Streetwise Safety: 4 Tips for Staying Safe When on the Road

Your trip is all planned and you’ve followed all of our commonsense advice for keeping your home safe while you’re away. But have you planned to keep yourself safe during that time as well?

Being on the road, whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, can put you at risk of being mugged or robbed. After all, you’re in unfamiliar territory and out of your environment. You don’t know the lay of the land or any of the local dangers. Plus you’re probably focused on the trip itself, either on the work you need to accomplish or the sights you want to see, and that makes you distracted.

To keep yourself safe while on the road, try implementing these four tips for starters. And if your travels are going to take you abroad, be sure to read up on safety tips for traveling outside of the U.S. (You can find practical advice from the U.S. government here, or some very good hands-on advice from a world traveler here.)

Tip 1: Be aware
When you’re traveling, always be aware of your surroundings. My military husband practices this all of the time, even if we’re simply going out to dinner. He scans the restaurant and sits facing the door, preferably with his back to a wall. I once had a police officer friend who was the same way. As soon as he walked into a home or business, he was scanning the layout and sizing up whoever was there. I’m not suggesting you need to be as extreme as all that, but there is a lesson to be learned about awareness. Be purposeful about it. Whether you’re parking your car and walking through the lot to get to your meeting or walking into the theater to see a play, make a habit of always being aware of what is going on around you.

Tip 2: Don’t attract attention
One sure way to attract trouble is to make yourself an obvious target. If you need a map, try to look at it before you leave your hotel. If you need to look at it while out and about, be subtle about it. Try to blend in and do any sightseeing in a subdued way. Don’t broadcast the name of your hotel or that you’re visiting the area. Don’t flash any expensive gear or accessories either. If that pricey Hermes handbag is your absolute favorite, you might want to leave it at home rather than risk having it swiped. The same goes for any fancy electronic gear or trendy coats. If you can travel without it, do. If you must take anything tempting with you, try to use it without being obvious. And a special note of warning for the teenagers: Taking all kinds of selfies in front of the sights you’re seeing is probably a great way to scream “tourist,” so maybe keep the selfies in check while traveling!

Tip 3: Practice commonsense
Sometimes when we leave the comfort of our homes, we leave some of our commonsense behind too, even on a business trip. Rather than be more relaxed while traveling, try to be more on guard instead. For example, don’t drink too much at dinner which will dull your senses and make you more vulnerable. Get back to your hotel at a decent time of night. Use the hotel’s main entrance when it’s dark, even if you have a keycard that works on the back door that’s closer to your room. Adding a layer of caution to your activities will help to protect you.

Tip 4: Walk with a purpose
Many (many!) years ago on a school trip to London, I was one of a group of young and naïve Americans given a safety lecture before we were let loose on the city. One piece of advice stuck with me above all of the others and I still follow it today: Walk with a purpose. This doesn’t mean run/walk like you’re in a hurry. Rather it means to walk in a self-assured way that communicates you know exactly where you are going. The attitude you will convey is one of confidence, which will make you a less desirable target. This advice applies whether you’re walking through the airport, down the sidewalk, or in a busy shopping mall.

These four safety tips are really just a starting point. There is much more you can do to keep yourself safe while traveling. But if you only do these four things, you will be safer already. Bon Voyage!

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