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Taking that dream vacation with your family? Going on a backpacking adventure alone? Or maybe a fun girls weekend that might get a little wild and crazy. Whether you’re traveling solo or with a group, it’s important to learn about travel safety and get some advice before you depart. Everything from natural disasters to political unrest, to common petty crime, can disrupt your plans, so be sure to follow these travel safety tips.

Weather Safety Tips and Natural Disasters

Before booking your trip, check the weather predictions. Headed to a beach town on the Caribbean? Make sure it’s not hurricane season! Hurricanes are likely to occur from June through November and sites like Accuweather or can help you figure out if a storm is likely to hit the region you’re visiting. If you’re headed into the mountains, be aware of storms that could hit and whether a blizzard is coming. Local weather channels should help you out by providing you with updated reports, and always stock up on supplies to carry you through potential cold weather conditions.

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If you happen to be traveling to the midwest of the US, be prepared for tornadoes. While not that frequent, they are known to occur in the region. If you hear of one coming, seek shelter in a basement or at a low level. Other natural disasters are often less easy to track, so stay tuned to local news outlets before and during your trip. If the region you’re visiting has seen a lot of recent, heavy rain, be prepared for flash floods. They often come with little advance warning, but in case of a flood, seek higher ground. Earthquakes also often occur with little to no advance warning. In case of an earthquake, avoid large furniture and windows if indoors. If you’re outside, avoid tall buildings, and wait for the shaking to stop before moving.

Staying Safe from Petty Crime

Taking that trip to Europe you’ve always dreamed of? Your dream vacation can turn into a nightmare if you’re not careful. Big cities around the world are magnets for petty crime, most often, pickpocketing. If you and your travel groups are wandering through busy, crowded streets and markets, keep your belongings safe. Many times, pickpockets will use a ruse to divert your attention. Be particularly cautious of the vendors that approach you as you walk down the street. They may be distracting your eyes while they or an accomplice clean your pockets.

Stay safe by leaving valuables, such as expensive jewelry, electronics, or your passport, in your accommodation. Many spots will offer a safe in the rooms for you to securely store such items. If possible, consider carrying cash instead of credit cards. When you’re on crowded streets or buses, put your backpack or purse in front of you, to avoid having something stolen while you’re not looking. If something is stolen, head to a local police office to create a report, and be sure to update your insurance company. While unlikely you will retrieve your stolen items, you may be able to be reimbursed. If a credit card is stolen, cancel the card. If you’re abroad and your passport is stolen, call your country’s state department or head to a consulate or embassy.

General Travel Tips

Always do your research on the country or city you’re about to visit. Enroll in a program, such as the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), by the US State Department, to get updates before and during your trip. STEP will send you an email alert about everything from pending natural disasters to protests and unrest developing in your area. By enrolling in the program, you can have peace of mind that the State Department knows you’re in a specific region, in case of emergencies.

When planning an international trip, check out the state department’s travel warnings. Countries designated as level 1 or 2 are generally very safe to visit, but travelers should be aware of their surroundings and that crime can happen. If a country is labeled level 3, you are advised to “reconsider travel” due to high levels of crime or unrest. Level 4 labeled countries are considered extremely dangerous, and in some cases, US citizens will be unable to receive help from the US embassy in case of emergency. These countries come with the warning “do not travel.”

Travel Insurance

A good travel insurance plan can help you out if you’re stuck. If you’re traveling for any amount of time, especially internationally, having a travel insurance plan will cover you in multiple scenarios. If you have a medical emergency, a good plan should assist with a hospital trip, or in extreme cases, can fly you back to your home country for care. In case of robberies, providing a police report to your insurance company may result in being reimbursed for the stolen items. In the case of unforeseen events, such as emergency evacuations, or any cancellations, insurance may be able to cover resulting extra costs.

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