Use This Free Service To Feel Safer When Traveling Internationally

When you're preparing for a trip, especially an international one, it's important to prioritize your safety. Ensuring that you're up to date on any suggested vaccines, keeping your travel documents and forms of identification secure, and using anti-theft bags, purses, and clothing are all steps you can take to protect yourself from harm, be it sickness, robbery, or identity theft while traveling. You can also set up travel alerts on your credit cards as an extra safety step. It's better to hope for the best while still taking precautions for your own safety.

When traveling to a new area, keeping up with current events can be helpful. Knowledge about the political climate of the area you're heading into, as well as insights into what's happening on a local level, are important. With that being said, it's still difficult to have a thorough understanding of where events are unfolding and which spots to avoid. For example, the country might be stable, but protests or demonstrations still occur. It's difficult to gather this information on your own. Luckily though, you don't have to — STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), can do it for you.

What is STEP?

According to the STEP website, "The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate." By enrolling, you not only let the U.S. government know about your trip, which in and of itself may bring about peace of mind; you also receive alerts from the U.S. government that share information regarding your safety, be it informing you of political activity in the area you're visiting, or upcoming severe weather.

If anything could potentially impact your safety that you wouldn't necessarily know about, they would inform you. With that being said, you can take an extra step of precaution by having the numbers of the U.S. embassy or consulate. with you. If anything were to happen, you'd be able to immediately contact them, and they would be able to assist you with medical, legal, and financial matters throughout the duration of your stay. They also would be your point of contact if, for example, you lost your passport or had it stolen.

How to enroll

You can enroll in STEP online. You have the option to register a singular trip or create an account. Creating an account is great for those who travel internationally often because it provides the option to modify information rather than re-uploading it every time. If you're traveling as a family, there's no need for everyone to enroll. One person can register the trip and add others as "accompanying travelers." If you're going as a large group, you have the option to first enroll as a group and upload everyone's personal information via a spreadsheet.

Once you're properly enrolled, you'll receive alerts if there's anything that could affect you during your trip. This is what makes STEP unique and especially important — you get alerts regarding the specific region you're in during the timeline of your trip. If you don't enroll, you won't get the alerts since your information is not in the system. So next time you're preparing to venture internationally, don't forget to enroll in STEP.