Frightening travel alerts, amplified by the 24-hour news cycle and lots of genuinely bad news, have become a daily occurrence… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Although terror incidents, strikes, swarms of refugees, Zika and extreme politics have affected travelers the past few years, these crises usually don’t deter young parents from traveling the world with their children.
But should they cause concern?
The U.S. Department of State’s most recent Worldwide Caution Travel Alert was issued in July 2018. Given the possibility of encountering a terrorist incident, health hazard, or weather-related disaster in any part of the world, many families still don’t hesitate to plan their dream vacation.
With that in mind, we share eight ways to use travel alerts, news bulletins and preparedness to ensure safe travels with loved ones in a troubled world.
1. Listen if the State Department Urges Caution
The July 2, 2018 Worldwide Caution issued by the Department of State says: “As terrorist attacks, political violence (including demonstrations), criminal activities, and other security incidents often take place without any warning, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness when traveling abroad.” We agree completely.
Despite the risks, tourism continues to grow. According to the UNWTO/GTERC Asia Tourism Trends – 2018 report, Asia and the Pacific, the second-most visited region after Europe, grows at 6%, the fastest in international tourist arrivals since 2005. The strong U.S. dollar continues to make foreign travel more affordable and will likely boost international tourism.
2. Keep Up with News
Travelers should read country specific information pages, travel warnings, and travel alerts on travel.state.gov, the Canadian Travel Advice and Advisories and the U.K.’s Foreign Travel Advice pages to understand what they’re in for.
3. Bargains May be Too Good to be True
Although travel bargains are a big draw, if discounted prices mean a region is recovering from a hurricane or a devastating military incident, that news should tell you this might not be the year to take your family. Consider the pro’s and con’s of fire sale destinations before you book a trip.
4. Paper Up with ID and Documents
Have all your personal photo ID documents in order, including student IDs for the kids. Be sure to arrange for Permission to Travel letters if your minors are traveling with friends, a school group, or other instance without legal guardians present.
5. Research Passport & Visa Needs
It’s possible to apply for a passport through your local authorized passport agency, if you have 12 weeks’ lead time. However, we recommend using a specialized service to help with visa and passport requirements if you’ve never done this before, and certainly if you have less than 30 days prior to departure and need expedited services. Whether there’s a sudden death in the family that requires your clan to visit another country, or you discover that your passport will expire within six month’s time — an issue that will deny you entry to many foreign countries — contact experts at one of the many expediting services online. And be sure to have the correct photos ready with these photography tips from the U.S. Department of Passport Services.
6. Stay Informed while Traveling
Those who love to dive deep into local cultures may avoid staying up to date with “real world” news. American citizens can enroll in the Department of State’s free STEP program, an app that pushes notifications to you of travel safety at your destination, and stores your contact information in case of emergency.
7. Exercise Common Sense
The beach (in Cartagena or the Jersey Shore) is no place to let down your guard. Keep common sense safety in mind. Watch all family members when swimming, safeguard valuables (even better, lock them up in the hotel), be attentive to what you are eating and how it’s prepared, and have contact information for a local medical provider (your physician or a travel insurance provider can supply this) in case there’s a mishap.
8. Get Travel Insurance
We never leave home without travel insurance. The travel insurance comparison site InsureMyTrip, after polling agents, is expecting an increase in demand for travel insurance this year due to travelers’ ongoing concerns over terrorism.
Keep in mind that travel insurance policies spell out myriad exclusions to costs generated by trip delay, trip interruption, or trip cancellation associated with terrorist attacks, so you’ll have to ask a lot of questions. In general, travel insurance may cover weather issues, lost luggage, medical situations and more depending on the coverage you purchase. Dan Durazo of Allianz Travel Insurance adds, “Insurance companies also provide 24/7 travel assistance, so if you need help in unfamiliar territory, they’re just a phone call away,” a great reassurance for parents and grandparents.
Please share your family’s safety strategies in the Comments Field below.
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