Research the area you’ll soon be traveling to on a travel assignment. Figure out whether the area you’re traveling to has reliable public transportation, or would you better off driving your own vehicle or renting one. Find out what the crime rates are, especially for burglary and violent crimes – resources like SpotCrime.com or the city’s local police or government website can provide data on the overall crime rate and types of crimes most prevalent in the area. Use Google Maps to familiarize yourself with the main highways, hospitals near you, police stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, etc. in the area.
This includes but is not limited to: your passport, driver’s license, social security card, birth certificate, nursing licensure documents, etc. Make at least 2 photocopies of each document – one set of copies travels with you as a form of temporary identification if you happen to lose your wallet or purse while traveling, and one set to keep in a secure place at home (or close relative’s home) to verify your identity when replacing the hard copies once you return home. Keeping digital copies of important documents while on the road on a website like Google Drive or Dropbox can also be handy in a pinch.
If you’re driving or traveling by bus/train, share your planned route with a trusted friend or family member. If you’re flying, send them your flight numbers and itinerary. Check in with them once you arrive safely at your destination, as well as any safe stopping points or layovers along the way. Also let them know if you end up deviating from your originally planned route, flight plan, or arrival time. Some travelers choose to share their smart phone’s location with select loved ones during their travels using. Should you choose to utilize a rideshare app such as Lyft or Uber while on your travels, it’s recommended to use the safety features built into the app and always verify the drive and license plate before entering the vehicle. Once you’ve had the chance to familiarize yourself with the area and your assigned facility, you can mention your upcoming plans to both staff nurses and other travel nurses alike as a local person who is aware of your whereabouts.
Use credit cards as your primary method of payment instead of cash. Traveling with any substantial amount of cash makes you a target, and can’t be replaced if lost/stolen. Take advantage of credit cards that offer cash back on purchases or rewards miles rather than relying on debit/ATM cards – if a credit card gets lost or stolen, your checking and savings accounts will likely still be safe. To further prevent loss or theft of your cards or cash, make a habit of using smartphone apps like Google Pay and Apple Wallet that securely store and process credit card payments, insurance cards, and airline boarding passes without requiring the physical copy in hand. Having at least 2 credit cards on hand can be vital if you encounter a mishap or emergency while traveling and need access to more funds than what’s currently in your bank account. Just make sure to maintain a low balance before setting out on any big trips so your card isn’t also overextended.
Always keep watchful eyes on your handbags and luggage, especially while at airports or traveling via public transportation. Portable keychains and tracking devices like Tile or Apple AirTags are great for this. If you see unclaimed or seemingly “lost” bags in a public travel area, DO NOT get too close or touch it yourself – report it to an employee and allow them to handle under their protocol.
Note: If your smartphone notifies you of an unidentified AirTag or similar trackable devices have been detected in multiple locations recently, take action immediately to ensure an accessory is not being used to track you without your knowledge. Most Apple products will automatically notify you provided you have the proper location services turned on. The Tracker Detect app can be downloaded & installed on Android devices to perform the same function. Click here to learn more about finding and disabling unknown tracking devices.
Refrain from looking down at your phone while walking to and from parking lots, buildings, subway tunnels, rest areas, gas stations, airport terminals, etc. Have your house/car key readily in your hand to prevent you having to fumble for them once your reach the door. Place the key in your fist between two fingers to serve as an impromptu means of defense against an attacker. When possible, avoid walking to your car alone, especially at night. If you encounter a suspicious person or situation, let a nearby security guard or employee know if at all possible, and ask them to walk you to your vehicle. These are all good habits to practice regardless of how far (or close) you are to your hometown.
Note: Most healthcare facilities have 24/7 security personnel on duty, so don’t be shy about asking them for their assistance. At the very least, have another hospital staff member walk with you if security is unavailable.
Most cellular plans these days offer either unlimited cellular data or a generous amount of cellular data per month, but sometimes the area network coverage isn’t quite up to speed. However, using free public Wifi puts your personal data or accounts at risk. Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to protect your data while connected to public WiFi networks greatly helps to mitigate this risk, and there are several user-friendly free or low cost VPN services to choose from.
Leave a couple lights on at all times to give the impression you’re present and awake. If you’re in a hotel room, placing the “Do Not Disturb” hanger on the doorknob also helps serve the same purpose. If anyone claiming to be hotel staff knocks on your door, call the front desk to verify whether they requested the employee to come to the room BEFORE you unlock the door for them. For an extra layer of protection, always use a portable door locking tool when staying in hotels or short-term housing.