Before You or Your Loved Ones Travel Outside the United States this Summer Or Anytime Take These Four STEPs First

health-alertsGrandpa, our oldest grandson, and I were walking with our guide, Bertrand, down a main Paris thoroughfare toward the Rodin Museum when all three of our I phones beeped an alert from the U.S. government.  I was surprised that Bertrand’s phone did not also beep, but I only included his cell phone number in our government STEP program travel advisory alerts signup in case the three of us could not be reached.  Yes, I had signed up for the STEP program before we went to Paris, which provided us with specific immediate travel advisory alerts if we needed them and the American Embassy in Paris knew where we were at all times.  The alert told us to avoid crowds in Paris at the moment.  At that moment, the four of us saw a crowd ahead.  We stopped and examined the alert.  Bertrand was impressed, but being the outstanding guide that he is, he had checked out our route before we took it and knew that there was a nurses’ strike at the major hospital we were approaching, so the crowd was expected and not suspect.  Yes, with what had happened in Paris the previous year, and the unrest in Paris about terrorism, I had taken the preventative measure of letting our government have, in advance of our trip, our itinerary, our locations in Paris, and those we were going to be with in Paris and their contact information.  I took the extra step of finding an outstanding local guide to accompany us, a Parisian who knew Paris and how to help us in an emergency.

Yes, this Grandma reaches out to STEP and takes the time, and it does take time and effort, to sign up with this program.  I even included it in the blog post about Paris listed below, because of the terrorist threats, but I sign up for every out of the country trip, whether it is an area of the world with danger, or not.

You never know when being an American abroad is a problem. Here are four steps you should take before you leave our wonderful country and travel abroad.

STEP NUMBER ONE: Travel and Safety Information Links

The United States Embassy has information on France and Paris, which we used for that trip, and for every location in the world.

Travel.State.Gov is the website for the United States State department that gives you information about any country you are planning to visit, a Fact Sheet, safety, local laws and special circumstances, travel and transportation.   It gives you quick facts about passport and visa information, for example, that you need extra passport pages when visiting certain areas of the world.  It gives you alerts and travel advisories so you can make a decision if you want to go to a specific location in the world right now.

STEP NUMBER TWO: Health and Disease Warnings and Immunization Information and Links

CDC (the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

Here is the direct link to the CDC, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention.   This is the second must step, as it tells you required immunizations and disease warnings  for every country you may be visiting.  It not only gives you worldwide information but also gives alerts for the United States, such as the salmonella outbreak.  You can sign up to receive alert emails.  You may decide the Ebola, for example, is too close to where you are thinking of traveling, and you may postpone the trip close to that area of Africa this year.

Everyone asks if they should get all the recommended immunizations, and just stick to required immunizations.  This Grandma is very conservative and errs on the side of getting every immunization.  After all, the dozen or so  immunizations that PopPop and I got for the Far Eastern underdeveloped countries included boosters I should have had years earlier and were still effective five years later for Africa.  It is good to bundle trips to underdeveloped countries to do areas within five years to avoid excess immunizations, like we planned, but we are planners.

Passport Health (Where to Get Immunizations and Preventative Prescriptions)

We use Passport Health locally.  They provide information, the immunizations for you to consider, administer the immunizations, provide information and prescriptions for preventative medications.

If you go on their website and put in your zipcode, they give you contact information for their equivalent in your location. When you use them, they keep track of your immunizations, give you a booklet about your destination area of the world, and guide you as to whether or not to take certain medication with you, giving you precautionary prescriptions for antibiotics that work with other medications you currently take.  I remember a discussion of whether to take malaria pills to Kruger National Park in South Africa even though we were going in winter, and we opted to take them.  At Kruger, only one family of four did not take them and became panicked; the A & K escort was wonderful, but did say they should have checked about Kruger and malaria, which is right on the A & K website.  If you want a shortcut about any information about an area, the A & K website for a location is outstanding, with direct links to the CDC for the area and to travel advisories.

MedJet Assist (Medical Air Evacuation Insurance)

Being concerned about an accident or illness abroad, PopPop and I always keep a MedJetAssist policy for air evacuation.

From their website, “Medjet is the premier global air medical transport and travel security membership program for travelers. One in 30 trips end in a medical emergency, and safety while traveling has become a growing concern.”  We want to be able to get back home from abroad if there is a medical emergency, and have been Medjet members on and off for more years than we can remember.  If we plan to travel much, we join for a longer period, for a greater discount.  If you are considering retiring abroad, see this previous post about health care, “Boomers and Health Care Moving Abroad.”

STEP NUMBER THREE: Enroll in STEP (The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program)

All the steps are important if you are planning a trip abroad, but this is the most important to me. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service from the U.S. government that allows U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad to enroll with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Benefits of enrolling in STEP are: (1) receive the latest safety and security information for your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans; (2) help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency; and (3) help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.

This Grandma admits that I am technologically challenged, so I also must admit that I constantly mess up while inputting the required information.  You will too.  If you don’t have all the information at hand and take too long, the website will kick you out and you will have to start over again.  If you click to go ahead before you fill in some information, if you go back, the website deletes what you already inputted.  Yes, this was me, but many times.  I persevered each time and completed all the information.  Yes, being very conservative, I include everything in our daily itinerary, as well as our hotels, as well as all of our travel company, escort and guide information.  The few extra minutes means that the United States government has more information as where to find me in case. . . .

Now, how did the United States Embassy in Paris know that we were walking down a main throughfare toward a huge crowd when they sent us the text on our Iphones to avoid large crowds?

STEP NUMBER FOUR:  Have An Expert Local Guide With You When Traveling Abroad

If you go on a group tour, there will always be an escort or daily guide.  In additional to having an expert local guide with you as they enhance your travel experience, if you travel alone and are going to an area that has had terrorist issues or other issues where you would want an expert local with you to keep you safe, go to Tripadvisor or Wendy Perrin and find a private guide that meets your interests and pocketbook.  The guides we have found have sometimes been the number one guide on Tripadvisor and sometimes been number thirty to thirty five, as those met our interests more. How to find the best private guide will be the subject of another post, but the posts listed below have names of outstanding guides.  They know areas to avoid and how to get help immediately.  PopPop and I are avid world travelers and I include names of outstanding guides in the blog posts.  I have included links below to some of my world travel posts to give you inspiration!

Enjoy world travel and stay safe, healthy, and happy!*

 

Joy,

 

Mema

 

*I intentionally did not include travel insurance in this blog post.  Grandpa and I have used the same travel insurance company for decades that is listed as the best or near to the best, and it took months for our very first and only claim in decades, a valid claim we wished we did not have to make, to be processed and approved, and several weeks longer to receive the funds, which we consider an unreasonable time under the circumstances when we complied with their requests timely and fully.  I cannot imagine and cannot think about now what we are going to do about travel insurance once we hopefully begin traveling again in 2019.

 

PARIS

“Consider Introducing Your Grandchildren To The World, Beginning with Paris.”

AFRICA

“The Big Five in The Perfection of An Intimate Luxurious Safari Experience At Ivory Lodge, Lion Sands Reserve and Lodges, Sabi Sands Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa”

The Big Five in The Perfection of An Intimate Luxurious Safari Experience At Ivory Lodge, Lion Sands Reserve and Lodges, Sabi Sands Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa

“An “Out of This World” Must Do Experience is The &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia, Africa”

An “Out of This World” Must Do Experience is The &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia, Africa

SCOTLAND, IRELAND, AND  NORTHERN  IRELAND

“Best Five Tips for Experiencing Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland”

LONDON

“Best London Itinerary With Children and Grandchildren Or As A Multi Generational Vacation”

Best London Itinerary With Children and Grandchildren Or As A Multi Generational Vacation

DUBAI AND ABU DHABI

“The Perfect 36 Hour Stopover Experience in Dubai and Abu Dhabi”

The Perfect 36 Hour Stopover Experience in Dubai and Abu Dhabi

 

CUBA

“The Best Reasons Why and How to See Cuba Now And The Best Reasons to Wait”

The Best Reasons Why and How to See Cuba Now And The Best Reasons to Wait

 

TRAVEL TIPS

“Tips on Giving The Gift Of Travel To Family and Grandchildren, Multigenerational, With Grandchildren, and Best Family Itineraries Around the United States and World”

Tips on Giving The Gift Of Travel To Family and Grandchildren, Multigenerational, With Grandchildren, and Best Family Itineraries Around the United States and World

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