causes you to feel uneasy, hit a different floor, exit the elevator quickly, and return to the lobby.
• As you walk down the hall, be alert to anyone who may be following you. If you are uncomfortable or have a bad ‘vibe,’ listen to your gut feeling. Do not hesitate to turn around and head back toward the elevator as if you have forgotten something downstairs.
• Lock your door. Of course, it’s obvious, right? But when traveling alone, be doubly sure that the door closes securely behind you, then secure both the deadbolt and swinging door latch. When you leave your room, listen for the door to click securely shut, then double check that it is locked. The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas monitors guest room doors around the clock to assure that each door is securely closed; guests receive a phone call from security if their door remains open for more than a few moments. However, most hotels do not offer this kind of monitoring – it is up to each guest to secure his or her room.
• We are all familiar with the incident in which sports anchor Erin Andrews was the victim of a peeping tom in her hotel room; the culprit spied on Andrews by tampering with the peephole in her door. While we may not be celebrities, the Andrews incident underscores the possibility of security and privacy being compromised, even when all normal precautions have been taken. The solution? Carry a few band aids in your travel bag and place one over the peephole for extra privacy and security. If you hear a knock, simply pull the band aid back to verify who is there before unlocking the door. The adhesive will continue to stick securely when the band aid is replaced.
• When you leave your room, leave the television on and the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. Thieves will skip over any room with visible signs that someone is inside. If you will be gone for much of the day, let the maid know your room is ready for cleaning, and ask that she leave the sign out when she is done. A tip for the maid never hurts when you make a special request!
• Outside your room, be certain that you do not give careless clues as to where you are staying. At a bar, restaurant, or convention center, comments such as “I’m at the Hilton,” or “The view from the 18th floor is fantastic!” can be too much information if a predator is listening.
Traveling alone can be an enjoyable experience if you remember to put safety and security first. Remember the basics, tune in to your surroundings, and take a few extra steps to assure that you are safe in your hotel. Enjoy your trip!