Safe Travels Tips & Tricks

Ten Important Safety Tips for Travelers

Travel can be exhilarating but doesn’t come without its set of challenges and risks. When you’re venturing into the great unknown and experiencing the world, follow these 10 safety tips to protect yourself and ensure a happy and secure journey.

1. Choose Your Ground Transportation Wisely

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), motor vehicle crashes are the top cause of death for U.S. citizens abroad. Whenever possible, travel in a vehicle that is in good condition and offers working seat belts. Research the safety records of bus companies and avoid using less-safe vehicles such as rickshaws and mopeds.

2. Check in With the State Department

Did you know that the State Department provides updated safety information for every country in the world? You can search the website and get accurate details about where you’re visiting. Find out everything, from which vaccinations you need to the local laws along with any travel warnings (including crime and security warnings).

Also, use the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), where you can register your travel plans. In the event of an emergency (whether it’s a natural disaster, an emergency back home or civil unrest), they will be able to contact you directly.

3. Review the Escape Route in Your Hotel Room

When you check into a hotel room, you are more likely to be focused on scoping out the amenities than studying the map on the back of your door. However, before you get settled in, you should take a quick look at the emergency escape routes; you’ll be glad you did if an emergency arises in the middle of the night.

4. Leave an Itinerary and Emergency Contact

Unplugging while on vacation can be great, but try not to go too under the radar, especially if you’re traveling alone. Leave your itinerary (even if it’s just as basic as which city you’ll be visiting and when you’ll return) with a trusted friend or family member back home. Try to check in with family or friends at least once a day, so if something happens, they can alert authorities on your behalf.

5. Scan a Copy of your Passport

Before you leave, scan a copy of your passport, e-mail it to yourself and take a photo of it to save on your cell phone.

That way, if you need your passport while out (but it’s locked up in your hotel safe), you’ll have access to all your details. If your passport is ever stolen, getting a replacement will be that much easier.

6. Confirm Visitors with the Hotel Desk

You’re in your hotel room, and there’s a knock at the door from someone claiming to be maintenance or housekeeping. Before you let this person in, call down to the front desk to verify that someone from the property needs access to your room. Criminals have been known to pose as hotel workers in order to get inside rooms.

7. Don’t Flash Cash or Valuables

Keep your cash separated, with some spending money easily accessible and the rest hidden, so that you’re not showing off a big wad of cash every time you pay. Although it’s tempting to have your smartphone out constantly to look up directions or take photos, be mindful of your surroundings as thieves love to grab cell phones from people using them on trains and run off at the next stop.

8. Steer Clear of Animals

Cute stray dogs and cats roaming the streets may make for good photo opportunities but resist the urge to get too close. Wild animals can carry all kinds of diseases (including rabies) that could ruin your trip.

9. Keep an Emergency Car Kit

Whether you’re driving your car on a road trip or renting one abroad, make sure you keep a fully stocked safety kit in the case of an emergency. This should include a backup battery for your phone, a first-aid kit, reflective warning signs, blankets, non-perishable food, a tire gauge, a flashlight, bottled water, and a snow shovel.

10. Save Emergency Numbers

Remember, you can’t call 911 everywhere. Find out what the local emergency hotlines are and save them to your phone (preferably on speed dial). Also, research the nearest U.S. embassies or consulates and save those addresses and phone numbers as well.

Sam’s Evacuation Story

In Focus Alert: Extreme Weather

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / GULF COAST

FPI sources are reporting that two tropical depression systems developing in the Atlantic are scheduled to make landfall at hurricane strength on the southern Florida Peninsula and the Gulf Coast as early as Monday, 24 August 2020. The pair of tropical systems are both on a path that would take them into the Gulf Coast at the same time over the weekend. Tropical Storm Laura and Tropical Storm Marco have nearly the entire Gulf Coast on alert for potential impacts, and they could become the first pair of systems to be in this part of the Atlantic Basin at the same time in decades.

Tropical Storm Laura developed in the Atlantic just a couple of hundred miles east-southeast of the northern Leeward Islands on Friday morning with maximum sustained speeds of 45 mph. Laura is projected to bring tropical storm conditions as it moves along with the potential for more significant conditions, depending on the exact track and strength of the feature itself. The storm is forecasted to affect people across the northern islands of the Caribbean, as well as the Turks and Caicos, southern Bahamas, the Florida Keys and the southern part of the Florida Peninsula.

Tropical Storm Marco formed about 180 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph with a north-northwest movement at 13 mph. Heavy rain and gusty winds will continue to spread into the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula as the storm heads northwest this weekend into the Gulf of Mexico. Damaging winds are also expected, especially in exposed windward locations like coastal areas around and north of the center of the storm. These areas are most likely to be impacted by destructive onshore winds. Should the storm remain stronger, these areas could also experience coastal flooding.

Travelers and residents along the western Gulf Coast of the U.S. should keep a close eye on the system’s strength and forecast track and make storm preparations now before landfall. Residents and travelers in possible affected areas are advised to continue practicing social distancing and safe hygiene measures as well as to stay away from the beach, water bodies, move to higher ground, follow local media sources for updates, and monitor the status of flights.

In the event of a hurricane, please take the following precautions.

BEFORE A HURRICANE:

  • Have a disaster plan.
  • Board up windows.
  • Bring in outdoor objects that could blow away.
  • Know where all the evacuation routes are.
  • Prepare a disaster supplies kit for your home and car. Have enough food and water for at least 3 days. Include a first aid kit, canned food and a can opener, bottled water, battery-operated radio, flashlight, protective clothing and written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas, and water.
  • Have some cash handy. Following a hurricane, banks and ATMs may be temporarily closed.
  • Make sure your car is filled with gasoline.
  • Keep important documents in a waterproof container. Create password-protected digital copies.

DURING A HURRICANE:

  • Stay away from low-lying and flood prone areas.
  • Always stay indoors during a hurricane as strong winds will blow things around.
  • Leave mobile homes and to go to a shelter.
  • If your home isn’t on higher ground, go to a shelter.
  • If emergency managers say to evacuate, then do so immediately.

AFTER A HURRICANE:

  • Stay indoors until it is safe to come out.
  • Check for injured or trapped people, without putting yourself in danger.
  • Watch out for flooding which can happen after a hurricane.
  • Do not attempt to drive in flooding water.
  • Stay away from standing water. It may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Don’t drink tap water until officials say it’s safe to do so.

FocusPoint International is monitoring this developing situation. FocusPoint’s Crisis Response Center is prepared to provide assistance 24/7. Please do not hesitate to contact us at any time, day or night.

CRC / BAG / BJN / ONO 

22 August 18:32 (UTC)

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Ten Tips for Practical Social Distancing

Ways to Manage Social Distancing

The term ‘social distancing’ has emerged as the latest tool to combat the spread of COVID-19. The global pandemic has now impacted hundreds of thousands, and people across the world are being forced to stay home, cancel events, and generally avoid gatherings altogether.

Many businesses continue to operate while implementing measures to help ‘flatten the curve’ of the pandemic, encouraging employees to work from home if they can, or self-isolate if they are showing symptoms of the virus. World leaders are also encouraging people to stay home if they can, placing extreme financial hardship on the food, travel, and entertainment industry.

Social Distancing Guidelines and Suggestions

Social distancing can be extremely challenging but is a necessary step in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Avoid Gatherings of People: Find another way to celebrate holidays and special events, likely at home. Work meetings can be held via conference calls, Skype, or any other video conference software. If you absolutely must meet in-person, keep your meetings as small as possible. Social distancing is rooted in avoiding the gathering of 50 people or more, but this number may be reduced even further. Current guidance from the CDC is to avoid groups of more than 10 people.
  2. Carry Hand Sanitizer: Routinely use hand sanitizer, especially if you are heading out to run errands. Essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations will likely remain open, so it is important to use sanitizer when hand washing is not an immediate option.
  3. Stay Home: Only leave home if it is absolutely necessary. This could include caring for the vulnerable, grocery shopping, or picking up medications. Many music and sporting events are being streamed online and can be enjoyed at home.
  4. Refrain from Shaking Hands: This is the time to adopt new greetings in both business and social settings. When greeting people, do not make physical contact. Many people have gotten creative, with Italians adapting to winks, and many North Americans bowing, similar to Japanese business etiquette.
  5. Avoid the Use of Paper Money: Consider sticking to credit and debit cards during this pandemic and be cautious of handling loose change at cash registers. Try to avoid touching PIN-pads and digital signature panels with exposed skin.
  6. Wash Your Hands Several Times A Day: Whether or not you are self-isolating, wash your hands several times a day, especially after using any public facilities. Thoroughly lather your hands with hot soapy water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if handwashing is not available.
  7. Maintain a Distance of Two Arms Lengths Away from All People: This especially includes people who have a cough or cold. Do your absolute best to avoid crowds on public transit, airports, and any other places where large amounts of people gather.
  8. Practice Respiratory Hygiene: This means if you must cough or sneeze, do so into your sleeve or elbow. Avoid touching your face, especially after touching shared surfaces.
  9. Consider Self-Isolation: If you have traveled internationally in recent months, consider informing your employer and figure out a way to stay home. While many professionals will be able to work from home, others, especially tradesmen, will need to negotiate the correct course of action with their employer. This could include a self-isolation period of several weeks.
  10. Support Your Neighbors, Family, and Friends: Most importantly, during these challenging times, it is crucial to support one another. Check-in on the elderly, connect with family and find ways to help fellow members of society. Some people are unable to purchase groceries or pick up essential medicines. Reach out and do your best to ensure these members of your community are taken care of.

The Very Real Challenges of a Global Pandemic

COVID-19 is a serious threat to the entire world. Global travelers have had to cut trips short, cancel vacations, and scramble to get home amid border closures due to COVID-19. When the time is right, consider going beyond traditional travel insurance.

CAP+Med is a travel assistance plan offering specialized travel security benefits in the event you experience a medical mishap during your trip. This could include travel benefits that speak to the needs of travelers who experience a pandemic during travel.

Visit our website to learn more.

7 Ways You Can Protect Yourself & Others From COVID-19

Find a travel assistance plan with emergency response and assistance benefits for viral outbreaks like COVID-19.  Learn more about what the CAP plan includes.

6 Essential Things You Need to Do Before You Travel

Originally posted on mappingmegan.com

When it comes to planning a holiday, most people aim to tick off the essentials – tickets, accommodation and itinerary. However, in order to truly enjoy a smooth and carefree holiday, there’s a lot more prep work that needs to be done prior to the big departure.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Nothing dampens the excitement of a vacation more than unwanted surprises you could’ve planned for.

To help you out, here are some tips for things you need to do while you’re packing and before you leave.

Share Your Itinerary

Share you itinerary only with trusted friends and immediate family. This is so they can keep track of your whereabouts while you travel. For any reason that something happens back at home, they can contact you immediately.

Do not share your travel itinerary on social media. Lurkers may take advantage of this information and launch a scam during your absence, or may steal information shown on your itinerary. It also advertises to the world that your house will be empty while you’re away.

It’s easy to get excited in the lead up to a trip, and we all want to share that we are travelling somewhere exotic, but be cautious of the kind of information you share online. Just don’t post a photo of your hotel booking with your contact details or credit card.

Call Your Credit Card Company

Call and inform your credit card company that you will be travelling a couple of days before you leave, and make sure your credit card is ready for use in your destination. In case of an emergency abroad, make sure you have written down the hotline number for your card.

Putting a travel alert on your card also protects you against potential credit card scams. Ie if your credit card company knows you’re in Australia, they will know that anything from Texas is suspicious usage of your credit card.

Prepare a Photocopy of Your Travel Documents

This is for your safety in case you lose your travel documents that you have with you, at least you still have another set of photocopy sitting inside your luggage.

If the lodge or hotel offers safe or lockers make use of this to store your important travel and identification documents and valuables.

Hold Your Mail

If you will travelling for a long period of time, hold your mail and subscriptions at your local post office. Or maybe you can ask a trusted friend to drop by your house and clear the letterbox for you (give them permission to open any mail that may be important, such as car registration renewal).

This is so you avoid an overflowing mailbox and scattered subscription magazines at your doorstep. This attracts attention and says to would be thieves that no one is home.

Secure Your Locks

Secure your front door locks, window locks, back door locks and basement door locks. Make sure it’s bolted lock really tight and secure. It would be good if you some outdoor lights on timer or motion sensor night-lights. This is a big help to distract would be thieves. Double check your security alarms to make sure they are turned on and really working.

Arrange for house sitter if possible, especially if you will be travelling for a long period of time. There are great websites that offer this service, and it means your house will be more secure having someone living in it.

Hold Your Memberships

Hold your gym, carpool, zumba or any club memberships that you make monthly payments to. This is to avoid accumulating monthly payments when you come back from your long term travel. Imagine racking up 3 or 6 months of monthly payments for your club memberships that you didn’t use. Ouch!

How to Travel Safe in the Age of Terrorism

Originally published in 2015 on MappingMegan.com

 

This year has been a frightening year for those who travel – terrorism appears to be on the rise, governments have been issuing overblown safety advice, and travelers are becoming more and more paranoid about whether or not it is safe to travel (it is).

We have seen separate attacks this year in Belguim, Kuwait, and Turkey, and most recently as last week, there were double ISIS bombings in Beirut, terror bombings in Iraq, and the appalling attack which occurred in France.

Tourists were among those killed in Tunisia when a gunman started shooting in a museum in May, and a car bomb injured seven people in March on a tourist island in Thailand. Two explosives were uncovered in Belfast in June, mosques were bombed Yemen, and there was the horrific Peshawar school massacre – when militants from the Pakistani Taliban entered a school and opened fire on the students, detonating multiple explosive devices at the same time. 132 children and nine staff members were killed.

Though one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in history happened in January of this year, a multi day attack of villages in northern Nigeria leading to the deaths of almost 2,000 at the hands of Boko Haram – the same group responsible for abducting over 200 girls from a school in the northeastern town of Chibok in April 2013. Am I safe from terrorism if I travel overseas?

Each of these were horrific events, and we pray for the victims and their families of all involved. We pray that hatred will be eventually stamped out, and that the delusional cowards who aim to spread terror and fear in the name of false religions will find themselves cut down.

But despite the horror and tragedy of each individual situation, and despite the overblown daily paranoia instigated by our media through sensational stories which only promote fear, each of these were isolated events, and your chances of actually being caught in a terrorist attack while overseas are very slim. More likely to be crushed to death by a vending machine kind of slim.

Realistically, cities like London, Prague and New York have some of the highest crime rates in the world, though no government agency advises against travel here. And you have just as much chance of being caught up in an attack on your own country as you do while traveling abroad, yet no-one lives permanently in a bunker underneath their home for fear of coming out.

So many New Yorkers are cancelling their plans to go to Paris, but think about what occurred right in their own backyard on 9/11. You can’t let extremist activities stop you from traveling and you can’t live in fear.

Because the truth of the matter is that it’s not travel which is dangerous – it’s LIFE. And if you stop traveling, the terrorists win.

So don’t stop traveling, just travel smart. Here’s how to travel safely in the face of terrorism. How to be safe from terrorism when traveling overseas.

How to Travel Safely in the Face of Terrorism

Register your travel with your government and maintain contact with your consulate or embassy in the event of a terrorist attack. Many countries have a smart traveler program where you can lodge your travel plans and this is especially important if you’re heading to an area where you’re worried about terrorism or unrest. Safe overseas travel with terrorism.

Doing this means the government knows which of its citizens are at risk in an emergency event, and is the only way they can contact you. You should always travel with the phone number and address of your local embassy as a matter of routine.

Leave a copy of your itinerary with someone you trust. No matter what your age, never underestimate the importance of letting someone at home know where you will be. Leave the names, address and numbers of your hotels, information about your transport, and names of anyone you have pre-arranged to meet. In the event that things go south you’ll have someone who can act immediately to aid and assist, or even attempt to locate you.

Get your bearings as soon as you arrive in a new city, as this will help you navigate an emergency situation with less confusion and stress should one occur. Stay safe from terrorism attacks overseas.

You don’t want to be wandering aimlessly around the streets of a new city if a terrorist attack has just occurred, so make sure you are aware of your surroundings and know, for instance, a route back to your hotel so you can remain calm and leave the incident as quickly as possible. It’s always a good idea to keep a business card from your hotel on you. Worst case you can jump in a cab and present the driver with the card.

Travel with a phone. While international roaming charges are the reason many leave their phones at home, in the event of an emergency you need a way to communicate with others. So even if you switch your phone to a constant state of flight mode while overseas, having it with you at least allows you the option of a more immediate form of communication than email if it’s required.

If you’re in one location for a prolonged period of time, consider buying a local SIM. And make sure you save the numbers of your embassy and hotel.

Make sure you recognize the uniforms of local police and learn a few basic phrases in the local language of where you will be.

Should something happen, local police and military are have more up to date information about what’s happening on the ground and they’ll know best course of action to ensure your safety. Always follow their directions.

Megan Jerrard
Mapping Megan