The State Department’s worldwide travel alert in effect until February 24, 2016 may affect your decision to travel this holiday season, and well after the New Year begins. Should you fly or visit highly trafficked tourist sites?
The worldwide travel alert does not need to be the deciding factor for your vacation plans. With a bit of travel know-how and research, you can take that well-deserved trip you have worked so hard for. Let’s take a look at some tips and expert suggestions for your vacation this holiday season.
Not so fast… no need to cancel! The State Department has issued four worldwide travel alerts since May of 2011 with the last being issued on December 19, 2014 after a 16-hour hostage situation in a Sydney cafe, according to Time. A State Department spokesperson told The Huffington Post that this worldwide travel alert is not as severe as many may think. The increase in terrorist activities may have sparked the alert, but following a few protocols when traveling may be sufficient for a safe and enjoyable vacation.
The State Department suggests that U.S. citizens utilize the following strategies when traveling during the worldwide travel alert:
- “Follow the instructions of local authorities. Monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.
- Be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions.
- Stay in touch with your family members and ensure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency.
- Register in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).”
Do your travel homework. Planning is the foundation of any vacation, whether it be booking hotels, flights, and car rentals or checking Tripadvisor recommendations — and of course ensuring safety. You can easily google your destination and find the State Department’s travel precautions, as well as some breaking local news. Enrolling in the State Department’s STEP program is an excellent way to stay on top of what you may want to avoid during your travels.
Know the risks of walking around with cameras or cell phones. Take time to hash out a plan if something were to go awry, like arranging meet-up points. Also have a plan in place for passport, money and credit card safety, making photocopies and writing down key information, like international toll-free phone numbers to call in case of emergency.
Stay diligent and use common sense. Most of the news reports you here about travelers going missing or being locked up abroad, usually involves a brain fart in common sense and diligence. If you are walking around at 3 a.m. drunk in any country, including the U.S., the likelihood of getting into trouble increases significantly. Every morning, browse the local newspaper or watch the news on television. There are normally English media outlets of some kind in most countries.
In many places, professional con artists make their livelihood off naive tourists. If a deal or offer seems too good to be true, or is nearly half the price your hotel concierge is offering, then maybe it is best to pass. Spending that little bit extra and researching reputable vendors will ensure you don’t get ripped off.
“Don’t do anything on the road you wouldn’t do at home,” Jennifer Michaels, a vice president at the American Society of Travel Agents told The Huffington Post. “Don’t feel you can walk alone at midnight in a foreign city, for example, when you would never consider doing that back at home. Use common sense.”
Are you planning to travel during the worldwide travel alert?
—The Alternative Daily