Depart Smart founder, Sheryl Hill, was interviewed by Policy Genius for this article.  Republishing the article on our website is not an indication that we agree with the content in entirety or with other publications on Policy Genius. It does indicate that we are grateful to be included as subject matter experts for travel safety.  We’ve added comments in parenthesis and italics preceded by — where we felt the article needed emphasis.  

Here’s the Article:

by Mia Taylor, for Policy Genius on

It’s spring break season, which means hordes of travelers will jet off to warmer destinations.

—(Note the ‘warmer destinations’ link above  recommends travel to Tulum, Mexico in March 2019.  Tulum is in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.  The U.S. State Department issued a Level 2 Alert and Warning for Quintana Roo: Exercise increased caution due to crime. Criminal activity and violence, including homicide, remain a primary concern throughout the state. While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organization assassinations and turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Bystanders have been injured or killed in shooting incidents.)—

But before you pack your bags, take a few moments to lay the groundwork for a safe spring break travel experience. Here are five tips to ensure your spring getaway is not only fun, but safe.

1. Do your research

All travelers should know the crime rate and natural disaster risks of their intended destination, especially international travelers, said Sheryl Hill, CEO of Depart Smart, travel safety training experts.

“You wouldn’t want to be at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Hill said. “Or, get stranded in a snow storm, hurricane, or even a raging forest fire.”

2. Understand the different threat levels

The U.S. Department of State issues travel advisories for every country in the world. Familiarize yourself with this information and develop an understanding of what each of the four advisory levels mean:

  1. Exercise Normal Precautions (BLUE)
  2. Exercise Increased Caution (YELLOW)
  3. Reconsider Travel (ORANGE)
  4. Do Not Travel (RED)

“Do not travel means, seriously, do not,” explains Hill. “The State Department may not be able to assist if violent crime or civil unrest is prevalent.”

—A U.S. State Department Level 1 or Level 2 Country Safety alert does not mean that there are not Level 3 or Level 4 warnings within the country.  Mexico is prime example.  You should read messages from the U.S. Embassy on www.Travel.State.Gov and review OSAC Crime and Safety Reports for your destinations.—

Here’s a list of the most dangerous countries for tourists. You can also sign-up for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), to get email alerts about the country you’re visiting.

Time Magazine reported Mexico’s homicide rate at 20.5 murders per 100,000 residents. in January 2018.  Mexico’s homicide rate grew by a third in 2018 according to Reuters.— 

3. Get the proper vaccines

It’s a good idea to visit a travel medicine specialist or your healthcare provider before embarking on an international trip in order to get required vaccinations and to find out what health risks may be prevalent in your intended destination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website provides information regarding necessary vaccinations by country. The CDC also recommends packing a travel health kit that includes some key items such as over-the-counter medicines, insect repellent and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

—We’d like to direct you to this link at the CDC for destination specific health advice.— 

Here’s some more tips on staying healthy while traveling.

Note – the World Health Organization cites psychiatric emergency as a leading cause of traveler emergency evacuation.  What’s your plan?  Do you have access to mental health professionals?—

4. Get to know your destination

Take the time to map key locations at your destination. Hill suggests creating a custom Google My Map with pins dropped on important destinations like airports, hospitals, police stations, and bus stations, in addition to the sites you want to see. Not only is this helpful for you, it can be shared with your emergency contacts.

Knowing your surroundings can be a matter of life and death while traveling. Hill’s son Tyler died a preventable death while traveling in Japan. He passed away minutes from the Japanese Red Cross hospital.

“You need to know how far away you are from help and how to reach them,” she said.

5. Consider travel insurance

No one wants to get hurt or sick on vacation, and travelers especially don’t want to deal with the out-of-pockets costs if they do. Most health insurance plans often will not cover patients overseas, said Jenna Hummer, spokeswoman for Squaremouth.

“If a spring breaker has a medical emergency while on a trip that’s outside of the United States, they may not be covered,” explained Hummer. “That’s where travel insurance comes in. Emergency medical coverage will pay travelers back for medical costs for an unexpected sickness or injury.”

If you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel.  Some foreign healthcare providers demand prepayment for services. That’s especially bothersome for cash-strapped college students studying abroad. And, emergency evacuation can cost $50K-300K or more! Travel insurance is about 5-10% of your trip costs. You’ll want to make sure you don’t have to prepay.  Your insurance should pay up front.  We recommend $1M in healthcare benefits and $500K in emergency evacuation.  You’ll want to read the fine print for exclusions.  Our recommendation is to start with AIG Travel.  They have an exemplary customer service record.—

Here’s how to get travel insurance to protect your trips this year.

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