Deputy Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizen Services Karen Christensen recently moderated a panel at the New York Times Travel Show featuring travel experts Ed Salvato, Editor of Man about World, a digital travel magazine for gay men; Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson, stars of the public television show Grannies on Safari; and travel blogger Kate “Adventurous Kate” McCulley.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Christensen and the panelists offered lots of great travel advice for Americans heading overseas, but the following five are our top picks:
- Enroll in STEP, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Pat and Regina, the Grannies on Safari, noted that it helps the Department of State find you in an emergency. As Pat said, “We learned how important it is for State to find you in an emergency when we were in Cairo during a revolution.”
- Be prepared: Learn about your destination before you go. Each of the panelists cited the importance of being aware of local customs and any potential challenges your destination may present. Kate mentioned that travel.state.gov is a great resource for learning about your destination before you arrive.
- Get travel insurance wherever you go. As Ed and Kate remarked, you have to balance enjoyment of travel with security, and travel insurance can offer security and peace of mind in case of an emergency.
- Make copies of your important documents. Ed, Pat, Regina, and Kate all highlighted the importance of maintaining copies of your passport, credit cards, and other important information wherever you go, and they suggested keeping a digital copy of your information, so you don’t have to worry about carrying hard copies with you.
- The Bureau of Consular Affairs has people on duty 24 hours a day that can help you in an emergency. As Deputy Assistant Secretary Christensen noted, “There are times when we can help travelers navigate the local bureaucracy.” Consular officers can also issue an emergency passport if your passport is stolen or lost overseas and help you find local medical or legal service providers.
If you want more travel advice from the Bureau of Consular Affairs, follow @TravelGov. And, if you want to learn more about what the Bureau of Consular Affairs can do to help U.S. citizens during an emergency overseas, join us on February 4, 2015, at 2:00 PM EST, when we will host an Ask Me Anything on Reddit with Office of Overseas Citizen Services Managing Director, Michelle Bernier-Toth.
About the author: Nicole Stillwell serves as a Public Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs Office of Policy Coordination and Public Affairs.