With recent health and safety concerns causing the U.S. State Department and other countries to issue travel warnings, it’s important now, more than ever, to travel smarter, no matter where you’re headed.  This includes doing your research and planning ahead before-hand, and remaining knowledgable and alert throughout your stay.  In this series, we bring you travel tips that will help you do just that.  Because if you’re like us, you don’t plan to stop traveling anytime soon.  Below, we give you five tips to travel smarter when venturing abroad.

1.  Do  your  research.

Before planning and booking your international trip, visit the U.S. Department of State website to read up on your potential destination.  There, you’ll find specific information about where you’re planning to travel, including any potential travel alerts, the location of the nearest U.S. Embassy, and specific health and safety concerns that you might want to be aware of before booking.

2.  Get  organized.

Even if you already have your Passport, double check it to make sure that it’s not nearing its expiration.  The requirement is that it be valid for at least six months after you return home from your trip.  That’s definitely not something you want to find out at the airport!  Once your Passport is good to go, make a few photocopies of it and plan to pack them in separate bags.

3.  Plan  ahead.

Notify your bank and credit card companies that you’ll be traveling, and figure out the best option for cell service if you plan on using your phone while abroad.

4.  Don’t  forget  about  your  health.

Check out the CDC and WHO websites for updates, alerts or warnings regarding potential health concerns where you’ll be traveling.  Find out whether your destinations requires that you have any certain vaccines before you leave.

If you’re traveling with prescription medications, the U.S. Department of State advises that you obtain a letter from your prescribing physician explaining your medical condition and the names of the medications you’re taking.  Leave your prescriptions in their original labeled containers.  Be sure to pack any over-the-counter vitamins and medications you might need for common ailments like headache, nausea, cold and stomach ache so that you don’t have to worry about finding and purcahsing them while you’re abroad.

5.  Enroll  in  the  Smart  Traveler  Enrollment  Program  (STEP).

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) allows you to register your upcoming trip abroad with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the U.S. Department of State.  By providing basic information about yourself, your upcoming travels and your emergency contact information, you’ll be registered to recieve updates about the safety conditions of your destination directly from the Embassy.  It will also allow the U.S. Embassy, family and/or friends to be able to contact you in the event of an emergency.  Click here to enroll.