Female Road Warriors see much progress in the travel world's treatment of women, but they still have many gender-related concerns.

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Emilie Kroner believes it's getting easier for a woman to travel frequently on business.

"Thanks to social collaboration and godsend sites like GChat and Skype, I'm able to virtually eat dinner with my kids, hear about their day, see the excitement on their faces, read them a bedtime story and say prayers before they go to sleep," she says.

Kroner, a management consultant in Loveland, Ohio, says all that "would have been almost impossible" to do 10 years ago.

She and many female Road Warriors — frequent business travelers who volunteer information to USA TODAY — have faced many gender-related challenges through the years. They see a different — and better — world of travel for women today.

Faith Varwig, a security consultant in Olivette, Mo., has traveled frequently on business for more than 30 years and remembers the hardships she encountered.

Hotels and airports didn't carry "any products" for women or families decades ago, she recalls.

"Try to find a pair of pantyhose in an airport in 1988," she says. "Food was also geared to a males, with steaks and burgers first on the menu."

Varwig says companies in the travel industry "have done a much better job" catering to women.

"Airport retail shops provide a large variety of products and services geared toward female travelers," she says. "Restaurant menus have changed to better, lighter fare. Hotels have in-room products such as makeup remover, hand lotion, cotton swabs and other items frequently used by females."

Samantha Yamamoto, a clinical consultant in Brookline, Mass., says that when she started traveling frequently on business eight years ago, many hotels did not recognize a woman's needs.

"I could only find a shaving kit in the bathroom," she remembers. "The bath robe and slippers were way too big for my 5-foot-3 size."

Yamamoto says she was "very uncomfortable" in airport and hotel executive lounges eight years ago, because only one or two women were in them. With more solo female business travelers on the road today, she feels more welcome in the lounges and eating alone in restaurants.

Despite the positive changes, women on the road still encounter gender-related problems.

Yamamoto says "some cultures still downgrade" female business travelers, and she has had "quite a few uncomfortable moments" in some Asian countries.

During a trip to Japan, she says she met business partners for the first time, and they "did not recognize my position." They preferred doing business with her male co-worker, she says.

There are also security concerns.

Hotel security was lax years ago — and has improved — but needs more improvement, Varwig says.

Many hotels "still have substandard" security and closed-circuit TV systems and inadequate lighting in parking areas, she says.

Hotels should train their bartenders not to ask customers for their room numbers, Varwig says, because others nearby may overhear.

Going through airport security at carry-on baggage checkpoints — where liquids are restricted to 3.4 ounces or less — "presents problems to many women," she says. "Many higher-end beauty products don't offer travel sizes, which creates an endless task of refilling little bottles."

Screening requirements also "limit my clothes and shoe purchases," Varwig says. "No shoes with metal in them, no shoes that buckle or tie, in case I have to remove them. No heavy metallic belts, and I only pack clothes that don't wrinkle easily."

Carol Margolis, who has two websites, SmartWomenTravelers.com and BusinessTravelSuccess.com, may be the ultimate expert about women on the road. She has traveled frequently on business for more than 25 years and spent more than 100 nights this year in hotels.

Margolis says, in the past, she "dreaded" telling people she had children at home. Too many people would have "attitudes of 'how can you do that to your kids?' and 'what does your husband say about that?'" she recalls.

Margolis says the difficulties she faces today are "not external" but personal challenges.

"I want to do it all — be a great wife and mother, as well as travel the world," she says. "So I make lots of food on Sunday to last my husband the week, and that helps reduce my guilt for not being home."

Kroner, who has two daughters, Abby, 4, and Kate, 2, says "the mom guilt can be jarring and makes the travel challenging."

Varwig says her husband, Steve, has been "a work-at-home dad" for 24 years. She says they agreed "early on" they wanted one person to focus on raising the family, and her career had the most earning potential.

"It was really hard on our relationship when the kids were young," recalls the mother of two sons, Zachary, now 24, and Aaron, 21. "People at day care thought my husband was kidding about being married. I missed games, recitals and events that were very difficult to miss as a mother."

Kathryn Alice of Malibu, Calif., says frequent travel "has, in the past, added strain to my marriage."

Her husband and children "hate" when she is away, so she sometimes takes them with her on business trips.

Taking the family along is sometimes "more stress to deal with" after a long workday, "but I'm much less lonely and feel like I get more support," says the vice president in the publishing industry.

The many years on the road have soured Varwig's fondness for business travel.

"As I get older, I dislike travel more and more each day," she says. "It's harder to keep up with the random hours, lack of consistent diet and exercise, and other challenges middle-age women face as they get older."

Margolis hasn't lost the love of the road and, now that her children are in their 30s, her husband, Bruce, sometimes comes along.

"Travel has enhanced our life greatly in many ways," she says. "Sharing travel with my spouse and family has given us precious time together — special memories that we can share and laugh and reminisce about when we're home."

Expert tips for female business travelers

Traveling moms should engage their children in their travels. Ask the kids to draw postcards illustrating their day, share a kitchen recipe related to where you are traveling and have them help plan your next vacation.
Color-coordinate your closet for easy packing. For example, put all black skirts and slacks together, and do the same for red-toned tops.
Call home each day, and let your partner know your itinerary. With good communication, trust goes up, and stress goes down.
Make time for yourself without feeling guilty. Consider this a mandatory rejuvenation for you and your relationships.
-- Carol Margolis,

SmartWomenTravelers.com

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