The Female Traveler's Challenges

By Keith L. Alexander
Tuesday, May 3, 2005

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.

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