safety while traveling is an important consideration, and leaving the planning for later isn’t smart. My first suggestion is to take a self-defense class to learn how to protect yourself without weapons and to use your wits to get out of a situation. Some cities, like NYC where I live, have self-defense class centers that also offer complimentary classes to women on certain nights of the week. Beyond that, it’s good to know how to use everyday items you may already own or have on you. See some of my personal favorites below, and feel free to add any suggestions I left out in the comments below!While I genuinely believe most people are kind, there’s no doubt there are some in this world who are out to hurt you. Sure, most of these threats exist in your hometown just as much as abroad; however, a loss of familiarity with our surroundings makes us easier targets, likely because the bad guys can tell you’re a tourist. Basically,
1. Clothing That Hides Your ValuablesWhile Clever Travel Companion garments are made specifically to ward off pickpockets, they’re also cute and comfy to wear as regular shirts, pants and underwear. They feature hidden interior pockets, so crooks never even know you’ve got cash and cards on you. Plus, no need to carry a purse!
2. Fully Charged SmartphoneAlong with being able to download a number of great personal safety apps, your smartphone can act as a flashlight — great in a number of scary situations from intimidating animals that may want to attack to sending stress signals to escaping fires — and a map. If you’re someplace you don’t feel comfortable you’ll also be able to call an Uber (get a free ride with that link) or Lyft (get a $20 credit with promo code JESSIE299142). I’m a fan of using power bank cases for two charges in one and protection for your phone. Unlike my friends whose phones are constantly dying mine NEVER dies, because I can simply click a button on my case to re-charge it.
3. Garbage BagsThese are great to carry with you for a few reasons. One, for storing wet or dirty clothes. Two, for collecting garbage to throw away. Three, if you’re unprepared for a drop in temperature you can use them to create a makeshift coat or thermal underwear, as the material locks in heat. Other uses include adding another layer of protection over a bandaged wound, holding drinking water, filling with leafs to crate pillows and making a shade covering. See below on how to make your own sweat suit from garbage bags.
4. Duct TapeDuct tape is famous for its plethora of uses, from crafting atypical fashions to sticking gear to your backpack to repairing just about anything. It can also be used for health and safety while traveling, such as creating bandages and slings, waterproofing shoes, marking a trail (especially when you’re traveling solo) or, the opposite, covering your shoe treads when you think you’re being followed. If you’re being active duct tape can also stabilize ankles, create protective body pads and, my personal favorite use for them as a hiker, secure pant legs so that ticks and snakes can’t bite.
5. Keys/PensThis is a trick I’ve used my entire life living in New York. When walking home alone at night I instinctively put my keys between my knuckles to add a weapon to my punch if needed. Pens can work for this, too, with the best points of contact to inflict harm being the throat, under the jaw line or, if it’s life or death, the eye. For something you can easily carry while walking that’s less violent, I’m never without a personal alarm, a small knob which I can wear as a bracelet and pull the pin off to have a loud siren blare.
6. WhistleI never go anywhere without my safety whistle, especially when walking alone at night or hiking. Along with scaring off potential attackers with their loud sound, they can help you call out in times of distress and frighten off animals. Travel blogger Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads has a great post detailing all the times her safety whistle has gotten her out of trouble on the road that I recommend you read. Note: some bags also come with whistles built-in, like many BESIDE-U Bags, which I wrote about in detail in a post about exploring Namibia and awesome things to do in SoHo.
7. Door StopThere has been a heartbreaking number of hotel break-ins and even rapes due to men posing as a boyfriend or husband of a victim and gaining key access from hotel staff to a room (one example occurred at an Embassy Suites in Des Monies, Iowa). While this isn’t common, it does happen and it’s important to protect yourself. One simple solution — aside from making it clear to hotel staff that they are not to give keys to your room to anyone but yourself — is to invest in a door stop. One I like is the GE Personal Security Door Stop Alarm, taking the typical door stop to another level with a built-in 120-decibel alarm that blares when pressure is put on it.
8. BandanaSpecifically I recommend BUFF as their tubular shape makes them easy to manipulate into 12+ different styles, like a neck gaitor, headband, face mask, hair tie and hood, which come in handy when you find yourself in extreme weather conditions. They’re also soft, breathable and moisture-wicking, meaning they keep you both warm and cool. For instance, I used mine while trekking in the sun in 104-degree Fahrenheit weather in Namibia. It was also a life-saver when hiking up the active Concepcion Volcano in Nicaragua, as I needed to cover my mouth when going through the toxic gases. It also works as a bandage!
9. Insect Repelling ShirtsWith Zica, Malaria, Lyme, Yellow Fever and other insect-borne diseases threatening travelers, a number of companies have rolled out travel clothing that infuses repellent. Many are stylish and/or functional, not looking different than your everyday travel wear. Some brands to check out include Toad&Co and Craghopper (their Nosilife line), or you can spray normal clothing with odorless Permethrin Pump Spray. The spray lasts up to six weeks or six washings, whichever comes first.
10. Insect Repelling PerfumeIf you already travel with perfume you can kill two birds with one stone by packing Aromaflage, a pleasing chemical-free perfume that also repels mosquitos through alcohol and essential oils. According to the company, Aromaflage protects as well as 25% Deet.
11. Your GutWhile maybe not technically an item, it’s something you use everyday. Your intuition will be the most important thing you bring with you — and make use of — on any trip to stay safe. And please, don’t worry about being rude if your instincts are telling you to get out of a situation. It’s better to be impolite than to stick around and face the potential consequences.
How do you use everyday items for safety while traveling? Please share in the comments below!
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