Female Road Warriors: How to Protect Yourself When Traveling for Work
When we travel for business, whether it's to a neighboring city or the other side of the world, we head out with a purpose: to rock the presentation, close the deal and deliver results. We know how important travel can be for building trust with our business communities and partners, and getting business done.
Our travel numbers are rising and so are safety concerns.
This year, the Upside Travel Company reported that nearly 50 percent of all business travel bookings are for women, and this statistic is rising. With this comes the growing awareness that women face more travel safety risks compared to their male counterparts. According to 2018 survey research by Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and AIG Travel Inc., a disturbing 83 percent of women polled said they've experienced a safety issue or concern in the last year while traveling for work, yet only 53 percent of women always or sometimes report these experiences to their travel managers. The research also found that only 18 percent of corporate travel safety policies specifically address female safety needs. This reflects a clear gap, and it's prompting a growing number of companies to update their travel risk mitigation and duty of care policies to better protect us.
As a company that provides workers with tools for booking and managing business travel from Fortune 100 companies to small businesses, we partnered with Kathy Leodler, CEO of security firm Rampart Group, and former FBI special agent, SWAT commander, and corporate security director, to create a safety checklist for female business travelers.
Until travel risk mitigation policies better reflect the risks female employees face, below are some safety basics you can put into practice for your next trip to help safeguard your productivity and peace of mind.
Know before you go: preparing for an upcoming trip
1. Check out business trip insurance.
If you're an employee, ask your employer for its travel insurance program documentation so you know what's covered for you. If you're self-employed, it's a good idea to research your options for purchasing travel insurance. Sites with updated 2018 recommendations include Consumers Advocate or Travel Insurance Review. Also, be sure to save an electronic version and print a hard copy of the travel insurance benefits, then share your insurance details with a trusted family member.
2. Be a step ahead.
When choosing accommodations, staying in a well-known and reputable hotel is generally safer than using unknown hotels. Some hotels offer women-only floors, so don't hesitate to ask before you book if that's a personal preference. MaidenVoyage also offers a list of certified female-friendly hotels worldwide. Also consider booking your flight arrivals for daylight hours so you avoid arriving after dark, especially for international arrivals.
Another tip for international travelers: It's recommended you visit the U.S. Department of State where you'll find information for every country in the world including visa requirements, safety and security conditions, health and medical considerations, local laws and areas to avoid. It's also wise to know the location of the closest U.S. embassy or consulate at your destination. Check the option to enroll your trip so you can receive safety alerts and your embassy can contact you in the event of an emergency.
Whether traveling domestic or international, always make copies of your passport ID page to make it easier to file a report and get a replacement if your passport is lost or stolen. Leave one copy with a trusted contact at home and carry one with you. Do the same with your trip itinerary in case your smartphone is lost or stolen.
Lastly, take advantage of the latest technology to stay in the know. Apps like TripIt show neighborhood-specific safety scores, including relevant categories like: women's safety, physical harm, health and medical, theft and more.
3. Pack smart to stay safe.
It's always wise to pack modest clothing and avoid packing or wearing expensive jewelry, bags, shoes or other accessories. You don't want to stand out as having valuables that someone would want to steal. It's also smart to pack shoes designed for comfort and mobility, so you can move quickly if needed.
Also, consider packing a decoy wallet with a small amount of cash and expired credit cards. If someone rifles through your bag, that's the one they'll take. Then wear a hidden money belt with your "real" wallet contents.
Other important items to pack include: chargers for your digital devices, a travel plug adapter if you're traveling internationally, at least a two-week supply of any medication you're taking and any special medical ID bracelet or tags.
4. Arrive at the hotel with an action plan.
When checking in to your hotel, ask the clerk to write your room number on a piece of paper or on the key sleeve, rather than saying it out loud. Also request a room near the stairs or elevator so you don't have to walk through empty corridors at night, and don't stay in a room on the first floor or near exit stairways since they are more accessible and prone to theft.
When you arrive to your room, check to make sure it has a peephole, deadbolt and working locks on the windows, adjoining door and balcony door. If there are any issues, request a new room that's secure.
If there's ever a knock on your room door, call reception to confirm the identity of anyone there, and if the door to your room is ever open or unlocked when you return, don't enter. Go back to the front desk and inform them of the security issue.
5. Practice street smarts while out and about.
If you need to use your mobile phone in public, try to stand still with your back to a wall or window, since walking and talking will limit your awareness and make you an easier target.
Further, keep your head up while walking, stand/walk confidently, never look lost, and don't walk alone or visit an ATM at night.
As always, follow your intuition: if you feel a bad vibe from somewhere or someone, listen to your gut instinct and remove yourself from the situation.
6. Don't forget about cyber and social safety.
Travel with clean digital devices that have limited banking information, sensitive data, personal photographs or compromising information, and always be aware of potential avenues for cyber attacks, such as using the free Wi-Fi in public locations.
Also avoid posting information about upcoming travel dates, and don't publish your whereabouts in real-time online. You can share details after you are safely back home.
Looking ahead: the future of female business travel
Because safety threats impact the well-being and productivity of female travelers, companies will need to place more serious emphasis on ensuring their corporate travel policies address priority female concerns such as sexual harassment, assault, and theft. At the same time, women will no doubt take the initiative to demand companies take care of them. This will become a key consideration for companies as they shape company culture and talent retention strategies.