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By: Carol Hill 

August 8, 2017 

It’s the beginning of August, and many of us continue to take advantage of summer travel before the fall begins—along with the semester, or that big third quarter business project. But nothing is worse than having your trip to the beach interrupted by the perils of travel: Lost luggage, stolen credit cards, misplaced reservations or confirmations…the list goes on.

Yet, while some aspects of travel are beyond your control—your flight lands in Los Angeles, but your bags land in New York City—others are more easily navigable. With a few tips and tools, you can avoid becoming a victim of travel by staying prepared, knowledgeable and safe.

Preparing for Travel Troubles

Have you ever been a victim of travel? Missing suitcase? Credit fraud? Maybe you had a personal belonging stolen, like your ID or phone. These experiences can leave us feeling annoyed, aggravated and anxious. As such, savvy travelers are taking additional precautions to prevent becoming victims of travel.

I’ve compiled some helpful tips I’ve learned along the way—and some additional information I wish I had known before traveling. Although I’ll focus primarily on the financial, social and safety aspects of travel, these recommendations can apply to a wide array of travel concerns.

Keeping Finances Safe and Secure

Money problems are stressful enough when you’re not on vacation, and having your credit card declined or bank accounts hacked while traveling can quickly turn a relaxing stay in paradise into an anxiety-ridden ordeal.

With that in mind, avoid using free Wi-Fi where possible. Free Wi-Fi can make it easier for others to obtain data from your computer. A mobile hotspot with a virtual private network (VPN) can be a safer alternative. Many businesses have invested in a VPN for their employees, but there are free VPN hosts as well (TunnelBear and Windscribe are two popular choices). If you do plan on using a Wi-Fi connection, ensure that it’s from a reputable institution and always verify the network name.

Data vulnerabilities can also surround hotel business concierge areas. Since these computers are generally for public use, be cautious when entering passwords or looking up private information, as passwords can accidently be saved in the cache or history of the web browser.

Regarding credit fraud, which is when your credit or debit card information is stolen, buying a few prepaid credit cards could protect your bank information or credit account from vulnerability since they aren’t linked to your actual accounts. (Bonus tip: Some prepaid credit cards can also provide a better currency exchange rate.)

Stranger in a Strange Land

From that big family outing to studying abroad, summer is an ideal time to jet set around the globe. Communication may be easier than it was a decade ago, but social interactions can still present a tangled web of confusion, anxiety and stress—especially during an emergency.

Chief among these challenges is translation issues. Mobile phones often help bridge language gaps by directly translating or providing translation phrases. There are many translation apps available, which range in purchase price to unique services available. Barring access to tech, local authorities, hospitals or community sites can be good starting points in your attempts to translate an important message.

A mobile charger that is fully charged should be a necessity for every traveler, especially since we use mobile devices so frequently. A mobile charger or portable battery ensures you have a way to contact help during an emergency. Just remember to bring along your charging cable!

If you’re in a different country, designate a safe and secure spot for your passport and always return it to the same place. Make copies of passports ahead of time and give to a trusted family member who is not out of the country. If you somehow lose your passport or it is stolen, this individual will be able to provide important information.

However, in the unfortunate event your passport does go missing, report the loss immediately to the U.S consulate or embassy. They will work with you to receive a replacement, but you’ll need to provide identification and a photocopy of the passport

Always be aware of your situation. If you feel uneasy about an environment or your surroundings, follow your instincts and move away from the area. Keeping yourself alert may help deter anyone looking for an “easy target” to steal from.

Personal Safety and Well-Being

Nothing is more important than your safety, so plan ahead to guarantee you and your loved ones will remain safe throughout your travels.

Enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) allows you to register with the nearest embassy or consulate in areas you might visit. STEP also allows you to receive updates and travel alerts. In the event of a threat or emergency, STEP may be able to contact you directly. You can enroll for STEP online, but it’s a good idea to have the U.S. consulate number and passport emergency numbers in your mobile directory just in case.

Finally, in the event of an emergency, please contact the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy, or call these overseas citizens services:

From the U.S./Canada: 1-888-407-4747

From Overseas: +1 202-501-4444

And to report a lost or stolen passport:

From the U.S./Canada: 1-888-407-4747

From Overseas: +1 202-501-4444

(Bonus Tip: Keep in mind that in the event of an international crisis or threat where evacuation is initiated, it’s the responsibility of the citizen to reimburse the government the cost of travel to a safe location.)

For more information on these tips and other safe travel advice, please visit the U.S. Department of State website. Don’t be a victim of travel—stay prepared, knowledgeable and safe!

Carol Hill is a Crisis Management Associate at FEI Behavioral Health. She provides operational support and serves as a key member of its crisis management team to oversee internal crisis preparedness and response activities. Hill coordinates the notification and emergency response during a crisis and has responded to numerous crisis events ranging from bombings to malware incidents. As a member of the crisis management team, she works closely with Dr. Vivian Marinelli, who is recognized as a subject matter expert in community and organizational emergency response. Hill conducts over 160 global preparedness drills annually and is dedicated to crisis preparedness, response and recovery. For more information about FEI Behavioral Health, visit www.feinet.com.