5 Ways to Make Your Travels Safer in a (Sometimes) Unsafe World

Learn behaviors that maximize your chances of returning home safely.

If you're planning a trip, it's hard to put concern about making your travel safer completely out of mind. You wouldn’t be human if the recent Sri Lanka terror attacks or the 737 MAX plane groundings didn’t make you a little anxious. Fortunately, such events are rare; air travel is still the safest way to go. (If you doubt this, ask yourself when was the last time you had a fender-bender, and when was the last time you were in a plane crash.)

However, bad stuff can and does happen, and sometimes the best we can do is to stay alert and know a few things that can help us stay safer. So master these safety and security travel tips, which were gleaned from a variety of sources including the U.S. State Department’s travel site. It's well worth a look anytime you're thinking of hopping on a plane.

1. Terrorism and Security

Travel.State.Gov has information on everything from country-specific tips on transportation, local laws, scams, and crimes to places and situations travelers should avoid, such as large demonstrations that could turn violent.

It also includes an entire section devoted to terrorism, which begins by urging travelers to sign up for STEP, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. STEP helps U.S. embassies and consulates and you (and your family and friends) in case of emergencies at home or abroad.

Another must-read on Travel.State.Gov are the travel advisories for every country on earth, ranging from Level 1 which means “Exercise normal precautions” to Level 4 which says,“Do not travel.” There are currently a handful of Level 4 countries, including Afghanistan and Venezuela, but the vast majority of nations are rated in the safe zone.

2. Airplane Safety

Commit the advice below to memory, just in case.

Surviving airplane crashes

Whenever you’re on a plane, do whatever a crewmember tells you to do, whether it’s to buckle-up or pay attention to the safety briefing; it could save your life. According to a study of aviation accidents from 1983 to 2000 by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, more than 95% of passengers survived crashes.

95%

More than this number of passengers survived airplane crashes from 1983 to 2000.

Aviation experts report that most fatalities are due to post-crash smoke, fumes, and fires so getting off the plane quickly is a must. Always count the rows of seats to exits in front of and behind you so you can get out as quickly as possible. And don’t waste time scrabbling around your seat area for your purse or carry-on; whatever is in them is not worth your life.

What to do if your plane is grounded

If the FAA decides a plane is unsafe to fly, the airline will notify you. In the ongoing case with the 737 MAX planes, passengers were allowed to select new flights or cancel altogether without paying a fee. If you’re ever unsure which aircraft you’re flying, the airline site will usually provide this information. Or try other sources, such as SeatGuru.

3. Airport Safety

The Travel.State.Gov site has four recommendations for travelers in airports, which “may help you to avoid becoming a target of opportunity.”

  • Avoid connecting flights that may include stops in high-risk airports or areas.
  • Don’t dawdle in public areas; go through airport security as soon as you arrive.
  • If you see any abandoned bags or packages, report them to authorities.
  • Avoid “drawing attention to yourself.”

4. Hotel Safety

Use your common sense: Don’t open your hotel room door for unexpected packages or room service you didn’t order, and don’t open your door to anyone at all without confirming their identity. (If that means keeping them waiting while you phone the front desk, so be it.)

5. General Safety

Pay attention to the news: This is where you’ll learn about airplane groundings, terror attacks, even roads closed by bad weather or accidents that could make you late for your plane. You may also hear startling information such as that your airline just went bankrupt, which happened to a lot of folks flying Wow Air recently. But knowledge is power and the sooner you know about bad things, the quicker you can get on the phone or online to see what your options are.

The bottom line for safety, I think, is to always listen to your inner voice. You know, the one you hear when you’re in a new city and are about to venture down a dark, deserted street. At this point, your inner voice should be screaming at you, something along the lines of, “Would you go down this street if you were at home? No?? Then don’t do it here!” Inner voices sound a lot like common sense and should always be heeded.

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