Aruba – When traveling, whether at home or abroad, there are so many things to consider. Did I pack appropriate clothing for any weather I may encounter? Did I remember my cellphone charger and medications? Did I turn off my appliances at home before leaving? These are a few of the questions you may ask yourself. But you might be forgetting one important one. Have I given anyone my itinerary and contact information in case an emergency arises?
Matthew Smillie, a vacation rental expert, explains important safety tips below when traveling abroad.
I’m going abroad – what should I do?
“One of the first, and most important, things to remember is to fill out the emergency page on your passport,” says Smillie, whose business rents and maintains luxury beach villas in Aruba. “The emergency page of your passport will help should anything happen while you are traveling. It will explain to anyone who sees it who should be contacted in the event of an emergency, and can make an already confusing time much easier to navigate.”
The United States Department of State offers the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to U.S. citizens traveling abroad. STEP allows travelers to register their information so that you can be reached should an emergency arise at home during your travels, and also to assist you if there is a crisis while you are out of the country.
The STEP program registers you with U.S. embassies or consulates in the area to which you are traveling. U.S. consular officers will then be able to help you more efficiently should an emergency arise while you. The officers can help you should you run into a medical or other emergency while you are traveling.
“Before you begin your travel, you may not even consider the idea of an emergency arising,” says Smillie, whose Aruba rentals company prides itself on providing exceptional service to its customers. “But accidents can occur any time. Traveling abroad does bring dangers and issues you might not plan for.”
Have you thought about what would happen if you ran into serious financial or legal difficulties while outside the United States? American consular officers can provide names of local attorneys or doctors, and can even provide loans to destitute American citizens traveling abroad. If dangerous conditions arise while you are traveling, the officers can provide important information to assist you.
Consular officers can also assist travelers with nonemergency services. If you are planning travel during an election season and still wish to participate, the officers can help you with absentee voting. They can also help file tax forms, and even notarize documents and issue passports.
STEP is a free program, and is available for those traveling and living overseas. Registering your information is simple and only requires a visit to the State Department’s website. Registering for STEP can help protect you, but it also allows your family a means of locating you should an emergency arise at home while you are overseas. They can contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, who can then contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country you are in. If your information has been registered, the embassy will then be able to contact you at your hotel or the accommodation where you are staying.
Other tips to keep in mind when traveling abroad are:
• Always leave a copy of your itinerary. Be sure family or friends have been given a copy of your itinerary so they know your travel plans. It is also helpful to leave them with a copy of your passport data page and visa.
• Before leaving, check your overseas medical coverage. Contact your insurance company to see if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergencies. You might not be able to plan ahead of time for a medical emergency, such as medical evacuations, but you can be sure you’re covered if something should happen. If your current plan does not include international coverage, consider purchasing supplemental insurance to cover you.
• Familiarize yourself with not only the current condition of the country to which you are traveling, but also its laws. You are subject to the laws of the country to which you are traveling. Visiting the state department website before traveling can provide you with useful information about the country you plan to visit.
• Take safety precautions during travel. Avoid being the target of a crime by not carrying excessive amounts of money or wearing conspicuous clothing or jewelry. Do not leave your luggage unattended, or accept anything from strangers. Do not travel to areas that are considered dangerous.
Traveling abroad has much to offer – learning more about different cultures, experiencing sights and tastes that aren’t available at home, and so much more. With proper safety precautions and preplanning work, traveling, whether around the country or to the other side of the world, can be fun, meaningful and most important, safe.
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