Traveling safely while online dating

Many people love traveling. The opportunity to see new places, try delicious food, and experience new cultures can be exciting and eye-opening. One way to experience new places is to interact with the people who live there. Sometimes this means meeting people at a local restaurant or coffee shop or using dating apps when traveling. This can be an effective way to meet people, but traveling safely while online dating is imperative. This includes recognizing red flags or concerning behaviors and keeping yourself safe online and in real life.

Traveling and online dating red flags

Whether you meet someone in your hometown or abroad, on a dating app or IRL, there are red flags that can be a warning of future abuse. Below are some behaviors that indicate someone could be unhealthy or abusive.

Embarrassing you or putting you down.

When you meet someone you’re interested in (whether romantically or as friends) they should be kind! This could be a red flag for emotional abuse later on.

Looking at you and talking or acting in ways that scare you or make you uncomfortable.

This could bring up an uneasy feeling you can’t explain, nervous energy, or an “ick” feeling.

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

They act one way online or when you first meet up, but then something shifts, and they act differently. You want to be with someone who is consistent in their words and actions.

They always want to know where you are and who you are with

Keeping tabs on someone is often a sign of control (which is what abuse is all about).

Pressuring you to do things you don’t want.

It could be pressure to keep talking after you said you weren’t interested or insist that you meet up in person to hang out. If you meet someone, they could force you to drink, do drugs, or do more than you are comfortable with. They could also pressure you to be intimate when you don’t want to. Whether it’s a kiss or sex, you shouldn’t feel pressured to do something you don’t want to.

Not respecting your boundaries.

This could mean giving you a hug when you wanted a handshake or continuing to ask about a topic after you said you didn’t want to discuss. If someone violates your boundaries, it shows they don’t value or respect your thoughts and feelings.

Meeting people online and traveling safely

Some people use dating apps when traveling to meet new people. Use these steps to stay safe while online dating while traveling:

Keep personal information private.

You don’t have to share your hometown, where you live, or the name of your workplace. Only share what you are comfortable with.

Be careful about sharing your travel plans.

You don’t have to tell a new person where you are staying or if you are traveling alone or in a group.

Be careful with what you text someone, especially if it’s explicit or sexual (like sexting or exchanging photos).

Some people may use these to pressure or coerce you into doing something you don’t want to do, or they may share what you sent with everyone by posting them in other spaces without your permission.

Be honest and direct about what you are looking for.

Be up front and direct about what you want from the interaction. You can say, “I’m visiting and just want to meet cool people to talk to; I’m not looking for anything else.”

Set your communication boundaries.

Clearly state how you want to talk to them. Instead of sharing your phone number or using other apps like WhatsApp, you might want only to use the dating app.

Set your physical boundaries.

You only have to do things you want. If you don’t want to be intimate with someone or even kiss them, you can say, “We’ve just met, and we aren’t at that level of connection. No thanks.”

Set your emotional boundaries.

You only have to talk about things you’re comfortable with, nothing more. 

Online and social media safety tips

Social media is a great way to meet new people when traveling.  It can also be used to harass or abuse someone. It can even be used to find out where someone is. Take advantage of these safety tips:

Change your profile to private while traveling.

This gives you control over who can or cannot see your profile. It also makes it difficult for someone to locate or talk to you if you don’t want them to.

Be protective of your personal information.

Remove personal information such as emails, websites, or phone numbers from your account bio. For added safety, you can change your profile name or picture to make it harder for someone to find you online.

Disable others’ ability to tag you in their photos or posts.

This makes it more difficult for someone to use your social media profile to track you while traveling.

Don’t post others’ information or pictures without their consent.

You never know what someone is experiencing in their personal life. They may not want people to see what they are doing, so it’s important to get consent before posting anything about them online, especially if you tag them!

Keep your location private.

If you’re worried about someone finding where you are, make sure photos keep your location private (for example, in front of your hotel or a famous landmark).

Traveling safely and meeting in person

Sometimes when traveling, you connect with someone to the point that you want to meet them in person. Consider these tips to stay safe:

Meet them in a public space.

You don’t have to go to their home to hang out or have them over where you’re staying. You can say:

  • “I want to see this park while I’m here. Do you want to meet there?”
  • “I’d be happy to meet at XYZ for coffee or drinks.”

It may help you feel comfortable if you choose the place to meet, so you can vet it beforehand!

Meet the person AT the date location.

When you meet there, you have control over when you share your address. You could say:

  • “I’m already out and near there, so I will meet you there!”
  • “I’ve got something before then, so I will just meet you there.”
Arrange your own transportation.

Whether using a rideshare or public transportation, it’s a good idea to get their on your own. This gives you more control over when you leave and lets you keep where you are staying private.

Tell someone you trust about the date.

Share where you’ll be, when you plan on getting there, and how long you expect to be there. If traveling solo, you can still tell a friend or family member about the date.

Don't leave drinks unattended.

Different substances impairing or incapacitating you can be slipped into a drink. If you don’t want to drink alcohol, you can say:

  • “I’m okay; I’ll stick with this (a nonalcoholic drink).
  • “I’m not feeling well, so no alcohol for me.”
Don't leave personal items unattended.

Your purse, wallet, or phone has sensitive information which could be used to harass you after a date. Some apps can be downloaded that share locations or mimic texts and emails. Trackers may also be slipped into a purse or jacket, allowing the person to see where you are traveling.

If you feel uncomfortable, leave!

It’s okay to end a date early if you feel even the slightest discomfort with the person. You don’t need to validate or explain why you are leaving and should not feel guilty for ending a date early. It’s okay to walk away without saying anything but here are some things you could say:

  • “Something has come up, and I need to go. Have a good night!”
  • “Hold on; I need to call back a friend quickly. Let me go do that.” You can step away and then come back, saying that you need to leave.
  • “I have a big day planned (or early morning for a tour) tomorrow, and I need to go. Bye!”

If you need help leaving, talk to the bartender or server privately. They can help you leave or remove the other person from the building. You could say:

  • “Hey, I’m here with someone I met online, and they are giving me serious creep vibes. Could you help me get out of here through a backdoor or something?”

Get help 

Traveling can be fun and exciting, especially when you meet new people. Our advocates are here 24/7 if you have questions or concerns about traveling safely while online dating.