Sadly, in the world today, it can be dangerous to leave your house and drive your car, but you take precautions to ensure you are a safe driver (no texting, safe distances, and caution for example). When planning a trip, you should think about all safety issues that are important to you (read this post for My Travel Safety Thoughts) and consider registering your trip with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) for international travel (U.S. residents only).
For my trip with Mom to Paris, there were a few people who asked, in the light of the terrorist events, if we should be going there at all. I said, “Of course we should still travel.” Because of Mom, I made a few changes to my normal planning process.
- The first change meant buying travel insurance for Mom that included medical coverage, as Medicare doesn’t pay for international medical costs. While I have medical coverage, I also bought travel insurance for this trip to mirror what Mom would have as we were traveling together.
***If you want to have some fun, start reading the fine print of travel insurances related to health care, first payor, pre-existing conditions, trip deposit dates, and so many other things that I hadn’t had to think about in the past. You really need to be an educated consumer with respect to travel insurance.***
2. The other change from my normal trip planning was registering our trip with my employer which has a Global Security team in case incidents affect their employees while traveling on business and personal.
3. I registered our trip with the U.S. Department of State’s STEP Program.
I first used the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) back in 2012 when I traveled to South America (Santiago, Easter Island, and Lima) and then again for my month in Africa (Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa). By registering your international travel plans, you will receive notifications from the local U.S. Embassies if there is cause for concern during your travels in those countries/regions. It’s just another layer of protection in my opinion, especially for me when travelling solo. During the Africa trip, I received an email from the Embassy in Botswana regarding a demonstration to avoid in a particular city. As I was on safari, it didn’t affect me but was good to know what was going on in the country while I was there away from television and newspaper updates (internet wifi was spotty at the time).
How to Register for STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program)
Visit the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program site
You have three options
- Staying Home (you can sign up for travel alerts and warnings)
- Frequent Traveler (create account)
When you click “Traveling” you need to agree to the privacy statement and answer two questions:
- Are you a U.S. Citizen?
- Travel/Reside Abroad
You then have a few tabs to complete (one per family member is fine – groups have different option)
- Traveler Info (Your information & Emergency Contact Information)
- Itinerary Info
- Travel Info
Why Register with Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)?
It’s easy! It’s quick! It’s free! Let’s hope you have a hassle free trip as most usually do, but in the rare case that you need information or assistance, you can contact the U.S. Embassy or they can contact you. You can also follow the State Dept on Twitter @TravelGov for updates.
The local embassy that you’ve registered your trip with will send out
- Travel Alerts for “short term, fast breaking events that could pose significant risks to you or affect travel plans” They provide examples of demonstrations, protests and other information you might need to be aware of.
- Travel Warnings recommend postponing travel to the country because of what is deemed dangerous conditions or places where it’s harder to assist U.S. citizens.
On our recent trip in September with Mom, I received an email when a worldwide caution (for London travelers) was updated from the March caution. Thankfully, both London and Paris were uneventful and no specific notifications were sent.
I’ve found this added layer of communication quite invaluable and comforting while I’ve traveled. It’s always best to overplan when it comes to safety in my opinion (hence my backup options B, C, D and E!). I think it’s a good idea to register your international trip with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and use the U.S. Dept of State website to research the destination.
Do you use the STEP Program now?
If not, do you think you would in the future for your next international trip?