Whether you’re going somewhere a couple of hours away or outside the country for the first time, travel can be fun! Part of preparing for travel and ensuring an enjoyable trip is staying safe. The following safety tips can help you have a memorable trip for all the right reasons:
Before You Leave
- Do your research. Learn your destination before you arrive. You can do this in many different ways. Read reviews about the place you’re staying at, look up information about the safest neighborhoods, and research the incidences of crime. Look into who you should call in the event of an emergency and get the contact information for the nearest police station, embassy or consulate if you’re traveling internationally, and other local emergency departments.
- Familiarize yourself with your destination. Tools like Google Maps can help you understand what’s around you, like hospitals, police stations, shopping centers, grocery stores, and more.
- Share your travel information. Before leaving, share your itinerary with someone you trust, like a parent or guardian. Include the address and phone number of where you’re staying and your transportation information, like flight numbers.
- Look into transportation services. Ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft might be available where you’re traveling, but it’s good to research what other types of ground transportation are available and reputable in the area. Find out if transportation services take debit/credit cards or only cash and if there is a number you can call if you have a bad experience. If you’re going to take public transportation, like a bus or train, look for a mobile app with real-time updates for the service you are using. This will help you avoid waiting for a bus for a long time, which can make you a target or make you late for your plans.
- Plan for safety abroad. If you are traveling out of the country, consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This free service allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to register their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs also has resources for people traveling internationally, which you might find helpful. Look up the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate and save their contact information, as it can be handy. If you are traveling on a cruise ship, learn about cruise ship safety and read the safety information the cruise line provides you.
During Your Trip
- Protect where you’re staying. Many vacation destinations, such as resorts and hotels, can have a false sense of security. Even if it seems like the place you’re staying at has strong security measures, consider taking these steps to make your room safer:
- Lock and deadbolt the door and keep your windows shut.
- Buy a portable door lock for additional safety. There are different locks you can buy online.
- Give the impression that you’re in your room or place you’re staying at, even when you’re out. Place the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the outside door knob, keep the blinds or windows closed, and leave the TV on.
- Don’t let any strangers into your room or place, even if they say they work for the hotel or place you’re staying at. You can always call the front desk or your host to check if someone was sent to you.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Going on vacation is a nice time to relax and put your worries aside, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. Always pay attention to what’s happening around you, whether walking on an empty street or in a crowded tourist spot. People who are distracted or not engaged with their surroundings make easy targets. Keep an eye on your personal belongings, like your purse or wallet, food and drinks, and use good judgment when talking to strangers.
- Check-in with family and friends often. Text or call your close friends or family daily so they know your whereabouts and how you are doing. Fortunately, location-sharing services allow you to share your exact location 24/7 with loved ones.
- Trust your instincts. A fun part of traveling is meeting new people and learning about their cultures, but if you’re somewhere or around someone that makes you feel uncomfortable or weird, you should leave immediately. Trust your gut. Our instincts are strong and can pick up on things that might not be visible to us. Listen to those feelings because they will help you stay safe.
- Have a backup plan. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to preparing for not-so-great situations. Consider the following:
- Become familiar with your surroundings. Take note of local landmarks, such as restaurants or stores, that can help you feel more familiar with your location. If something happens, you’ll know where to go or even how to get back to where you’re staying.
- Learn basic but helpful phrases in the local language (if not English). Helpful phrases to know in the language can include “where is [name of the location you’re trying to find]?,” “I need help,” “I don’t speak your language,” and “can you please repeat that?”
- Write down the address of the place you’re staying at. If you get lost, knowing it will help get you back.
- If traveling in a group, decide on a place to meet if someone gets lost. This designated place will help you all reunite if you get separated.
- Always carry a portable charger with you in case your phone dies. Have a few phone numbers memorized, especially those in your group. Before leaving for an international trip, be sure that your cellular carrier activates international texts and calls.
Having a great time traveling is more likely when you’re safe. Follow these safety tips so you can have fun and take care of yourself!
For more information about safety when traveling, check out these resources:
Author: Stephanie Paz is a Tigua Indian of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The University of Texas at El Paso and is working towards a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Promotion from New Mexico State University.