When you find yourself in planes, trains and automobiles as often as I do, you learn a thing or two about solo travel for business and pleasure. Whether you’re wheels up for your next conference, partnership meeting or annual sabbatical, there are travel hacks and tips that can make business travel hassle-free.
Here’s an inside look at how I travel smart – around the world.
Staying at an Airbnb? Advice for solo female travelers
When I travel abroad I prefer to stay in Airbnb’s. I prefer the flexibility, spacious digs, and app useability. Airbnb’s offer “home away from home” perks that many hotels simply overlook. As a female solo traveler, there are a few pro tips I always keep in mind when staying at an Airbnb.
Map out your ground transportation before you land
Many listings display an accurate location, but some do not. Use helpful apps like Rome2Rio and Google Street Maps to get a lay of the land before you arrive. Meanwhile, you can actually schedule your Uber trip in advance, and forgo fumbling through the app at baggage claim.
Secure an early check-in or luggage drop in advance
Most Airbnb hosts are flexible and will allow you to drop off your luggage before check-in (which is generally at 3p local time). Some will even let you check-in a bit early, if your flight arrives early in the day. Ask your host ahead of time to ensure you’re not lugging around baggage like an unprepared tourist.
Once you arrive, do a walk through
This is important to ensure the accommodations match the description. For example, I stayed in an Airbnb in Reykjavik, Iceland and noticed a broken door off its hinge. I took a quick photo and sent a note to the host upon arrival. This is a smart way to ensure you won’t be charged for problems that existed before you arrived.
Keep your money and valuables safe while on a solo travel trip
Keep your money and valuables safe with mini GPS trackers
Before I’m wheels up, I attach Tile bluetooth trackers to my purse, wallet and luggage. The mobile app tracks the location of each item in real-time. My baggage is never actually lost and I know where my wallet and purse are at all times. You can never have too much peace of mind.
Keep funds accessible
When I’m scouting new cafes or simply getting lost (the best way to discover said cafes) in a new city, I keep one credit or debit card on my person at all times. I use a slim leather credit card holder with a crossbody strap. It fits nicely under a light jacket. If my purse is ever stolen, I still have access to funds.
Dress locally and respect customs
When you’re in foreign countries, it’s unwise to standout like a sore thumb. Especially in countries where customs and culture are drastically different from your own. To respect local culture, dressing in understated ways is a good idea. The more you flash, the more you put yourself at risk.
Former Chief of Disguise for the CIA, Jonna Mendez, explains how American’s are generally oblivious as to what it is that reveals us to a foreign crowd. Also, we are viewed more favorably in certain parts of the world than others, according to Pew Research. While you don’t need to go to extremes, you should have local market awareness. As a result, I generally leave my expensive jewelry at home and take a minimalistic approach to my attire.
Tips on transit safety when traveling alone
Public transportation is not created equal around the world. Berlin, Shanghai and London have some of the best public transportation systems in the world. Whether you find yourself on the U-Bahn in Berlin or the tube in London, be smart and proactive. Here’s a look at a few quick tips.
Secure your bag
When possible, if you’re moving around in the airport or to your Airbnb, attach it to your spinner luggage with a Bag Bungee. This is by far one of the best travel hacks I use to keep all of my bags together, move around hassle-free and deter theft.
Map your transit plans with tech
Download the Google Maps app and download an offline map of your location, just in case you lose access to Wi-Fi. Meanwhile, use technology to get from point A to point B. Most major cities rely on peer-to-peer transportation apps like Uber and even have their own. If you’re lost, it’s obvious … especially to locals (if they don’t have your best interests in mind).
Locate your embassy
When you’re overseas, it’s always a good idea to locate your local embassy. I’ve always traveled safely without incident, but like it or not women face greater obstacles, especially when traveling alone. Meanwhile, naivety isn’t an excuse. Always brush up on local customs because when laws and customs are overlooked, small infractions and major inconveniences can occur.
If you plan to travel to an area prone to natural disasters, civil unrest, or simply have a family emergency, it’s smart to alert your U.S. Embassy of your travel, especially for long stays. Use Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service that allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. I’ve never run into legal issues abroad, but if you fail to plan … you plan to fail (should a situation arise).
Make sure you have a signal
Before you leave home, check if your phone will physically work overseas. As travel writer Matthew Kepnes, explains: “Different countries and cell companies use different technologies and frequencies, and your phone needs to be compatible with them to work.” But, most “phones are built these days to work in multiple countries, so there’s a 99% chance your phone will work overseas.”
What are your go-to solo travel tips for business or pleasure? Let me know in the comments below.