7 Tips for Women on Avoiding Unwanted Advances During Business Travel

Tips for Women on Avoiding Unwanted Advances During Business TravelHere’s an interesting question for today: Do you often get unwanted attention when traveling for work? What are your best tips for women on avoiding unwanted advances during business travel? Does it happen most often in hotel bars, on the plane, at the airport, or elsewhere? From coworkers, clients — or strangers? Do you ever feel unsafe during those experiences, or are you mostly just annoyed when you’re trying to do some work, eat a meal, or simply get to where you’re going? tips for women on avoiding unwanted advances during business travel

The question of how to avoid being hit on when you’re traveling for work is especially relevant in light of all of the changes happening these days with sexual harassment, office culture, and the #metoo movement. As if flight delays, lost luggage, and jet lag weren’t enough, two in five women say they’ve experienced sexual harassment or unwelcome interactions while traveling, according to a recent survey 

We acknowledge that it’s sad and wrong that there’s even a need for a post called “tips for women on avoiding unwanted advances during business travel” (and that many women feel like they have to change their behavior or appearance to avoid being hit on or harassed while traveling), but unfortunately, that’s the reality that most of us live in. (There also needs to be something to counter the pieces aimed at men with titles like “How to Pick Up Women on Airplanes” and “How to Pick Up Business Women in Hotel Bars.”) I also want to point out that we don’t want to imply that any woman should be blamed for unwanted attention if she doesn’t do the things below — we just thought it would be helpful to share some advice and ask readers for theirs.

Psst: We’ve previously shared business travel tips and tricks and discussed readers’ best self-defense tips, as well as given advice on how to handle a client hitting on you and how to stop a flirtatious boss from hitting on you. You may also want to check out our post on the best personal safety apps for women!

Here are some tips for avoiding unwanted advances during business travel:

  1. Get some mileage out of your RBF! While your resting bitch face may most often lead to people calling you a bitch behind your back, or compel men to tell you to smile, now you can use it to your advantage! Feel free to look as unapproachable as you want — hey, go wild and cross your arms too (while hoping it comes off as standoffish, not as “I’m so bored. Some unwanted male attention is just what I need!”) If ignoring a guy who’s staring at you doesn’t make him move on to his next target, return his gaze without changing your expression.
  2. Wear a fake wedding ring. This certainly won’t deter every man who’s thinking of approaching you, but it’ll work in some cases, and it’ll only cost you $10 or $15. Alternately, if you have a sparkly and conspicuous right-hand ring that will fit on your left hand, switch it when you need to. (Maybe you can use this as a justification to splurge and buy yourself one if you’ve been considering it…)
  3. Read a book. If you don’t have one handy, you can instead try to make it clear that you only have eyes for your Instagram feed. Be aware that this strategy can backfire (even when it’s not a strategy), as a writer for Cosmopolitan found when a guy saw her reading at a bar and insisted, “You’re just reading so some guy will hit on you.” (I mean, sure — that’s why I got my English degree.)
  4. Wear sunglasses. If you’re feeling especially uncomfortable, sunglasses can prevent a guy from believing your accidental eye contact is a conscious invitation. (Bonus: If you want to indulge in a bit of people-watching during that long layover, no one will be the wiser…)
  5. Use earbuds/headphones, whether or not you’re listening to something. On the other hand, a common safety tip for women is to only wear one earbud so that you can stay aware of your surroundings, but … that kind of defeats the purpose. You can always limit this strategy to situations and places where you feel reasonably safe, i.e., not walking back to your hotel alone at night.
  6. Resist any natural impulse to always be “nice.” Women are so often socialized to act “nice” and be people-pleasers, but if you’re tired of your polite/friendly behavior being interpreted as romantic interest, try to check yourself.
  7. If you’re traveling to a country where most women dress very differently than you normally do, try to blend in by dressing as conservatively as they do, within reason. (By the way, you can find a lot of reader comments on our post on what businesswomen should wear in the Middle East with specific recommendations for Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc.) Again, please don’t read this as us saying, “Of course she was hit on all the time — look at what she was wearing!”

What are YOUR best tips for women on avoiding unwanted advances during business travel? Do you find that some strategies work better than others? 

Further Reading with Tips for Women on Avoiding Unwanted Advances During Travel:

Image credit: Deposit Photos / Wavebreakmedia


  1. Absolutely numbers 1 and 6. Also read The Gift of Fear.

    • I have been a consultant for 11 years and have never been hit on/had unwanted advances while traveling which I have done frequently for most of my career. I guess my natural RBF helps with this.

      • You are very lucky. Every time I travel I wind up getting hit on by a bunch of guys at the hotel restaurants that I eat at. Iused to think that eating in a hotel restaurant was safer than going to a bar to get a light meal. As it turns out, men troll the restaurants looking for single women like me who they view as an easy mark. It’s all I can do to shoo them away. It’s almost as if I give off a scent that men home in on to satisfy their primal urges.

        I recommend a new trick. Tell them you are on meds, nearly fullyb recovered from a virulent strain of ghonorrea. It has worked for me!!

        • I prefer to eat in my room, not to avoid being hit on, but just because I don’t like eating alone in public. Not that you don’t deserve to be left alone while eating though.

      • Anonymous :

        I’ve never been hassled so I attribute it to RBF. But people ask me for directions all the time (regardless of if I am on travel myself), so I think that RBF is very selectively turning itself on at exactly the right time.

        +1 million to Gift of Fear

        • Ha, I get asked directions as well when I am traveling sometimes. Maybe it is because I am in business clothes rather than tourist clothes.

          • pugsnbourbon :

            I call it Resting Helpful Face. I’ve worked in customer service/public-facing jobs for so long I just always have a “sure, I’ll give ya a hand!” vibe.

          • I have had the cops ask me for directions while I was on travel before, and wearing a giant visitor badge. Definitely made me question that whole city…

  2. Anonymous :

    Tips 1 – 3 and 6 are useless. I have been hit on in hotel bars several times while wearing RBF and a (real) wedding ring, reading a book, and not being “nice.” The solution is never to visit the bar in a hotel that markets itself primarily to business travelers, especially a less expensive one.

  3. I travel anywhere from 30-40% of the time internationally, about half the time in developed places and half the the time not. I use city smarts if somewhere new regardless, but in more rural places or where I’ve never been before usually do research, provide my itinerary to a 3rd party in the office, and sometimes try to arrange a driver and suchlike.
    That said, I have zero f-ing patience anymore for the kind of sexist bs that often happens on business travel. I am not friendly on airplanes, in airports, with taxi drivers. I often wear a fake wedding ring and my blankest expression. On one particularly uncomfortable flight, the attendant wouldn’t give me the time of day, and I actually ‘went to the bathroom’ and asked three other rows of people if someone would swap with me, saying why, and someone did. I shouldn’t have to deal with this, and if I do, woe to the person who brings it haha.

    • Anonymous :

      +1 to the blank expression and zero friendliness. I’m not rude or mean, I’m just not friendly. That applies to every day interactions (especially in cabs) not just travel.

  4. What if you have the opposite problem (being invisible?) :

    I am so confused. I have traveled internationally a LOT for work, almost always by myself, and I have never had a problem. I am mid-30s now, size 4, dress nicely, long blonde hair. I basically look like someone everybody assumes get harassed.

    Men leave me alone on all 5 continents.

    • You might be projecting an attitude that says you will say “no” or won’t be an easy target. That’s not to say it’s on the victim, but that you could be more difficult than someone else who plays “nice.”

    • Different anon :

      Are they running over you? Crashing into you? Not noticing that you exist? If not, seems like you don’t actually have a problem.

    • This is a really weird comment.

    • Anonymous :

      What, you want to be harassed the rest of us fatties?

    • It’s those other two continents that will really get you.

    • How is this a problem? Do you want to be hit on by people who know you are not in town long term?

      • Blonde Lawyer :

        I tried assuming best intentions and maybe she would like some hook ups during her business travel.

    • In fairness to the OP, a lot of women who don’t get hit on have a very skewed view of it. They think it might be some nice guys and some jerks, or that the attention is flattering.

      They tend to not understand how utterly objectifying it is, and how *none* of it will lead to a lasting relationship.

    • Predators look for vulnerability, not conventional attractiveness. Maybe you look rich or like your boyfriend is in the mafia or like you are personally a black belt. Maybe you give off a sense of single-minded focus that leads creeps to move on to an easier target–or prevents you from noticing them.

      I also have never been hit on while traveling. I think for me it’s coming across as standoffish and aloof and looking really privileged. I think I’m also slightly more tense and alert (because of the unfamiliarity of my environment).

      At home, I am more likely to relax and let my guard down, and I think that’s why I’ve received more negative attention from men when not traveling.

      One piece of advice I have to avoid any unnecessary appearance of vulnerability. Keep your blood sugar up, have a backup plan for if things go wrong, and if you need help with anything, go straight to an official source of help or to someone you have pre-identified as trustworthy (do not get in a situation where you are confused, feel unwell, need directions, etc., and the companions who want to help you have ulterior motives).

      • Anonymous :

        Yes, this. I think it’s confidence that heads off some harrassment. Walking directly to places, not checking your phone for directions in an obvious way, “I got this” when people ask if you need help. . .etc.

      • She is VERY lucky. I am naturally nice (unfortunately) and as a result whenever I go on a busness trip, men come up to me even to ask direction’s, when I havent any idea where I am either. But even if they are abel to strike up a conversation with me, it NEVER goes anywhere b/c I will NOT go out to eat with them or even have a drink. I tell them I am there to WORK, not socialize with them b/c I will never see them again b/c I live in NYC and I travel to places like Pitsburgh, Hartford, and all sorts of places’s in Upstate NY where the judges are not as smart as the judge I like in Manahattan.

    • KateMiddletown :

      There are 7 continents.

    • Anonymous :

      Men sexually harass, catcall, and hit on women of all shapes and sizes, even women who completely cover themselves.

      • Ouch that hurts! :

        Yes – it’s power drives and craziness. NEVER is what the victim is doing, is not doing, or looks like. Thanks for reminding us all.

    • Alanna of Trebond :

      It’s because you’re old and fat.


      Sorry I realize this is an unhelpful comment.

    • Anonymous :


    • They’re intimidated by you because you’re more attractive than they are.

  5. I am team fake wedding ring!

    A few months back when I was travelling, a cab driver started hitting on me. He asked what my area of the country had that my hometown does not. “My husband!”

    I am not married, but I told my SO what happened, and he thought it was a great response.

  6. I am not the most attractive woman in the world and I do get hit on all the time while traveling. I need to curb my impulse to be friendly. I’m a Californian and I think our native casualness sometimes comes across as I-want-to-be-friends to people from other regions.

    When I was single I honestly didn’t mind it if I found the other person attractive, but I’m married now and I’d prefer not to be hit on, of course. I don’t mind having a brief conversation with my seat mate, especially if there’s some common business connection (I am all about networking!) but before long it tends to turn into complaints about the wife, and I know from experience where that is headed.

    I find “good luck with that” and turning my attention to my work or the direcTv movie helps. But is not foolproof when dealing with an actual fool.

    • Maybe its because I’m a native NY-er and we DO NOT make small talk, much less on public transit/flights, but the idea of being sucked into conversation with my seat mate when I know I can’t leave the area is my own personal hell.

      • Southerner and I dread conversations with seat mates as they can sometimes be hard to end. I try to avoid eye contact with my seatmates and look super busy/interested in a book, my phone, laptop, etc. right from the beginning.

    • What I have learned over the years is that many, many, many (to the point that i almost think “most”) married men who do frequent business travel are totally open to and seeking random hookups while on the road.

      Something like “what happens at the Cleveland Doubletree stays at the Cleveland Doubletree”

      • Gail the Goldfish :

        Ew. I luckily have not dealt with random men hitting on me during business travel, but I avoid hotel bars (and eating at bars–I ask for a table) and have an excellent RBF.

      • Anonymous :

        Yes. ew. Especially because I actually stay in a Cleveland Doubletree all.the.time. (I do eat alone there, but at a table, not the bar, and with a kindle or a magazine. Maybe no one hits on someone doing the Sunday Times crossword puzzle? Good.

        • This was me.

          • Hahahha I just made up the Cleveland Doubletree but your response cracked me up!

            And yes, I’m sure there are road warrior hookups going down there all the time, and at every other hotel.

      • Yep. I used to work in a frequent travel role and most of my married, male colleagues were open to hookups on the road.

  7. Also – I almost always eat at the bar of a restaurant (yay for sushi bars!) or order room service. Almost every single bartender ever (especially the female ones) has taken excellent care of me and if necessary helped me get rid of overly “friendly” men. I am also really careful when returning to my room if there is a man behind me, always use the deadbolt, and AM NOT shy about using my natural RBF and thousand yard stare to avoid any attempts at eye contact. It also helps to share what you go through with male colleagues. Not that they SHOULD have to feel like they need to take care of you but after my boss heard some of my horror stories from business travel he now always makes a point to accompany me to my room if I ask, put me in a taxi/car service with someone else and has made it very clear that he’s got my back.
    The harassment is better now than it was when I was a 20-something traveling but some of the behavior I’ve dealt with is just mind boggling, especially at industry conferences – like, dude, I know your name and where you work, do you seriously want me to inform your company that you stalked me back to my hotel after I ignored your invite to ‘take me to dinner and shopping’ after previously discussing your WIFE and teenage daughter at the rubber chicken luncheon? Ugh.

    • Yeah but my wife isn’t interesting like you. All she ever wants to talk about is the kids.

      – actual quote

  8. Good L*rd :

    Is anyone else getting a blow-up of the picture for this post which shoes that it was taken at what seems to be a wildly inappropriate angle?


  9. Anonymous :

    I wear a fake wedding ring when I travel internationally because I don’t want to project wealth or lose the real one. I bought a simple $15 sterling silver band.

  10. Anonymous :

    RBF, real wedding ring, not being “nice,” and reading a book have not worked for me. The only thing that works is avoiding hotel bars.

    • Room service works for me!

    • Anonymous :


      If I’m in a hotel, I’m in my room. No hotel bars or restaurants. I order room service and I’m on the phone when they come to the door to deliver even if I’m just talking to my own answering machine at home. DH is used to ‘room service’ messages.

      • I also always ask for 2 keys when checking in so it looks like someone else is joining me.

      • Rainbow Hair :

        JFC I hate the world we live in.

        • Rainbow Hair :

          Also, though, I basically stayed holed up in my hotel room the last time I was in Las Vegas, and that did not prevent a drunk dude from seriously trying to break down the door in the middle of the night. Who knows if it was a gendered thing, but it was certainly extra scary to be a woman alone in that situation.

  11. I travel all the time and can identify with many of the experiences on the board.

    RBF, eating at the bar, looking preoccupied helps.

    Also, can I say – reading through some of these comments – I’m so sad thinking about all the measures we have to take to protect ourselves.

    • The last paragraph are my thoughts exactly.

    • Rainbow Hair :

      One thing I will say is that I have great experience with other women; it’s such bulls**t that we have to go through life protecting ourselves, but I’m heartened by how we protect one another. I can often signal in a really low key way like “ugh this f***ing guy won’t buzz off…” to a woman near me at the hotel bar or whatever, and she’ll help me extract myself, and I do the same for other women too.

  12. biglawanon :

    I don’t think any of this is useful because there is no way to avoid it. If a guy is determined to bug you, he will.

    Better would be advice on how to deal with it when it happens. A lot of people who learn you are not interested will back off. Some won’t. For those, if you are in a public place where you are trapped (i.e., airplane) or just don’t want to leave (restaurant), and someone really won’t back off, ask for help from those around you. A flight attendant may be able to reseat you. I have also had success at gettig a man in an equivalent seat to switch with me. Bartenders/waiters also tend to have zero patience for this behavior.

    Another example is that I was recently traveling internationally and a guy asked me if he could take my photo and then he kept trying to take my picture after I said no. I was in an immigration line in a foreign country, called over a police/immigration officer who was around, and he removed him from the situation.

  13. I keep it moving, as in, I scout nearby places to eat on an app based on reviews and stay away from hotel meals when it’s a conference. It’s been pretty rare that I haven’t been able to find a place nearby that’s a better experience AND with high ratings, it’s fairly busy with people.

    I do have RBF and will read (book, paper, and on my iPad) whatever’s next for Do Not Engage body language. It took a while to get my personal boundaries in order, but it is a wonder not to have to deal with unwanted behavior. I do check in if it looks like others are being bothered, and talk to the boys and young men in my family about how to NOT be That Guy or Those Guys via current events.

  14. biglawanon :

    I don’t think any of this is useful because there is no way to avoid it. If a guy is determined to bug you, he will.

    Better would be advice on how to deal with it when it happens. A lot of people who learn you are not interested will back off. Some won’t. For those, if you are in a public place where you are trapped (i.e., airplane) or just don’t want to leave (restaurant), and someone really won’t back off, ask for help from those around you. A flight attendant may be able to reseat you. I have also had success at gettig a man in an equivalent seat to switch with me. Bartenders/waiters also tend to have zero patience for this behavior.

    Another example is that I was recently traveling internationally and a guy asked me if he could take my photo and then he kept trying to take my picture after I said no. I was in an immigration line in a foreign country, called over a police/immigration officer who was around, and he removed him from the situation. .

  15. Fake wedding rings? Gonorrhea? Telling them about your husband? I’m sorry if this comes across as crusty but these “solutions” all seem sort of childish. A simple “no thank you,” is sufficient (or it should be – we need to keep reinforcing that it is). Wild excuses, making oneself “unappealing,” and being unavailable continue to put the onus on women to have a “reason.”

    I travel alone semi-regularly and am sometimes friendly/chatty with strangers. If someone gets too friendly for my comfort level I stop talking with them or move if I can. If I was propositioned (I have never been hit on while traveling that I can recall) I would say, “no thank you.” If I had to, I would ask someone for help or leave the area completely. Making up all this silly stuff is not helping you or anyone else.

    I agree that books, little eye contact, and earbuds can discourage any chatty friend-maker and I use these tactics regularly to send the “do not talk to me signal.”

    • Yeah, I am having the same issues with this post and the comments. I don’t understand why we can’t just be direct. It’s a lot easier and more effective than all these weird “strategies.”

      I hate room service and always eat at the bar, either at the hotel restaurant or at a restaurant outside the hotel if I’m in the mood to explore. I’m an extrovert and often enjoy a nice chat with a friendly stranger. If I’m not in the mood to chat, I tend to have my kindle or a newspaper with me. And if someone talks to me when I don’t want to have a conversation, I’ll first try a couple very brief answers and then smile apologetically and say “sorry, not in the mood to chat.” I use the same strategy with both men and women and it works just fine. If someone was being really aggressive, I’d probably just leave, but that has never happened.

    • You are admitting that you haven’t had this problem (being propositioned while traveling) while at the very same time denigrating other women’s attempts to reproduce your experience of NOT being propositioned while traveling.

      Hypotheticals about how things would have gone are not helpful. You are the one who is making up how well things would go if women would just say “no, thank you.” Some of us have experienced that this does not always go over well!

      • I have been hit on in life, just not in work travel.

      • I have not had this problem but it sounds like from the comments that sometimes just saying no doesn’t work and it’s easier to avoid the issue than stop it once it occurs. Let’s not judge and criticize women for how they deal with situations they didn’t ask for.

  16. What is with this post? Why are we sitting around talking about how we can change our behavior to keep from being harassed? This is part of the problem. How many men spend a minute thinking about this stuff? Oh. My. God. Get back to work!

    • Amen.

    • How does this help the women who deal with unwanted advances? This is a real problem and I agree we need men to stop doing this but in the meantime we need to protect ourselves and do what we can to help ourselves.

      • “In the meantime”? There is no meantime. There is no time that’s ok until there comes a time when it’s not. It’s not ok now. Demand management kick them out. Publicly shame. Call the cops. Scream. Throw drinks in faces. Threaten bodily injury. It is never the harassed fault for being harassed and we never have to “deal” with it.

        • Rainbow Hair :

          I was composing alternate titles in my head:

          On The Road? Where To Find Trashcans Large Enough For Your Harassers

          It’s OK To Throw Your Drink, But Remember To Tip Well

          It’s A Mitzvah: Help Other Women Ward Off Creeps

          • Yes! I’d click on all those. Also,

            Regaining your composure after making a scene.

            Creative uses for pointy-toed pumps.

          • The Middle Finger – When It’s OK To Use Both

  17. Rainbow Hair :

    This headline is trash. This headline is trash. This. Headline. Is. Trash.

    • Rainbow Hair :

      OK I read the post and she put in some disclaimers, fine, but

      … If anyone wants to grab a torch and a pitchfork and join me tonight, I’m going to my regular feminist beer drinking meetup at 7:30, and after that I’m burning everything to the ground, and y’all are welcome to help.

  18. Rainbow Hair :

    I hate this so much.

    Victims of harassment should’ve been bitchier? Or should’ve pretended they were property of another man? Maybe they should’ve worn darker sunglasses?

    Cool, thanks.

    • I know. I totally feel you on that.

      Where are these feminist beers happening. I’ll bring my lighter.

      • Rainbow Hair :

        Inland Empire, Southern California! Come on down!

        • NorCal. Tempted.

          • Rainbow Hair :

            Pick up my sister and carpool down!

          • Rainbow Hair :

            I’m always trying to bribe her to move down here with tales of feminist brewery hopping… also I’m profoundly outing myself. Ah well, hi pals.

          • Anonymous :

            I hate beer but I will join you for feminist brewery hopping. Beats the male chauvinist brewery hopping I do on the road with my colleagues (who do know better than to hit on me).

  19. Anonymous :

    Here’s my tip: Room Service. Also, I can be in my pjs.

  20. Anonymous :

    Do any of the women here go to the hotel bar to try to meet someone and hookup? I haven’t seen anyone talking about that side of things, and a bar is a pretty typical place to try to meet someone just for a one night fling regardless of location. Plus, why are you sitting at a bar NOT to talk to people? I understand that part of the advice is what to do if making advances turns into not taking no for an answer/harassment/following you to your room but as other commenters have said, if you don’t want to talk to anyone, get a table.

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