7 Important Safety Tips for Students Traveling Solo
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By Christine Ascher, Uloop
While in college, many students relish the opportunity to have a bit of adventure. Often, this adventure probably involves traveling. Though as a parent the idea of allowing your child to travel on their own probably sounds scary, it doesn’t have to be a terrifying experience for you. Going on a solo trip is a rite of passage for a lot of college students, and with the right precautions it will be a wonderful experience. If your student is planning to travel alone, keep these safety tips in mind to ensure that they have a safe and fun trip—and that your mind can be somewhat at ease while they’re gone.
Even before your student leaves for their trip, you should both do some research about where they’re going. The more prepared they are before they leave, the less the chances are that an emergency will arise, so take some time to look into the customs, precautions, and travel tips relevant to wherever they’re going. Check out travel advisories for specific destinations issued by the U.S. Department of State, and, if you can, try to find someone who has traveled to the same places that your student will be going and who can tell you what to expect from first-hand experience.
2. Enroll in STEP
One important precaution that your student should take when traveling abroad, especially when they’re on their own, is to enroll in the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP. By enrolling in STEP, your student will receive travel warnings and safety tips from the Department of State, and will be notified about what to do in the case of an emergency.
3. Avoid Flashy Clothing
One major safety tip, especially when your student is traveling abroad, is to avoid attracting attention as a tourist. If your student seems too obviously to be a fish out of water while they’re traveling, they may become a more likely target for pickpocketing. One easy way for them to blend in is by avoiding flashy clothing and to stick with outfits that will blend in with the locals around them. Advise them to leave their jewelry and college sweatshirts at home, and do some research ahead of time to get a better idea of what type of clothing would be best to bring.
4. Use Bags with Zippers
Pickpocketing is a major concern for travelers, but there are fortunately some easy ways to reduce the risk of it happening to your student. For instance, make sure that your student plans to carry around a bag that has a zipper, so that no one can just reach inside and grab their wallet or phone. They should also carry the bag in front of them so that they can keep an eye on it, and can make sure that it remains shut at all times. Another good rule of thumb is to keep your wallet at the bottom of your bag, underneath other items, or in a pocket within the bag itself. Anything that will make your student’s personal items more difficult to access will be worthwhile. They should also avoid keeping anything important in their pockets, where it can be easily spotted and grabbed by a pickpocket.
5. Invest in a Reliable Phone Plan
Especially if your student is going to be traveling internationally, making sure that they will have a good phone plan while they’re away is key. Your student will want to be able to look up directions on their phone while they’re out and about, and you’ll want to be able to get in touch with them frequently so you don’t have to worry. Whether they sign up for an international phone plan before they leave home or purchase a new SIM card when they get to their destination, make sure that you have a plan in place ready for when your student departs to avoid any periods where you can’t get in touch with them.
6. Stick to Busier Areas
For a student traveling solo, it’s going to be important for them to stick to areas that are relatively well-populated so they’re never alone and vulnerable. Especially at night, they should stick to streets that are busier and well-lighted. Safety comes in numbers, and that statement holds true even when your student is traveling on their own—by sticking to more crowded areas, they’ll be far less vulnerable and they’ll be able to blend in more with the crowd of people around them.
7. Have Them Send You an Itinerary for Any Trips
While it’s probably not realistic to expect your student to let you know any time they go anywhere, it is a good idea to ask them to send you a general itinerary for their trip, including where they’re going to be staying and the details for their transportation. If they’re planning to take any shorter weekend or day trips while they’re traveling, make sure they let you know when and where they’re going and have them text you upon their return. You’ll feel much better knowing where your student is, and they’ll also feel safer with the knowledge that you’re aware of where they should be.
Though allowing your student to travel on their own can be nerve-racking, it will ensure that they have an experience that allows them to grow in independence and to learn about other cultures. Make sure they’re prepared for what they’re getting into by sharing some safety tips with them, and before you know it they’ll be back home telling you about all of their adventures!
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