Solo Travel Safety: Transportation…the series continues. This time we’ll talk about transportation throughout the trip. For some people, this is the most nerve-wracking part of the journey. So many steps: flights, shuttles, taxis, metros…
I’ll be honest: When you travel alone, you have to be more organized and aware. You also have to be willing to ask questions. And be patient with yourself. It’s not hard, just different from being with a companion.
Before you leave your home
- The outside luggage tag should have your name, destination address, and a phone number: either yours or the destination’s.
- After you’ve packed, before you close your suitcase, put a sheet of paper on top of your belongings with your name, flight number, destination, and its address and phone number. If you’ll be using your cell phone (for international flights) add that, too. If the outside tag comes off, or the luggage is sent on a journey of its own, people will want to identify it and where it should go. Do this whether you check your bag or do carry-on; if you intend to do carry-o, but overhead bins get full, you may be required to check your bag. Prepare as if this is the case.
- In fact, decide if you’re going to check your bag or do carry-on. While travel guru Peter Greenberg claims there are only two kinds of baggage, carry-on or lost, not everyone agrees. For women, meeting the 3-1-1 rule for liquids can make carry-on nearly impossible. Read Adventurous Kate’s blog post on why she doesn’t do carry-on for a different view. I do both, depending on where I’m going, for how long, and what I’ll need when I’m there.
- Use the TravelSmart Woman Peace-of-Mind Checklist to make sure you’ve remembered the important preparation tasks. Especially for solo travelers, this means starting out with fully-charged devices…and remembering the cords. Safety depends on having immediate access to communication devices.
- No matter how you are traveling–air, car, bus, train, ship–make sure you can access all of your itinerary digitally. This goes for copies of your passport and credit cards, too. Use the “cloud” storage of your choice, such as Dropbox. Make a folder for everything you need for the trip; you can share it with your family and friends, too.
- Call me old-fashioned, but I also carry a paper copy of my itinerary with me. I make a folder, with everything in chronological order. I tear up each page when I finish a stay. A separate copy of my passport is tucked in my backpack, not in the folder.
- For international travel, register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so the nearest U.S. Embassy knows where you are in case of an emergency. It’s free and easy to do.
- Learn the best way to get from the airport (or station, port, etc.) before you arrive. Shuttles can be pre-arranged. Public transportation is often in the terminal or nearby. If you’ll be taking a taxi, find out where they are located and what the rate should be. Never accept an offer from a “driver” inside the terminal.
Solo travel safety during transit
- Decide how you will carry your passport, credit and debit cards, as well as extra cash. A waist pouch? Zipped front pocket? Until you clear Customs at your destination, you’ll need to have access to your passport. Read some passport security tips to learn more.
- Solo travelers have to handle their own luggage throughout the entire trip…even to the bathroom. Make it easier by using a backpack to free up your hands. Choose 4-wheel luggage to either roll or pull. Never let your things out of your sight, of course. I’ve been managing my own luggage for so long that it’s second nature. Packing light makes trips easy and safe.
- Carry a few sturdy snacks: nuts, chocolate, protein bars. You can’t assume that there will always be something to eat. Flights get delayed, food options can go away during late hours, vending machines can break. Don’t let yourself get hungry; keep your energy level at its best.
At your destination
- You’re almost there! After arriving at your destination, try to use a restroom before leaving the secure area. That way, after you clear Customs and leave the terminal, you’re ready to find your way to where you’re staying.
- Proceed directly to the place where you’ll find transportation. If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to ask. Sometimes it’s confusing; for example at Chicago O’Hare airport, hotel shuttles are in an odd spot that requires escalators and a long walk through a tunnel. Don’t guess…ask.
- If you’re taking public transportation, make sure you know how it works before you hop on. Most systems have good websites that explain routes, hours, fees, tickets, etc.
- Remember that you’re likely to be tired when you arrive. Jet lag and stress add to the fatigue. Keep your belongings close to you and stay alert (as possible!) en route to where you’re staying.
By carefully planning each segment of solo travel with safety in mind, you’ve let as little as possible to chance. In our comparison to building a house, this is where things are really coming together. Windows and doors go in, and the landscaping gets done. Almost finished!
Next: Staying safe at your destination.
Did you miss an earlier episode of Solo Travel Safety? Read it now!