You probably heard or said that phrase dozens of times. Usually the meaning behind it is simple – we hope your car won’t break, your flight will be uneventful, and nothing bad happens while you’re on your way. However, the phrase could also mean – I hope won’t encounter any natural or man-made disasters while you travel, be it a tsunami, an earthquake, or, recently, a terrorist attack.
Wherever and however you travel, you can make your travels safer with a few precautions.
I assume that you have already researched the destination where you’re going, whether on U.S. Department of State’s Country Information pages, or an equivalent site.
Here are a few other tips from me and my fellow travel bloggers on how to stay safe while traveling:
#1. Register Your Itinerary with a Government Agency
Susan from Gen X Traveler says: “I register my travels with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (STEP) program. That way our government know where to look for me if they need to evacuate Americans.”
Sally from Our 3 Kids v The World adds: “Australia has the same, it’s called Smarttraveller website. You fill in your itinerary & if anything thing happens our government will know where we are. The onus is on yourself to register your movements on the site.”
Do a bit of research to see if your country offers such registration service.
#2. Know How To Call Emergency Wherever You Are
As Zen Traveller pointed out during a #WeekendWanderlust Twitter chat on Safe Travels, it’s always a good idea to:
A1: leave itinerary with someone, carry a phone that works and have the local emergency numbers with you #WeekendWanderlust
— Zen Traveller (@zendylanism) January 29, 2016
The Emergency number differs from country to country. It might be 911 in the U.S., Canada, and several other countries, but in others the number is 112, or 999.
Some countries also have a different number to call an ambulance, and yet another to summon police or fire department.
Do yourself a favor and save this “911 abroad” list of emergency numbers for each country in the world, and memorize the right number before you travel. If there’s an emergency, most likely you won’t have time to look it up.
#3. Know Where Your Consulate or Embassy Is
Find the address and phone number of your country’s consulate or embassy closest to where you are planning to travel. If you want to be super careful, save the address to your phone and keep it in your wallet.
Americans can find a list of the U.S. embassies and consulates on USEmbassy.gov.
#4. Keep Your Insurance and Other Contact Information Handy
I admit, we have never purchased separate travel insurance, but Alouise from Take Me To The World says she never travels without one.
Viktoria from Chronic Wanderlust agrees and adds: “I always carry the emergency number for my travel insurance with me, so that’d help me a lot in case of a not so severe injury or accident.”
Lindsay from I’ve Been Bit suggests the following agencies:
— I’ve Been B✈t! (@IBBtravel) January 29, 2016
Whether you have special travel insurance or just a regular health insurance, or insurance through your credit card, it’s a good idea to keep the number handy.
Suzanne from Phila TravelGirl also shares: “I keep a digital copy of my passport and important papers/prescriptions/etc in my email drafts folder.”
If you have a smartphone, finding anyone’s phone number is easy, but what if your phone dies, or you’re unconscious and others cannot access your phone?
It’s a good idea to always have at least a few phone numbers with you, whether on a piece of paper in your wallet, or on a tag inside your bag or backpack.
#5. Stay in Touch with Family and Friends
As you might know, Facebook has introduced in 2014 a “safety check” feature which is supposed to:
“Let friends and family know you’re safe
Check on others in the affected area
Mark your friends as safe”
Originally intending to cover only natural disasters, such as earthquakes, the tool was expanded in November 2015 to allow safety checks after terrorist attacks, like the one in Paris.
However, it seems Facebook did not activate the Safety Check feature after the bombings in Jakarta or Istanbul, so don’t rely too much on this feature. Best make sure at least one person, be it a friend or a family member has your entire itinerary with information on where you are planning to be each day, and where you are planning to stay overnight, and check in with them frequently to let them know if you’re still on track.
I send our itinerary to my sister and my mother-in-law. This way at least two people, on two different continents, know where we’re supposed to be every given day and night.
We also have a T-Mobile plan on our cell phones, which works even better in Europe or Canada, than in the U.S. so we always have connectivity, wherever we are.
You can also use WhatsApp – a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS.
Susan from Gen X Traveler says: “I give our itinerary to my brother who is my POA and executor if something happens to both of us. My husband give the same info to his POA and executor also. If I am traveling alone or with friends my husband knows all my info and we speak everyday.”
Viktoria from Chronic Wanderlust shares: “My dad usually knows where I am and a dear friend has access to my travel plans as well so she knows which hotel or hostel I’m staying at and what the plans for that day were.”
Alouise from Take Me To The World shares a copy of her itinerary with someone as well, usually her parents.
#6. Keep Your Valuables Safe
Caryl and Paul from Vegan Food Quest use carabiners on their back pack zippers:
— Ⓥegan Food Quest (@VeganFoodQuest) January 29, 2016
While I don’t use carabiners, I am pretty happy with the two small bags I use while traveling.
I chose the first one, made by Tignanello, because it looks nice enough to carry around in a city, but it also quite roomy for such a small handbag, and fits not only my wallet, but all of our passports and other things as well, and has a thick, long strap that allows me to carry it across my chest thus reducing the danger of it being snatched off my arm by a thief.
I don’t see this model of handbag for sale anymore, but you can buy similar Tignanello products through Amazon.
However, even though the Tignanello bag easily fits four passports, it’s too narrow to fit boarding passes. That’s why when we’re flying, I carry with my my Aotian cross-body bag with me.
The single reviewer of the bag is correct, by the way – it is not a big bag. It would look rather dainty on a big guy. I am not a big guy, however, and this bag is just right for stashing away passports with boarding passes when embarking. I do like the extra zipped pocket on the back as well.
Faith from Traveling with Faith likes slightly different looking passport holders.
Faith says: “The passport holder I have had for at least 10 years. As you can see from the photos, there is a plastic pocket either for cash or credit card. Then the passport fits securely in the pocket.
Then there is a long plastic pocket behind the passport which I put my airline ticket. In the back is a zippered pocket which you can put cash or whatever.
I bought the smaller purse and I have a flat wallet that I use, the passport goes in the pocket inside the purse and there is a pocket on the outside which you cannot see but I put my phone in there.
I think some of the larger size purses pacsafe have look nice as well. What I looked for were safety and convenience.”
If you have photography gear with you while you travel, remember that it could also be used as a weapon if need be, as Saran from Random Voyager points out:
— Saran Shanmugam (@saranstm) January 29, 2016
Other than that, as Thea from Zen Travelers suggests:
A3: Keep multiple copies of documents! I also use a Pacsafe purse to keep things on me. Luggage lock is a good idea too #WeekendWanderlust
— Zen Traveller (@zendylanism) January 29, 2016
It’s also a good idea NOT to have all of your valuables in one place.
— Davidglobalag (@davidglobalag) January 29, 2016
#7. Extra Tips for Safe Travels with Kids
You may be confident in your ability to keep your wits about you while you travel, but what if you have kids in tow? You hope they will remember your phone number if anything happens, but I admit I had forgotten my own number in a moment of panic, and I was an adult. Don’t risk it.
Make sure your kids have all the necessary information on them as well, just in case.
Allison Babcock from Fun Family Vacation admits: “I wrote in marker on my kids’ arms at a large theme park one time.”
When our kids were very little, too small to remember our phone numbers, I attached small luggage tags to their belts when we traveled, with contact information for at least two other people (in addition to mine) that could be contacted in case of an emergency.
The message inside the tag said:
“My name is [name]. I speak only English. I am [x] years old. I am traveling with my parents [names of parents, phone numbers]. If there is an emergency you can also call my aunt [name] who lives in Poland [cell phone number] or my grandma who lives in the U.S.A. [cell phone number].”
James from TravelingKids suggests: “Might be a good idea for each family member to have a package with them that has a photocopy of their passport, the printed address of the local embassy and cab fare all wrapped up in a sealed emergency packet.”
Heidi shares the following helpful tips: “When I’ve traveled with my son and his classmates I’ve always made sure he has enough money for transportation to the hotel or Embassy along with the index card and contact information with travel destinations current hotel (and next stop) and all emergency contact information. In large tourist areas we always designate a meeting spot. We talk through disaster plans the same way we prepare for Earthquakes in So. Cal. And as soon as we check into hotels I make sure we both have their business card.
[My son] has a money/passport belt that’s worn under clothing, I didn’t laminate them just store in zip lock bags. Our last trip was Belize he kept the info on his cell phone mostly on that trip along with the cards from hotels. The index cards worked great for Europe and even trips within the states.
Also put the international codes on them, however he would have to dial the numbers for whatever country were in. I also have a set of cards with numbers of everyone at home including all the students’ parent contacts in the same way, so that we never have to “think”.”
And our last, but also a very important tip on traveling with kids:
A5) Keep them in sight at all times, don’t have them lagging behind, limit the variety of things they eat. #WeekendWanderlust
— IamMe (@PetiteGiant) January 29, 2016
The last thing you want to deal with while you travel is a kid with a diarrhea.
Other comments about safe travels from my fellow travelers:
Viktoria from Chronic Wanderlust:
“I had to get my appendix removed this summer in Mexico and I wasn’t really prepared for anything like that. I’ve never been admitted to a hospital alone before and I was scared, but I knew I had to take care of myself because there was nobody there to help me or hold my hand during the first days. I’m so glad I didn’t panic or freak out. So that’s my #1 advice: try to stay calm, breathe deep and trust the people around you.”
Nikoleta from The Bonfire Dream:
“I always have an emergency plan while travelling. There are three types of travel that I possibly go on; travelling with an organization, travelling with family and travelling with friends. While I travel with an organization I make sure I have contact on the organizers on my phone, I know the schedule and I have contact on somebody back home. It just makes me feel safe, because not only I am completely isolated from what is happening in the world while I am on my way, but I might feel alone considering that I am without people I know.
Travelling with family I usually have the LEAST responsibility. I tend to go without any kind of technology, without any clue where we are going and what we are doing. However, this means that I have to listen carefully when we are about to separate, I have to make sure that I always come to the place we are supposed to meet and that I generally limit the opportunities to get separated. Furthermore, I try to remember phone numbers (as I normally do not have the phone) and focus on staying together 😛
Travelling with my friends is probably almost like travelling alone. There is nobody to take care specifically about you, they are the same age and they are there to enjoy their time. This means that I involve in planning, I know where we are going, what the plan is and what the dangers are. I make sure I have insurance, I write down contacts to embassies or people that I know would help me if something went wrong that are nearby during the course of my travel. If I am going to a foreign country I try to learn some basics of the language (sure, English might be universal, but there are still people in this world who simply do not know the language – and what if this person was the only one who could save my life??).
Generally, I follow safety rules that all travellers should follow no matter where they go or who they are with. Care about the environment, know the culture, know the dangers and be ready for any situation. That way the likelihood of something happening to you is significantly lowered ;)”
Inma from A World To Travel:
“My number 1 tip for anyone traveling solo needs to be common sense.
And that is something that wasn’t always there for me. From putting myself in sketchy situations like that one time when I almost got raped while hitch-hiking in an isolated area of the Turkish Cappadocia to when I had a very close call getting involved in a bus accident in the French Alps.
Nowadays though, I don’t go anywhere without telling my close circle of friends and family, try to avoid conflict areas and risky situations and never go out at night like I would do on my own country till the wee hours, having a drink or two and returning to my accommodation early and sober enough not to put myself in trouble.
Finally, if everything goes wrong and something happens, staying calm is something I strongly encourage you to do and the only way to allow you to think straight forward and look for the best way to cope with a dangerous situation.
Do not panic and do not give the impression of that either.
Luckily, the possibility of something going wrong is very low and the chances of you having a blast while traveling the world, endless.
Safe travels everyone!”
Jonathan from Two Monkeys Travel Group:
“Out of two years on the road, we only began to take our emergency plans seriously earlier this year. From Vietnam, all over India, the UK and halfway around South America, we didn’t even have basic travel insurance! We’re a bit better organised now and we both have cover, plus we keep out families updated about where we are as much as possible. For us, the thing we worry about is not what emergencies might happen to us (we can always deal with whatever comes up), but emergencies happening at home. While we were living in Peru, when we didn’t exactly have a lot of money, there was a death in the family and I had to fly home. The problem is, I’m British and Kach isn’t, so in an emergency like that, I have to leave her on the other side of the world because there’s no way we can get a visa at such short notice. We’ve had to accept this as a part of our lives on the road – we want the freedom and adventure, but you never know when you might get one of those calls.”
Last but not least, read “#Travel Safety in a Hostile World” by Bob from The Traveling Fool.
#WeekendWanderlust Twitter chat on Safe Travels
I have mentioned above several comments from participants of a #WeekendWanderlust Twitter chat on Safe Travels from January 29, 2016. To read all advice shared by our fellow travelers, go to Travelogx’s page with the full transcript of the chat.
All in all, if you don’t feel safe traveling to certain destinations, then don’t. But bad things can happen at home for you too, so don’t be so afraid of the world that you never venture anywhere.
As we say in our tagline:
“The world is too interesting to stay home.”
That said, I wish you again “Safe Travels.”
Feel free to add your tips for safer traveling in the comments.
Invitation to the #WeekendWanderlust Link Up
#WeekendWanderlust, hosted by Chris & Heather from A Brit and a Southerner, Jessi & Tara from Outbound Adventurer, Ashley from A Southern Gypsy, Justin and Lauren from Justin Plus Lauren, and yours truly, is a collaborative effort to share travel blog posts, and to discuss all travel-related things.
The hosts organize each week a link up through which travel bloggers from around the world can promote their posts, in exchange for a promise to give some attention to other travel bloggers. (One of the rules for linking up is to comment on three linked up posts.)
If the link up is still open, feel free to add a link to one of your posts below, then comment on at least three other linked up posts.
If you leave a comment on this post, I will reciprocate with a comment as soon as I can!
Also, don’t forget to join the #WeekendWanderlust chat on Twitter, every Thursday, at 9pm EST. See the list of upcoming topics on Travelogx.