US State Department sealLast week the US State Department issued a World Wide Travel Alert to extend though the month of August.  But what do this mean for those who are traveling?  For most of us, traveling this next month shouldn’t be any different than usual.  Tour operators and cruise lines keep a very close eye on world trouble spots and won’t take any chances with the safety of their passengers.  Chances are that unless you’re planning a trip to the Middle East, your travel plans shouldn’t be affected at all.  And if you are planning on visiting the Middle East, just take extra precautions while out on your own.

Don’t forget that travel operators (cruise lines, tour operators, hotels etc…) will charge you substantial cancellation fees if you cancel close to your travel date.  However, those same operators will often offer a full refund if they cancel your trip for any reason.  Many operators will also give you a nice incentive to re-book your trip with them at a later date.

Our advice… wait and see what your travel operator is doing before making any decisions regarding your trip.

The best way to avoid trouble when traveling to a foreign country is to travel with a group.  Remember the old adage, “there’s safety in numbers”.  Traveling with a tour operator, especially one that uses private bus transportation, will greatly reduce your travel risks.  The tour guides know the area, speak the language, and know what trouble spots to avoid.

Also, be aware of your surroundings.  Even domestic travelers can fall victim to pick-pockets, street thugs, and other hazards.  Be mindful of strangers approaching you for no reason.  Keep your purses, shopping bags, etc.. to a minimum and close to you.  Don’t make yourself an easy mark for thieves.

Try to blend in.  The more you look like you belong, the less you will be potentially identified as a target.  Wear natural colors and avoid clothing that’s overly branded with logos.  Skip the t-shirts, tank-tops, and shorts.  This kind of clothing screams American tourist and is often considered vulgar in many cultures.  And while tennis shoes are hi-fashion in the US, elsewhere they’re strictly used for working out.  So unless you’re headed to the gym on your vacation, leave the sneakers at home.

One final note… We always recommend buying travel insurance.  You never plan on anything going wrong while on vacation, but the fact of the matter is that Murphy never takes time off.  If you travel, there is always a chance something could go wrong.  It might be as simple as missing a connecting flight or losing a piece of luggage.  Or you could need major medical attention and/or emergency evacuation home.  Travel insurance is an inexpensive part of your travel budget, but it can reduce or eliminate some of the unexpected costs of travel problems and emergencies.  As the old saying goes… “Don’t leave home without it!”

For additional travel safety tips we recommend visiting the US State Department Website