Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fly Solo: Going on Vacation Alone, Part II

Continuing with yesterday's theme, Singletude presents more excuses for holing up at home just because you're single and, more importantly, some irrefutable answers. (Just try to refute them! Just try! I dare you! :P)

"Travelling alone isn't safe."

Sometimes it's not. It's also not safe to walk down that dark, deserted shortcut to your apartment at night, nor is it safe to sleep with your window open in the summer to let in the cool air. It's not safe to give a stranger a dollar to make a call at your local gas station, and it's not safe to leave your keys in the car while you run up to your friend's doorstep to drop off a birthday gift.

With the exception of widely recognized high-crime neighborhoods, safety isn't about where you are. It's about the precautions you take. You can be every bit as unsafe in your own backyard as you are in a hotel in London, perhaps more so since criminals are apt to strike when they're familiar with your routine.

There are definitely opportunists who prey on travellers. But if you keep your head glued to your shoulders and remember that just because you're here to relax, you shouldn't relax your guard, it will be much harder for them to take advantage of you.

Here are some tips for safe solo travel:

1. Don't do anything you wouldn't do at home.
If you wouldn't leave a bar with a stranger back home or hike out to some hidden cave with that friendly guy you just met, don't do it on vacation. No matter how much your surroundings may resemble paradise, not everyone is an angel. If you do strike up a friendship with a stranger, don't give him or her your room number under any circumstances. If you want to meet for dinner or drinks, meet at the restaurant.

2. Don't carry a lot of cash and keep what you have close to you at all times.
If there's a safe at the hotel, make use of it. If not, it's still better to leave your cash in an unobtrusive place in your locked hotel room (maybe tucked in the bottom corner of your suitcase) than to bring all of it along for the ride. If there's a kleptomaniac among the hotel's housekeeping staff, at least there'll be a much better chance of tracing your cash than if it's lost or stolen on the street. If you have a credit card, write down the account number and the phone number of your financial institution and keep that info in a separate place. That way, if you lose the card itself, you'll still be able to call and report it stolen.

Take only what you need for the day and wear it close to you, preferably in your front pocket or in a small bag worn diagonally across your body or otherwise clipped or secured to you. Fanny packs won't win on Project Runway, but they'll keep your cash safe. Think twice about storing currency in a backpack. If you can't see it, you can't see that pickpocket reaching into the flap. Be careful too of large, open or floppy bags, which are also enticing to wandering fingers. And one more thing: If you can, divide the money you carry so that most of it is, say, in your bag, while the smaller portion is snug in your pocket. That way, if you do get ripped off one way or the other, you'll still have enough to get you back to the hotel.

3. Be aware of your surroundings.
This includes both people and places. Familiarize yourself with a map before you head out so you won't have to stand in the middle of the street like a deer in headlights, sporting that dazed tourist look for any predator who might set you in his sights. Stay close to other tourists, but beware of people who brush against you or start a commotion nearby. These are both time-honored tricks of pickpockets. Always keep in mind where you are in relation to your home base. If you must ask for directions, ask certified personnel in visitor centers, hotels, police stations, or even shops or restaurants rather than stop a stranger.

4. Keep emergency info close at hand. Always carry ID, phone numbers of relatives back home, the number of your hotel, the number of the American embassy or consulate if traveling abroad, and any essential medical history including allergies and current medications (if you have a bracelet for a specific condition, make sure you wear it). If you don't speak the predominant language, carry a pocket guide of traveler's phrases. Also, hang onto the customer service number for your credit account. A few years ago, I was surprised to learn that my MasterCard provides all kinds of complimentary services for customers in crisis overseas. Yours may, too.

5. Stay in touch with family and friends at home. Call or email them nightly and let them know where you are and where you're going in the day ahead. Leave a copy of your itinerary, including hotel numbers, with at least one trusted person at home. Ask them to call your hotel--and the American consulate or embassy if necessary--and start tracking you down if you're incommunicado for 24 hours.

6. When in doubt, take the road more traveled.
It should go without saying that you shouldn't isolate yourself when traveling alone. Stick to your travel route, and don't let unaffiliated native guides or drivers entice you with discounted fees.

7. Lock up.
This should go without saying, too, but lock your doors, lock your windows, lock your bags. This goes for cars, hotels, or anywhere else you're parking yourself for a short-term stay. DO NOT assume that just because it's remote and beautiful, it must be crime-free.

8. Travel in groups.
There's always safety in numbers. Many resorts and attractions offer guided tour groups. In fact, some singles book a whole vacation with a tour group, from takeoff to touchdown. Such tour groups, which are increasingly catering to singles, are a risk-free opportunity to fulfill your travel dreams. By connecting you with a knowledgeable tour guide and other singles, tour groups are your safety cushion in case of an emergency, a travel planner for the disorganized, and a meet and greet for the lonesome. Which brings us to our final excuse....

....But that's for next time. ;)

If you're a single who travels alone, what tips do you have for safe vacationing?

Fun Link of the Day


Wizardry said...

Dear me, Elsie, sorry for not being around as often as I usually am. I've been very busy with a multitude of things- Imbolc this weekend being one of them! I can't talk much now, and I am terribly sorry about it! but do know I'll be returning with my posts that are too long to read; it's my duty as the first commenter to see this through, though by looking at your good work and the many people you have around, I'd say your doing great!

(also, that blog roll thing will soon be too huge for you to handle)

Till Later Loves

Clever Elsie said...

Hi, my dear, so nice to see you around these parts. :) I'm wishing you a wonderful Imbolc celebration and a speedy return to your duties as First Commenter. ;) Your in-depth posts are always appreciated.