Safe Travels

Travel of any kind, whether with others or alone, can be one of life’s great pleasures.  It can also turn into a string of disasters.  Here are a few tips for avoiding troubles.

Planning

Do your research.  Know as much as you can about where you’re going and chose your lodgings well.  Almost every destination has some bad neighborhoods.  Remember the old adage about a deal looking too good.  One great resource is TripAdvisor which has traveler reviews of just about every accommodation on the planet.  Look at both positive and negative comments.  Don’t give up because of a couple of negative comments.  No place can please everyone.  Look at the nature of the negative comments and management responses.  A testy or defensive management response can be worse news than a detailed panning of a property.  At the same time, one or two tales of on any one area that are offset by many positive ones on the same topic may just represent the bad day any of us can have.  My general rule is to pay very careful to “terrible” and “poor” comments if they account for more than 10% of the total.

Follow the News

We’ve all seen usually quiet places explode into trouble.  Tianenmen Square.  The Arab Spring.  Watch out for strikes as well.  Not only can they turn violent, but they can put a real crimp in your travels even when peaceful.  I never did get to see da Vinci’s Last Supper.   My first visit to Rome had a distinctive aroma due to a garbageman strike. Those are minor compared to those who have been stuck in airports.  Not all places experiencing troubles should be avoided, but there may be a better time to go.  If you have the slightest concern, check the travel warnings on the US State Department’s website.

Leaving Home

There are several good simple steps for protecting your home while you’re away.  Leave a light or two on to make the place looked lived in.  Stop mail and newspaper delivery.  Have a neighbor keep an eye on your place.  Use caution in talking about your upcoming trip in public.  Avoid referring to your trip on social media before or during your travels.  Don’t forget to make arrangements for the care of your pets.

On the Road

Personal safety is probably one of the biggest concerns shared by women traveling alone.  Being in an unknown destination can easily make one nervous.  There are several ways to make your travels safer.

Avoid looking like a tourist or a good target.  Little things like walking around with your camera our can give you away.  Try to blend in.  A European friend once pointed out that Americans are the only nationality that wears white sneakers so avoid them.  Good walking shoes are a must anyway, even for a beach vacation.  Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.  Don’t flash your cash.  Carry only what you need for the day and leave the rest in a safe.  Speaking of safes, in-room safes are no guarantee of protection.  Leave irreplaceable valuables in the hotel’s safe.

Being alert is probably the biggest key to safety.  Stay aware of your surroundings.  That might sound like silly advice for someone traveling whose whole purpose is to enjoy their surroundings, but it’s just such engagement that can foul things up.  Be careful not to get so caught up in gazing at the pyramids that you miss the person moving in to grab your purse.

If in doubt, take a taxi.  Public transportation can be cheap and experiencing it can give a great insight to a culture.  There are times, such as being out at night or when traveling through a questionable area to get to that hidden gem of a church, when safety should trump savings.  In many places, taking a cab can be a great experience in itself.  Nobody knows a locality better than its taxi drivers and you can learn a lot from them.  London cabbies are known to be great characters and I always make it a point to take at least one taxi ride while there.

The right equipment can also make travel safer.  Several companies such as Magellan’s and Travelsmith sell purses that are slash-proof.  Some have RFID protection to keep people from obtaining the credit card information so accessible these days.  Clothing with inside pockets can keep wallets and documents safe.  Some recommend money pouches that can be kept around your waste under your clothes.  I’m not a big fan of those.  There’s nothing like having to reach inside your pants to buy a pack of gum.

None of these tips can guarantee that you won’t run into trouble, but following them certainly can’t hurt.  Have your own saftety tips?  We’d love to see them in our comments.

San Diego – America’s Finest City

San Diego is one of the few places in the U.S. with good weather year round.  It also happens to be where I live so it seems like a good destination with which to start.  Locals like to call San Diego “America’s Finest City”.  Whether you agree or not, it certainly is near the top of the list.

Between tourist attractions like the world famous San Diego Zoo and it’s sister the San Diego Safari Park, beautiful beaches, mountains an easy drive away, sailing, whale watching, good food, Mexican culture, and classic hotels, there’s little you can’t do in San Diego.

As a water baby, sailing and whale watching are favorite activities of mine.  San Diego is great for both.

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Sailing is a year-round activity.  Crewed and uncrewed charters are available.  For a crewed sail around the bay and possibly out to the ocean, a great company is Sail San Diego.  They have very comfortable sailboats and experienced, friendly crews.  They are, though, rather pricey for a single passenger.  Other fun options are to go out on the Californian is a 19th century revenue cutter that’s part of the wonderful San Diego Maritime Museum or one of Next Level Sailing’s America’s Cup boats.  All have single tickets available at reasonable prices.

Big Blue

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San Diego is one of the best places in the world for whale watching. From December through April, gray whales migrate through on their ways to and from their mating and birthing waters in Baja Mexico.  Year round, several kinds of dolphins fill the water.  In summer, the largest of the whales, the mighty blue whale, makes its appearances.  Unlike sailing, which can get expensive for the solo traveler and which carries its own risks, whale watching is relatively inexpensive and provides a great adventure from the safety of a good sized boat.  Watch for a post on recommended companies coming soon, but for now let me say that my favorite company is San Diego Whale Watch.

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No trip to San Diego would be complete without a visit to the world-famous San Diego Zoo or its sister facility, the San Diego Safari Park.  Both are state-of-the art facilities.  Check out their many special tours, some of which include up-close animal encounters.  At the Zoo, my favorite is Backstage Pass at which you can close to and be photographed with a wide variety of critters.  If you’re in San Diego in summer, both parks are open late, providing a safe environment for an evening stroll.

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Amid a wealth of choices, one hotel stands out as special and that the Hotel Del Coronado, known locally as The Del.  Away from the bustle of the city on the island of Coronado, this is where they filmed the classic movie “Some Like it Hot”.  The property is full of old world charm and has great food choices.

Nightlife in San Diego centers on the Gaslamp Quarter downtown.  Lots of restaurants and bars.  One of my favorites is Croce’s, owned by the widow of the late, great musician Jim Croce.  It offers a combination of great food, good music, and fantastic people watching.    Unfortunately, it looks like they’re going to be leaving the Gaslamp.  I’ll update this when they do.  The Gaslamp is one of those places where a woman alone should use caution.  While it is nowhere near as dangerous as parts of other large cities, it is still a crowded area and has lots of folks who are under the influence.

With a temperate climate year round, there is some variation in weather.  Winter can be a bit rainy.  Spring brings Gray May and June Gloom, periods when the coastal layer of clouds may last all day.

This now being home, it’s a place I’m frequently out and about in alone.  I’ve always felt welcomed.  San Diegans are a friendly lot and will gladly help with directions or chat with you in a bar.   Safer than many large cities,  watch your belongings and keep alert and you’ll be fine.

Whenever you come, you’re sure to have a great time!