Staying Safe While on the Road

We rarely think about staying safe while on the road but consider what happened to me on a recent trip. While it wasn’t serious, it had me rethinking safety while I travel.

It was a few minutes before 3 a.m. I pulled the shower curtain back and suddenly, as if I had also hit the lights, I was plunged into darkness. I flipped the switch but nothing happened. Maybe the bulb blew, I thought.

The hallway was dark when I exited the bathroom and there were no lights in any of the adjacent buildings.

I’ve experienced blackouts before but at home, I have flashlights placed in every room. I was alone in my friend’s apartment and had no idea where flashlights, candles or matches were. I also had no clue what the number at the 24-hour reception desk was.

I felt a mild sense of panic inching up my back. Breathe, I thought to myself, breathe. Then I remembered the flashlight on my phone. Groping around, I found it on the dresser exactly where I’d left it.

I chuckled. Of all the times the power could go out, it’d have to choose the morning I had to catch a 6:30 flight. I didn’t have the time to think too much about it. My taxi was due to arrive in less than 30 minutes and I needed to finish dressing.

Suddenly, the light flickered on as unceremoniously as it had shut off. As soon as it did, though, the fire alarm began to wail.

I figured the outage had triggered the alarm but what do I know about these things? I looked out the corridor just to be sure. No fire, no smoke and more importantly, no fire trucks. I started to put on my shoes when the alarm stopped as abruptly as it had begun, making the silence feeling loud. Whew!

Quickly, I gathered my things and pulled my luggage to the elevator. I punched the button but nothing happened. Oh gosh, I thought, not the stairs! I was 9 flights up with 2 suitcases, a laptop bag and purse. Get with the program, I’m thinking, the stairs are your only option.

I left one suitcase and dragged the lighter one down to the lobby. As I suspected, the outage had triggered the alarm which then shut the elevators down automatically. Thankfully, the desk person said he’d turn the elevator back on so I didn’t have to climb 9 flights.

As I settled into the back seat of the taxi on that cool Toronto morning, I pushed away the thoughts that came unbidden to my mind. What if the blackout had lasted longer? What if that had been a fire? Why didn’t I find out where the flashlights were or the number for the front desk?

Security experts tell us that when we are travel, the first thing we should do is familiarize ourselves with our surroundings. But we need to do more than that. Here are a few other steps you can take to ensure you stay safe while you’re on the road.

  • Plan your escape. In case of an emergency, know beforehand the best way to get to safety.
  • If you’re staying in a hotel, apartment or private home, check whether your window opens to the street or ground floor and whether it can be used as a means of escape.
  • If you’re on a higher floor, locate the nearest stairs and check to see where they lead.
  • If we’re traveling with others, have a designated meeting place and make sure everyone knows how to find it.
  • Most importantly, breathe deeply and try to stay calm. Staying calm and focused will help you think quickly on your feet.

Staying safe while on the road should really start before you leave home. Whenever I travel, I alert my neighbors, friends and family so they can keep an eye on out. A simple thing as having your lights programmed to go on and off at different times can indicate to someone that your place is occupied. Since I’m away so often, I’m also contemplating installing a security system as one of my travel writer friends has done. She uses a simon xt and as she points out quite often, whenever she leaves she knows it’ll be keeping things safe at home.

What other tips do you have to stay safe while on the road? How do you keep your property secure when you’re away?

22 comments on “Staying Safe While on the Road

  1. You bring up a good point–I hardly ever think of an escape route or plans of action. I guess when you’re on vacation, you just think everything will be perfect. I think I’m going to start planning for the unexpected as well!

  2. Kind of scary, eh? One of my thoughts about a situation like that is that I’m glad I wasn’t in the elevator when it shut down. Nightmare! Excellent and practical tips, Marcia.

  3. What an experience and great tips! It’s great to have a game plan in effect, especially if you’re traveling solo. I’m planning for my first solo trip, so your story will definitely help me prepare.

  4. That’s really scary and I’d be really freaked out. I have never encountered something like that staying at a hotel so I’ve never even thought about checking where the stairs are, making sure I have the reception’s number, etc. Thanks for sharing your tips, I’ll be much more aware next time!!

  5. I would add to always bring a (mini) flashlight with you and pack a door stop to use to help keep your door closed (not full proof, but it will deter possible people from coming in and make enogh noise to wake you up). I typically tavel alone (most of the time) and I usually abide by the rule, don’t go out when its dark unless I’m with someone else. Very important to always keep you guard up, especially in a foreign environment.

  6. Great points, Sherry. I use a chair to wedge the door so that anyone coming in or trying to will wake me. The doorstop sounds like a better idea.
    Definitely have to be on the alert, especially when you’re traveling alone.

  7. You’ll have to write something about it, Michaela. I was so excited to go on my first trip — I felt grown up and in charge.
    I’m glad my tips are helpful. Hope you have a wonderful trip!

  8. Yikes, that’s definitely scary stuff, combined with the added anxiety of having to catch an early flight! I started doing a lot more solo travel recently, and one thing I be sure to do is email my itinerary to a few family members before I take off. That way, if they don’t receive the “I’m here!” email, they know which hotel to call to see if I’ve checked in yet;-)

  9. It really caused me to panic. However, I realized panicking would only make it worse.
    That’s actually a brilliant suggestion, Jess. I do leave my itinerary and call when I arrive but I forgot to add it to the list.
    Thank you!

  10. Your story is a wake up call to all travelers, when going on vacation or travel we sometimes are so excited that we tend to forget about our safety while on travel. In addition, when staying in a hotel be sure to always know where the exit door is.

  11. Those are some good suggestions for sure. I am certainly glad that everything worked out. I think it is also important to learn about the demographics of the area, the crime rate, where to go and not to go, and even the recent scams that locals have been trying. I am currently in Costa Rica. It would never have occurred to me that thieves would go as far as puncturing someone\’s tires to steal a car. They would set it up so they appeared at first like a good Samaritan helping the car owner, who had gotten a flat tire and pulled over, and then they would hijack the car. People who are not criminals don\’t think like them, but they have to be aware of how criminals do operate nonetheless.

  12. That’s a good point, Sandra. We have to always be on the alert as criminals are everywhere!
    I hadn’t heard about that particular trick. Pretty ingenious, if you ask me. Now, if they’d only put that ingenuity into doing good.

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