Featured in the April/ May 2018 Travel Issue of Compete Magazine

Travelers in 2018, particularly those traveling internationally should consider both their travel dollars and their personal safety before embarking on a trip to a popular or exotic location. Even if you didn’t earn your safety badge as a Boy or Girl Scout, you’ll find as a traveling adult it still pays to be prepared! Here are some important tips from a variety of travel professionals.


First on your list? Make sure you have a passport. And if you already have one, make sure it’s still current. Doing this early on means you’ve eliminated lots of unnecessary frustration and extra expediting fees if you leave this to the last minute.


Take a safety class. A good one is the web-based DepartSmart’s Travel Hero Safety Certification. Starting with the geopolitical context to help with health and wellness, geography and housing to travel insurance, this program puts you and your trip on solid, informed ground right from the start.


Next, sign up for the government’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service enabling U.S. citizens and nationals who are traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It allows you to get important information about safety conditions in your destination country so you can make informed decisions about your travel plans. It also notifies you in an emergency from a natural disaster, civil unrest or a family emergency.


If you aren’t already working with a savvy travel advisor, get one! Always up to date on the latest changes in travel, hotel and car rental information, a good agent can get you booked early to get the best discounts. They also can keep you out of trouble. For example, many of the popular Caribbean islands have been ravaged by hurricanes. So if a laid-back island beach vacation is still your dream, your qualified travel agent can help you find alternative islands if necessary.


Julietta Jameson from Traveller.com offers some information to know, the first being a ban on suitcases with GPS tracking. A number of international and domestic airlines are banning bags from both the cargo hold and cabin if their lithium-ion batteries can’t be removed. Fortunately, there are already luggage manufacturers that offer smart luggage with easily removable batteries.


Remember that as of January 22, all U.S. citizens flying in the country will be required to have a “Real ID-compliant” license or similar compliant document to get through TSA security. To avoid check-in delays and confusion, early airport arrival is highly recommended.


Pay attention to large events that could impact your travel plans. For example, the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19 in London will draw a huge police and public presence. Or soccer’s World Cup being held in Russia from June 14-July 15 where there will be extra tight security due to clashes between English and Russian fans at Euro 2016. The warning is that even chanting in the street may trigger strong security action. LGBTQ+ community members and allies should also stay aware.


If you’re an app person, travel writer and Forbes contributor Elva Ramirez says to update your favorite travel apps days before the trip and then again on the night before you fly and turn on the notifications! She calls TripCase her “most indispensable travel app,” and recommends that if you only get one travel app, this is the one to get since it’s a trip manager.


For international travel Ramirez recommends Mobile Passport to avoid waiting in a long line to see a U.S. Customs Agent. Once you fill out your flight information on your phone and answer the usual customs questions, you receive an electronic receipt good for three hours. Once deplaned, you enter a dedicated line that is much faster. It’s free and authorized by U.S. Customs. Although it’s only in use at 24 airports and one cruise port, more locations are being added soon.


Her final app recommendation is a free currency calculator, CalConvert that takes the guesswork out of currency conversions with a real-time calculator that converts various units in over 150 currencies in 24 languages in addition to offering basic calculator functions.


Ready to go? Then pack your bags – we’re going on vacation!

By Harry Andrew