Take it from us: taking a summer tour through Europe is a truly once in a lifetime opportunity. If you’ve had your eye on a European tour for quite some time, we’ve got good and bad news for you.
The good news?
Flights are cheaper than ever thanks to budget airlines like WOW Air and Edelweiss’s expanded offerings.
The bad news?
The State Department recently released a travel alert for all of Europe as a result of recent terrorist attacks that have occurred across the continent. The alert warns U.S. citizens to “always be alert to the possibility that terrorist sympathizers or self-radicalized extremists may conduct attacks with little or no warning”.
This doesn’t mean that you should cancel the trip you have planned or even think twice about crossing the pond. For one, this is a travel alert, not a travel warning – here’s the difference: An alert is much less severe, asking travelers to use caution while traveling, whereas a warning means that travelers should reconsider their plans.
If you’re planning to travel to Europe this summer, just take these additional precautions to keep yourself safe:
Exercise Caution in Public Places
According to the State Department, “Extremists continue to focus on tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities as viable targets.” In other words, the more public the place, the more vulnerable it is to an attack. High-profile events, hotels and clubs are also potential targets.
To stay safe in these places, the State Department suggests that “U.S. citizens should exercise additional vigilance … in particular during the upcoming summer travel season when large crowds may be common.” The best advice we can give you is to simply keep your wits about you, especially when in a highly visible or populated location. The more aware you are, the more likely you are to avoid any issues.
Have an Emergency Plan
Of course, not everything always goes according to plan. And in unexpected situations, it pays to have an emergency plan. In our eyes, a good emergency plan contains the following:
||There’s really no way around it – the best way to protect you and your family from the unpredictable is with a comprehensive travel insurance plan. When traveling to Europe this summer, we recommend choosing a plan with the following types of coverage:
- Medical Expense/Emergency Evacuation
- Non-Medical/Security Evacuation
- Trip Cancellation & Interruption
A travel insurance plan will also provide a travel and medical emergency assistance phone number, staffed with travel and medical professionals there to assist you through an emergency situation 24/7, 365.
A Point of Contact Back Home
A daily text message or email to someone in another part of the world can make all the difference when it comes to securing your safety. Schedule regular check-ins with a family member or friend while you are abroad to keep your mind at ease and to ensure that someone knows of your whereabouts and can take action on your behalf if needed.
|| An Exit Strategy
|| Should any type of issue arise while you’re traveling abroad, you’ll want to be able to get out of town quickly. Always keep a bag with your passport, first aid kit, cash and credit cards and any other essentials close to your body. Be familiar ahead of time with your destination’s airports and train stations so that you can depart in a hurry if necessary.
Register for the Smart
Traveler Enrollment Program
The State Department offers travelers an easy and comprehensive way to stay safe while traveling abroad with their program, STEP. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program allows U.S. citizens to register their trip with the embassies in their destination countries. After doing so, travelers receive important safety updates about their destinations. The program also makes it easy for authorities to keep track of you while you’re traveling and offers your family more direct ways of contacting you in case of an emergency.
We’re all about traveling safely, which means that we take alerts seriously and understand they exist so that we can know what to expect ahead of time – but don’t let alerts dissuade you from traveling. Over the years, the State Department has issued dozens of them, with many people (ourselves included) still managing to go on unforgettable vacations. Follow the advice we laid out above, and you’ll have an amazing time exploring Europe this summer.
Do you have any tips for staying safe while traveling? If so, we want to hear from you – get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.