Tips for staying safe when traveling abroad

With summer just around the corner, you might be planning a grand overseas adventure. Traveling and seeing new places can be a very impactful experience, and having the opportunity to absorb a culture that’s not your own is exciting. However, it’s important to stay safe while you’re traveling. You don’t want a disaster to ruin your painstakingly planned trip, right?

There are a few things you can do before your trip and after you arrive at your destination to make sure that you have the best trip humanly possible.

While still State-side…

1. Take care of any necessary documents.


Passports are a must for international travel. Whether you’re going to Canada (okay, technically not overseas, but close enough) or Japan, you need to make sure that you have that passport.

  • Give yourself enough time before your departure to get your passport. It takes a while to apply for one and receive it.
  • Fill in the emergency information.
  • If you already have a passport, check the expiration date. You need to make sure that you have at least six months after your return date before your passport expires or you could get stuck outside of the country. The rules about expiration dates can be just a tad confusing. 
  • Make two copies of your passport. Give one to a family member or a trusted friend and take the other with you—just make sure to keep it in a safe place away from your other travel documents (including the original passport.)


You’ll also want to make sure that you acquire a visa if you need one. Check out your destination’s visa requirements with plenty of time to get one if you need it.

Letters of authorization:

If you’re a parent traveling alone with your kids, you may need to have written authorization from the other parent to cross borders. Something to keep in mind.

2. Make a travel itinerary.

Create a detailed travel itinerary and give this to a family member or friend. That way they know where you’re supposed to be at any given time over your trip.

3. Call your credit card company and bank.

You don’t want the bank or credit card company to lock your account if they detect any weird activity. Be sure to let them know the countries that you’re planning on visiting and the dates that you’ll be away.

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4. Take care of medical needs.

  • If you take any prescription medication, make sure that you have enough—plus extra—for your trip.
  • It might also be a good idea to get a letter from your doctor about your medication just in case. Some countries have strict rules about medications.
  • Check and see if you need to get any vaccines. Don’t skip the shots.

5. Research, research, research.

  • Do some homework on your destination and find out of there are any safety concerns you might face. The State Department website is a good place to start.
  • Make sure you’re aware of any Travel Warnings, Alerts, or Advisories for your destination country.
  • Research laws and customs of your destination. When you’re a guest in another country, you’re under their laws, not American ones. There might also be some cultural customs that you need to know about to make it easier for you to get around (without offending people.)
  • Know if there are any health safety measures you need to take.

6. Know your insurance.

Your health insurance might carry over to other countries, but you need to make sure of that. If your coverage won’t accompany you to your vacation spot, you might want to think about adding extra temporary coverage for travel.

7. Be aware of where the embassy is.

Take note of where the closest US embassy is to your destination. It’s a good idea to have the information for it in both English and the local language just in case. If your passport is stolen, for instance, you’d need to go to the embassy.

8. Consider registering your trip with the State Dept.

Having your trip registered with the State Department’s STEP (Safe Travellers Enrollment Program) will help your family get in touch with you if there’s an emergency at home. It will also allow you to get travel alerts about your destination. Research a bit about the program to see if it’s right for you.

You can register your trip by going to

When you get there…

1. Be secure.

Bring door and window locks with you to use in your hotel room. Also, be careful of who you open your hotel room door for.

2. Have a navigation system.

Make sure that you have maps and that you’ve planned out your route ahead of time. You don’t want to get lost.

Remember, data charges go to roaming when you leave the country (even when you go to Canada) so you’re going to have to turn your data off unless you want to pay an astronomical cell phone bill when you get back. No data means no GoogleMaps, so plan ahead and know where you’re going.  

Also, when you’re walking around, walk with purpose so that you’re not an obvious target.

3. Be aware of pickpockets.

Wearing expensive jewelry or clothes serves as a neon sign to attract pickpockets or thieves. Leave the fancy jewelry and clothes behind and instead dress in a way that won’t draw notice.

When you’re at “tourist sites,” rest a hand against your wallet or purse. Touristy areas are often full of pickpockets, so don’t have large amounts of cash, credit cards, etc. with you when you’re out and about.

4. Get your money straight.

The best exchange rate for foreign currencies will be at local banks or ATM machines, not at the hotel or airport. To make sure you don’t run into any trouble, only use authorized agents to swap out your money.

5. Be careful of what you eat and drink.

You really don’t want to get food poisoning when you’re on your dream vacation. It would be no fun to be cooped up sick in your hotel room.

6. Utilize the hotel’s concierge for transportation needs.

If you need a car to get somewhere, go to the concierge rather than getting a taxi. The concierge will be able to reserve a car with a trustworthy service for you.

Traveling is a great experience. You can learn a lot about different cultures from traveling, and you’ll make some wonderful memories. But be sure that you prepare for your trip and take care of everything you need to before you go. Stay safe, be smart about social media while you’re away, and enjoy your trip.

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