Travel means adventure, and while adventure often means discovering amazing new places, adventure can occasionally lead you into difficult situations. While going to a new place can be a way to get your heart-racing, make sure it's racing for all the right reasons by doing everything you can beforehand to make sure you're traveling safely.
The web site for the U.S. Department of State is a good place to find out more about where you're going and what to expect when you get there. They have information on what areas you might best avoid and at what times, what types of scams and crimes are prevalent in tourist areas and also let you know about the current political situation in your destination. (Helpful tip, this information is also available in the RoamRight app!)
While at the State Department Web site, register your trip through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program or STEP. By enrolling, you'll get regular updates from your destination Embassy about safety conditions in that country. If an emergency does occur, the Embassy knows how to contact you. Before you leave, you can also give Embassy contact information to your family and friends and they'll have one more way to get in touch with you in case of emergency. Also, don't forget to take down the embassy contact info and physical address for yourself.
Outside of physical injury, what could have the biggest impact on your trip is losing your passport. While this is never an easy situation, you can make it a bit easier by being able to access your passport number. Give the number to a trusted friend or family member you can reach easily from outside the U.S. Take a photo of the first page with your smart-phone and keep it stored on the phone - the RoamRight app encrypts it to store it securely. Finally, make a photocopy of the first page and keep it in your suitcase in case you aren't able to go online.
You don't want to keep extra copies of your cards on your phone or in your suitcase, because someone might access them, but you do want to have a list of where you would need to call to cancel your cards. Again, on your phone and in your suitcase are both good spots.
Call your credit card companies before you leave and let them know where you'll be and for how long. Although we should be grateful that our banks will take aggressive efforts to protect us, it's best to avoid having your card cancelled.
Always carry the equivalent of $100 cash on you, split into two different places, be it your wallet, shoe, bra, etc. Yes, we live in a digital age where money gets moved around electronically, but there are simply some cases where you'll need cash to get back to the hotel or out of a tight situation. If you don't use it, you can always exchange it later or hang on to it as motivation to plan another trip to that country.
Travel insurance covers things like medical services, missed connections, lost luggage, emergency evacuations, assistance with lost documents like a passport, cutting your trip short due to family illness and many other areas. There are as many different reasons to get a plan as there are travelers, and insurance packages can be tailored to specific needs.
You can also download the free RoamRight app before your trip to stay abreast of current safety warnings in your destinations and to keep track of your policy information.
There's nothing as exciting as exploring a new place, but you'll enjoy it even more if you arrive at that spot with the peace of mind of knowing you've done what you can to make your trip safe.
What other safety tips would you add to this list?
Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin are hosts of The Travel Brigade Show - a weekly travel and destination podcast. Kathleen Curry is experienced in both the travel industry and broadcasting. She has worn the hats of travel writer, photographer, travel agent and hospitality evaluator. Her advice of, “No excuses, just travel!” reaches out to listeners who pick up on her enthusiasm for travel and benefit from her savvy advice. Her travel guilty pleasures are eating at a street-cart vendor so she can splurge later to order room service, finding deals to rack up sky miles so she can book her next flight and hoping her social security comes through some day because she has spent her future retirement savings trekking the globe.
Geoff Griffin is a reformed attorney turned travel junkie with over two decades of experience as a journalist and editor specializing in sports, outdoor recreation and travel. His current philosophy is that there are two stages in life - You’re either on a trip, or you’re planning your next trip. His travel guilty pleasure is trying recreation adventures that require the use of an expert guide to keep him from harming himself or hopping on a plane knowing nothing about his destination other than the airport code and wandering about a new town while relying on the locals to point him to the best places.
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