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Don’t Freak Out About Travel Alerts! Fear is a 4-Letter Word

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Every time the State Department posts a travel advisory, a travel bulletin or—as happened last week—a global travel alert, I get hundreds of emails from people wondering if it’s safe to go overseas, go to Orlando or even leave their house.

Here’s what I tell travelers:

The worst four-letter word starting with “f” is “fear,” and most Americans know no shortage of it when it comes to making their travel choices—and the fear often inhibits those choices.

But it is essential to put those fears in proper historical context.

When there is a specific travel alert for a location, keep in mind the length of the alert. Most threats are for a set time period. The recent alert was just issued, but if you’re planning on cruising the Nile this November (which I argue is safe to do), don’t rush to change your plans.

Remember what—or to whom—the alert applies. In this most recent case, embassies are the target. More than 20 were closed and currently 19 are closed with U.S. staffers being evacuated from the Yemeni capital.

Next, exercise your own personal/political GPS and the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor if you choose to travel.

In addition to common sense, the key is to be informed. Start with the State Department, and then check what other governments have to say about a location. Believe it or not, I’m a bigger fan of the information provided by the British Foreign Office to their citizens than I am from the U.S. State Department information. And that information is available to you. In some cases they may have access to information that our government doesn’t. In other cases they might offer a different perspective.

Let’s look at what’s going on in the Middle East. Right now, the State Department cautions the following:

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula. Current information suggests that Al-Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August. This travel alert expires on August 31, 2013.

Canada cautions a more controlled outlook:

The Government of Canada is monitoring the situation closely. Canadian travellers and diplomats in North Africa and the Middle East should exercise a higher degree of caution due to the U.S. travel alert in the region.

The UK alert is more targeted:

The UK is strongly advises all citizens to leave Yemen immediately, or they may not be able to receive help in evacuating.

Again, it gets down to basic common sense and situational awareness. Unless I am planning on travel to an area where NO ONE is in control and there is widespread civil war, I have always proceeded with my plans. And with everyone else staying home, I’ve had an even better time.

Watch Peter’s Video on Middle East Travel Alerts and read more of Peter Greenberg’s original Travel Detective® blogs

By Peter Greenberg for his new LinkedIn Influencer column. Follow Peter on his LinkedIn Influencer page.

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