Traveling while Black

Marion Edwards (TheLorian)

Imagine finding yourself in your car broken down. One: in the middle of nowhere, two: with nothing but a cell phone with no signal, and three: all of this occurring ‘while being Black’. The dangers of ‘traveling while Black’ is the unfortunate reality Black people have come to live with in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic, in many ways, exposed several issues in America, of them being strained race relations. As people try to go back to a sense of ‘normalcy,’ minority populations continue to take extra precautions while traveling. Here are some different tips on how to save money and stay safe when ‘traveling while Black’:

Traveling with a group: One of the first and most important things to do when traveling is to notify someone that you’re going to be traveling or having a travel buddy. When traveling, having someone to ‘watch your back’ can often save your life. As it is important to watch out for yourself, having someone to help you throughout can make a huge difference.

‘Traveling while Black’ may mean that being pulled over by law enforcement may occur. Keeping your hands present on the dashboard and answering the officer’s questions as clearly as possible can mean the difference between life and death in 2021.

Research your destination: Knowing when and where you’re traveling to is a very important step. Understanding possible living spaces, cultural life, customs, and events happening can possibly save your life. Kendra Pierson, a family designated travel researcher discusses that ‘traveling while Black’ means research is the most vital step.

“I rely very heavily on the recommendations of friends and Black travel bloggers. I know that my friends are going to share the honest truth based upon their experiences. I love my friends who are non-Black family travel bloggers but we’re not always going to have the same experience” said Pierson in her article about tips for ‘traveling while Black’.

Being aware of the racial history and current events within the area you’re visiting can help you properly prepare for avoiding certain stopping areas, or even a possible destination change. 

Look for Recommendations and Referral Codes: ‘Traveling while Black’ may also mean that certain places may not be the most welcoming or safest for yourself or family.

“Search the destination’s website and marketing materials for images of multicultural families. It demonstrates a commitment to welcoming a diverse group of visitors….Stick with popular tourist destinations; they are more likely to draw large, multicultural crowds. That means local residents are more likely to be exposed to people of color…Ask friends who have visited and research reviews by families like yours” said Pierson.

Understanding the welcoming nature of the place you’re visiting can mean the difference between a good and bad trip.

One of the best parts about traveling is being able to do it nearly for free. One of the suggestions includes finding referral codes.

“If you have friends who enjoy traveling, ask them about a referral code. When you are booking your trip, you can enter this code and get a discount after creating a new account” said Kristina Byas in an article about avoiding racism while traveling.

Many companies offer the opportunity to use referral codes to get discounted items for lodging and transportation. 

Negotiate with the host: When staying at an Airbnb or any other new place, being communicative of the intentions of the amount of people staying, how long, and what restrictions there may be allow the host to be more open to negotiating lodging pricing. To ensure a reasonable lodging price and to avoid discriminatory practices by the host, communication is key. In being able to have some control over how much money you spend on housing while on vacation, it also allows people a safe space to stay.

“Airbnb and other rental platforms allow hosts to set the price for their homes. This means that you can negotiate the cost of lodging with potential hosts. To ensure their home is booked and they make money, hosts may drop the price…” said Byas.

Use flexible dates and filters: As much as traveling at a certain time of the year is great, finding the most affordable and safe times to travel are crucial for a safe trip. Planning a trip in advance allows for any small, key details such as how much money, food, gas, and lodging will be allows for you to be prepared. ‘Traveling while Black’ can also mean that traveling at night is not the safest option, as there can be more weariness and cause for more high tensioned police practices during that time.

“For example, if we have to pass through a destination with a reputation for violence against Blacks or an area where residents and businesses proudly display the Confederate flag, we wouldn’t drive at night. We’re afraid that if we break down at night we may not be helped by passersby who would see my husband as a threat” said Pierson.

Prepare for the worst: In terms of currency, driving through different toll roads, rest stops to get snacks and gas, and even places to eat can add up. Instead of having a lot of money in your wallet, using a travel credit card may be a safer option especially while traveling through unfamiliar places. Be prepared to have a paper map, technology may not always be the best guide when there is no internet. Lastly, preparing the vehicle you’re traveling in with spare tires, snacks, water, and other vital travel essentials can help avoid unneeded stops. 

Many of the tips described may apply to anyone traveling but these are specifically important for Black people or any person of color to acknowledge. As the world is changing and attempting to embrace all cultures and races, there is still much to be done and much to be concerned about. May we see a day where the color of our skin does not obstruct us from the opportunities and experiences of life we are rightful to enjoy.

Byas, Kristina. “Airbnb While Black: How to Avoid Racism While Traveling.” Million Mile Secrets. 01 Feb. 2021. Web. Apr. 2021.

Pierson, Kendra. “Black Family Travel Tips: Traveling Mom.” 30 Sept. 2020. Web. Apr. 2021.

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Written By :

Currently a junior at Loras College. Majoring in Media Studies. Student-reporting for Loras College Television. Originally from Chicago, IL, passionate about creating amazing content.

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