Don't Forget To Do This One Thing To Keep Yourself Safe While Traveling

If you've saved up for months for your big trip overseas, and you've been planning, organizing, and getting excited, it can put a huge dent in your happiness if you feel unsafe when you finally arrive at your destination. Having to worry about pickpockets, scammers, sexual harassment, or assault is a reality, and according to Today's Hotelier survey of 400 women, 10% have been sexually harassed when traveling alone, and a little more than half reported feeling unsafe when traveling alone.

"It is a woman's right to free movement, to travel, to explore, to enjoy public spaces, to ride public transportation without experiencing the fear of violence," said Lakshmi Puri, the deputy executive director of the international agency UN Women, in an article published in The Washington Post, so women have been sharing their tried-and-true tips and tricks to feeling safe on the road. Some of them you probably already practice at home, but you should always keep these safety tips in mind when abroad. And your biggest safety asset is always going to be staying alert and aware of your surroundings. Known as "situational awareness," being hyper-vigilant about where you are, who is around you, and who is getting too close could thwart pickpockets, assaults, and keep you safe while you're on the road. Here's how.

Stay alert to stay safe

The greatest tool for keeping safe while traveling is having your wits about you, limiting distractions, and being aware of other's proximity. The New York Times spoke with several solo women backpackers, and one traveler, Kelsi Lyon, who has ventured solo to places like Burma, Nicaragua, and Tanzania, told the outlet, "Be prepared to be bombarded as you step off the bus, train, or out of the airport. These can be some of the most intense moments of solo travel." Once you're aware of this reality, Lyon recommends walking away like you know where you're going, even if you don't, to avoid being targeted by scammers or pick-pocketers. Travel writer Melissa McGibbon told the Los Angeles Times that your situational awareness can trigger your instincts to leave, so trust them. "If I get a gut feeling that something is off, I just leave the area/situation immediately. Get in a taxi, cross the street, change seats, get off the bus or elevator, whatever," she said.

It's easy to say, "Stay alert," but sometimes your alertness can be impacted if you've enjoyed a few alcoholic beverages on your holiday, or if someone slipped something nefarious into your drink without you knowing. Pathways To Safety International founder Paula Lucas told The Washington Post to be wary of hotel welcome drinks, as they could be roofied. She also recommends designating someone in your group as the designated teetotaler for an added layer of safety.