Travel Single, Travel Safe

It doesn’t take much to convince the single traveller that life and the IRS are unfair to the unescorted. It’s fair to say that for the woman who is single the travel difficulties seem to double. So here, for the single woman traveller, are some thoughts on travelling as much as you like as carefree as you wish.

Driving is one thing, air and leisure travel is another. Seems smart when driving alone to have a major credit card to take along to pay for gas and motels. Better than showing a lot of cash in strange places to strange faces.

A well studied map with notations prepared prior to departure is a sure way to avoid wrong turns into wrong places. Perhaps the best procedure overall is to plan ahead, to include hours of the trip, selection of pit stops, time of arrival and where to rest the head at journey’s end. Travelling by auto by day assures the most company on the road, and much of it company worth keeping.

It’s those late night drives which put a little worry into the stomach as we visualize a breakdown, accident and other encounters. One contemporary comforter for today’s driver is the celluar telephone, which not only serves its own purpose but implies security for the owner when a stranger comes too close.

While everyone likes to save money, it shouldn’t be on security. It’s really a very good idea, if motels are to be involved, for reservations to have been made in advance of one’s arrival. Something to be avoided is the necessity of going from highway motel to motel looking for a vacancy.

Have that room booked and be sure to guarantee late arrival with a credit card. The room can always be cancelled by phone prior to 6 p.m. if it appears the destination is out of reach, but it’s certainly a good feeling to know the room’s there as the 6 p.m. hour approaches and the destination remains at a distance.

Pick the motel or hotel by configuration first, the price second. The configuration — isn’t that a wonderful word to flaunt — most appropriate is one in which the rooms are reached only through the lobby and one in which both the restaurant and the lounge are off the lobby. There are several ways to find out about a hotel or motel’s configuration — there’s that word again — even if never having been there before.

One is to ask when making the reservation. Another is to become familiar with a motel/hotel chain that builds its own hotels/motels in the configuration which feels the most comfortable. Marriott Courtyards, Hampton Inns, Days Inn and many other chains have designed their motels with occupant security in mind.

Best bet is of course to go to your favorite travel agent and ask her (could be a him) to book your space. Surprise! It costs no more to use a travel agent than to do it yourself. The benefit is the travel agent has at his (could be a her) disposal bunches of books reporting on all the motels and hotels worthy of a visit plus all of the 800 numbers, and for the most part it can all be done with one phone call to your agent who takes care of the rest.

But how does your agent make money, you ask? The hotel pays them a spiff, most commonly called a commission, for the booking. But how does one know if the hotel won’t just add that spiff on to the bill for the hotel room? Don’t worry, they won’t, because the hotel knows travel agents get them lots of business and they wouldn’t get any of that business if they were cheating the public and the agent on pricing.

You could ask your travel agent, but should you forget, ask the desk clerk if the hotel/motel has a concierge, which one immediately recognizes as a French word meaning someone who makes reservations for restaurants, shows and tours for guests. The dictionary claims it’s pronounced “ko-syerzh”, however that’s pronounced. They’ll either know or won’t know, after which ask for the hotel’s guest relations person. Theoretically, at least, the guest relations clerk will be one on whom to depend for good directions, good advice, and the best of “how to”.

Once in the room it’s a good idea to take a look at the hotel directory which provides a summary of the facility’s services and the location of its public rooms. Having checked in about 6 p.m., there’s still time to stroll through the building and grounds, locate the restaurant and stop in the lounge for refreshment.

That early visit to the lounge is a key to one’s comfort later in the evening. More often than not the evening’s bartender and cocktail hostess will be on duty. This is a good opportunity to see if this will be the place for later in the evening. Building on the recognition factor with the lounge employees has many pluses, obvious and not so.

If it looks like your kind of place, it could be just the place to be come 9 p.m., when the band starts playing. Before leaving the lounge before dinner, make sure to have the bartender and cocktailer’s first names so they can be addressed as such on the return. Also pick up a matchbook for the purse with the hotel’s name, address and local phone number for speedy use should an emergency arise there or elsewhere later in the evening, or the next day.

So go figure, a stranger in a strange town, nestled in a strange hotel or motel, feeling a bit strained by its strangeness, and yet confident that you’ve taken due precaution to in fact enjoy yourself in this distant environment.

Next issue we’ll find our way out of the hotel and into those quaint little out of the way places one wants to mention in postcards home.

If a comfort zone is not yet to be found, go to the desk and ask for a couple of video films, or plug in the pay-per-view in your room and get to bed early.

Have a safe trip!

Dana Borders is the pen name of a travel writer based in the Bahamas.