View Full Version : The Female Traveler's Challenges

05-04-2005, 02:46 PM
The Female Traveler's Challenges

By Keith L. Alexander
Tuesday, May 3, 2005; E01

A businesswoman sitting alone in a hotel lobby bar politely declines a man's offer to buy her a drink. Later that evening, she hears a knock at her room door and opens it only to find the man screaming obscenities at her. He had sneaked over to her table after she left the bar and read her room number off the bill.

The incident in Kathleen Ameche's new book, "The Woman Road Warrior: A Woman's Guide to Business Travel," highlights one of an array of potential challenges for female business travelers. Certainly, traveling alone can present hurdles for anyone. But women, according to some female frequent fliers, can face additional challenges.

Ameche, a former chief information officer for the Tribune Co., has poured years of her own business travel experience into her book and has interviewed dozens of female road warriors for the 200-page guide from Agate Publishing.

Some female frequent travelers may have acquired their own strategies for traveling alone and may regard much advice as self-evident or in some cases even extreme.

Much of Ameche's advice focuses on security and ways to minimize potential travel pitfalls.

For example, Ameche says women traveling with colleagues on a business trip should avoid getting a hotel room on the same floor as a male colleague or boss. "It's about perception. When you're traveling with other people, people like to gossip. This is your career we're talking about," she said.

Among Ameche's security recommendations: Never check into a hotel that doesn't have a main lobby, and avoid those that have room access right off the street or parking lot. Also, she says, never stay in a room on the first floor.

Ameche encourages women traveling alone to jot down when they are going out and when they expect to return -- and put the information in a prominent place in their hotel room. It's a record for hotel management in case a traveler doesn't return.

Anne Seymour, a District-based victim's advocate and frequent traveler, told BizClass that she not only leaves notes on her pillow but also tells the hotel concierge of her plans, then checks in with hotel staff when she returns.

"I've been doing this for 15 years, and I highly recommend this to women and men," Seymour said.

Some female travelers said they face discrimination on the road because of their sex. They say flight attendants and gate agents are quicker to accommodate the needs of male travelers than female travelers. Ameche said no airline employees interviewed for the book confirmed they treated women differently. But that doesn't mean women don't have to continue to wrestle with that perception, she said.

E-learning consultant Andrea Williams of Jefferson City, Mo., said she wears dress slacks or a business suit when she travels -- never a skirt or jeans. She sometimes changes out of a skirt and into a business suit in a restaurant bathroom before boarding her flight. She has found airline gate agents to be more accommodating if she's dressed conservatively.

"Even though I'm in first class, I notice that a male can wear the crappiest clothes, carrying a briefcase and be treated lovely, " Williams told BizClass. "Oftentimes we're ignored."

Dining alone can often be a big hassle to female travelers, female frequent fliers said. Williams, who has been a frequent flier for more than 16 years, said she no longer sits alone in a hotel bar. "I'm tired of making guys understand that I'm not looking for a one-night stand," she said. In her book, Ameche advises women on how to identify bars and restaurants where they can dine alone. One strategy: Make friends with the bartender and ask him or her to escort you out to your taxi or car.

Ameche also recommends identifying a trusted cab driver in cities travelers visit often. She advises that travelers avoid catching hotel and car rental shuttles alone and instead wait for large groups. She also offers packing tips and advises women not to carry expensive jewelry on the road. Ameche herself had a piece of jewelry from her grandmother stolen out of her hotel room while on a trip.

Vigilance when traveling applies as much to men as women, she said. And so do her recommendations on how to balance home life while on the road. She encourages business travelers to e-mail and call home often.

Evelynn Ellis of State College, Pa., said she sets up times when she will call home to talk with her husband and 6-year-old daughter, Julia. "My cell phone lives in my hand," she said. Ellis, a recruiter for Penn State University, said she tries to keep up with the family's daily activities. "I feel like I'm there even when I'm not," she said. Ellis makes sure she always brings home presents for her daughter and her husband when she returns from a trip.

Ameche's book also offers general travel advice, telling readers which Web sites give the best hotel deals and airfares and providing guidance on how to tip and when.

For some women, advice on traveling alone seems unnecessary. Internet trainer and researcher Mary Ellen Bates of Boulder, Colo., said she avoids books aimed at women.

"We've been in the workplace for centuries and on the road for decades. We're not delicate flowers, for crying out loud," Bates said. "I never felt a situation come up that I couldn't handle."
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