How To Stay Safe While Traveling: A Woman’s Guide To Not Getting Mugged, Attacked, Or Murdered While On The Go

If you like your summer reading with a side of rage, may I recommend my new thriller, We Were Never Here, out August 3. It’s about two globe-trotting best friends who kill a backpacker in self-defense and then flee the country, and I wrote it fueled by fury at how every woman who has the audacity to explore the world gets pelted, The Lottery-style, with variations of, “you in danger, girl.” Young men have always had the ability to strap on a backpack and travel the world (my dad did so in the ’70s; didn’t yours?). But for women, the messaging is: Watch your back. Avoid entire swaths of the globe. 

And hey, at long last, international travel isn’t just something you can read and daydream about—it’s back on the horizon! However, much like smiling, not smiling, being friendly, being a bitch, wearing tight clothes, looking dumpy, and existing with a female form, travel is an activity that’s not without risks. To avoid the pesky assaults, robberies, druggings, and homicides that inevitably come along with having the nerve to step on a plane, heed the following tips. Happy travels! 

First, it’s your job to avoid being assaulted on the plane. However, self-defense tools such as tasers and mace are not allowed in the cabin. Therefore, experts recommend investing in an iron-clad chastity belt for the duration of the flight. We hear Spanx is working on one that will—bonus!—shrink your thighs. 

Don’t tell anyone you’re going on vacation, or else they’ll invade your home while you’re away. Also: Don’t not tell anyone you’re going on vacation, lest a well-intentioned friend think you’ve been murdered and call for a welfare check, draining valuable police resources. (Karens are the reason police departments don’t have the funds for deescalation training, that’s a fact.) Don’t tell anyone where you’re going once you get to your destination, either, or they may be tempted to follow you there and stalk you on the property. If a border patrol agent asks for your destination, just get really moony-eyed and say, “Hot Girl Summer 2021!” They love that.  

After you check into a hotel, assess the room for security risks. Pack a small rubber door-stop to cram beneath your hotel room door, and be on the lookout for a long metal hook-shaped wire masquerading as the Babadook’s finger protruding under the door to open your doorknob. Rewatch the final third of Home Alone for tips on how to both booby trap the entrance and give the false impression your room is filled with people (men) who could pound any intruder to a pulp—it’s generally accepted that male companions can decide whether or not their female friend gets harassed, and when men say no, no means no. Ensure all booby trap materials are TSA-compliant. If you don’t have time to build and install booby traps, try shouting, “I have a boyfriend!”

Observe how male travelers navigate your destination. Do they let their phones and wallets hang temptingly from their hands? Do they speak to strangers? Do they hail cabs on the street? Doesn’t matter. Go back to your room.

Wear a T-shirt with a slogan such as, “Bill Gates Can’t Shoot Me Up!” with a cartoon vaccine on it. If a possible attacker gets within six feet, cough in his general direction. Do not cover your mouth. 

(Remember, anyone you encounter, much like the post-transformation Hulk or that boy at the desk behind you in seventh grade who couldn’t stop snapping your bra, is a possible attacker who’ll be powerless to control himself if he enters your bubble. ACT ACCORDINGLY.) 

Don’t drink anything you haven’t seen made. Don’t eat anything you haven’t seen prepared. Your best bet is staying in the hotel and ordering room service.

Oh my God, don’t order room service, you idiot! Inviting a complete stranger into your room just because he’s holding a tray of food covered in silver domes? What are you, asking for it? 

In fact, don’t eat or drink anything until you get home. (Honestly, you could use the break, Ms. Post-Pandemic Pants. But don’t dwell on it—that’s vain.)

Speaking of sweatpants: Tight or revealing clothing will inevitably invite unwanted attention. But also, don’t wear loose or long clothing that’s easier for would-be kidnappers to grab. Of course, floppy, shapeless clothes also invites unsuspecting, helpless, hapless local men to imagine what’s underneath. Maybe you can explore the destination and see the sites without your body? They’re doing some amazing things on Zoom these days.

Assume that something will happen to you during your vacation, and really, it’s better for everyone if you just stay home and watch Bravo.


Andrea Bartz
Andrea Bartz
Andrea Bartz is a Brooklyn-based journalist and the author of The Lost Night, The Herd, and We Were Never Here. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Women's Health, Martha Stewart Living, Redbook, Elle, and many other outlets, and she's held editorial positions at Glamour, Psychology Today, and Self, among other publications.