Don’t get broken on Spring break

Millions of U.S. Citizens head south for fun in the sun on Spring break. Buzz kill is when someone you love is hurt or killed abroad. Let’s do more to Depart Smart.

State Department Warnings

Amidst alarms by the United States Department of State (US DOS) to ‘reconsider travel’ or ‘do not travel’ to popular destinations like Mexico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas,  Esme Murphy of WCCO-TV, a Minneapolis CBS station, created an informative report to try and help vacationers avoid death traps. Your U.S. Embassy is essentially warning you that they may not be able to assist if you travel to locations where the State Department is advising you not to go. There are usually serious reasons why.  Many people don’t understand how to use the State Department websites, so we made an online course that will guide you through it.  A Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution US DOS country-wide warning does not meant there are no ‘reconsider travel’ or ‘do not travel’ warnings by specific location within the country.  Mexico is prime example.

Most often the State Department will assign ‘violent crime’ or ‘intentional homicide’ to the alerts and warnings.  U.S. Americans assign their own interpretations as to drugs and gangs similar to major cities in the USA, but this is mistake.  Violent, grotesque crimes are more likely occurring.  It’s tough to report, but human trafficking, dismemberment, decapitations, organ trafficking, rocket-propelled grenades, and even machete attacks can be the reasons why.

Look up OSAC Crime and Safety reports for your destination

To dive deeper into causes that instigate U.S. Department of State warnings you can turn to expat news, create Google Alerts, the State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (enroll for stay at home for pre-travel alerts). The Overseas Security Advisory Council Crime and Safety reports by major city and country are also excellent resources.  Just Google “OSAC Crime and Safety Report (destination)” and click on the most recent report.  Here are examples:

Safety and Security Report for the Bahamas

Bahamas – The U.S. Department of State has assessed Nassau as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.  In part because,

  • The water sports rental industry is only loosely regulated and there have been reported sexual assaults of U.S. citizens, including minors, by jet-ski operators.
  • Home invasions are generally not random. Do not answer your door unless you know who it is. Secure your home/hotel room even when inside. Have an escape plan for you and your family and know how to get out of the house/hotel room.
  • Many criminals carry firearms or edged weapons. Unless provoked, criminals committing property crimes typically did not engage in gratuitous violence. However, there were reports of armed robberies, where the assailant assaulted the victim after the victim resisted.
    (Edged weapons would be machetes and knives.)

Safety and Security Report for Mexico

Guadalajara, Mexico (Puerto Vallarte) – The U.S. Department of State has assessed Guadalajara as being a HIGH-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government. interests. In part because,

  • In 2016 and 2017, Jalisco experienced an increase in missing persons reported, which are not categorized as a kidnapping or a homicide.
  • Reports of sexual assaults against U.S. citizens mostly occur in popular tourist destinations. Often, perpetrators target intoxicated tourists in bars and nightclubs. For additional information, please see the OSAC report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.”
  • Regarding cartel violence, wrong-place/wrong-time incidents present the greatest threat to personal safety.

Safety and Security Report for Jamaica

Jamaica – The U.S. Department of State has assessed Kingston as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. In part because,

  • Most criminal activity is gang-related. Organized crime elements are prevalent and extremely active.
  • Sexual assaults against American guests by hotel employees at resort hotels on the north coast have again risen.
  • The Embassy also received several reports of Americans being victimized in extortion attempts originating in Jamaica.

Toxic Alcohol

Methanol, methyl alcohol,  is a colorless, flammable liquid with a distinctive smell. Methanol laced drinks are a serious, a very serious, problem. People all over the world are blacking out and dying because they consumed it.  It’s like drinking anti-freeze. Mexican regulators raided more than 30 hotspots around Cancun and Playa Del Carmen seizing more than 10,000 gallons of tainted alcohol after a Wisconsin woman blacked out in a pool. Here are some tip to avoid becoming a victim of poisoned alcohol:

  • Designate a sober buddy who will safeguard your well-being.
  • Guard your drinks. Don’t take your eyes and hands off until you are finished.
  • Order drinks with a cap and asked them to be opened at your table, like beer and wine bottles.
  •  Don’t get fooled by labeled brands.  If the cap has been opened, someone could have filled the bottle with other substances.
  • Trust your gut, if the drink smells or tastes off – it probably is.
  • Buy duty-free and pay extra for uncorking and set-ups if possible. Only drink what you bring.
  • If you feel sick, or if your companion is unresponsive – call your travel insurance provider first! They will refer you to the best private care.  Ask them to test your blood for drugs and methanol.
  • Drink bottled water, eat snacks, and stay sober and alert to your surroundings.
  • Only get into vehicles with known drivers.  Fake taxi’s can be a ticket to sexual assaults for inebriated tourists.
  • Women mistakenly feel safe in the ‘ladies’ room but it is a target location for sexual assault.
  • Consider drinks without ice, because you don’t know what’s in the cube.

If you can’t afford Travel Insurance you can’t afford to travel

Depart Smart Inc. warns that wherever you go, travelers should buy travel insurance.  Life happens everywhere, even when you are most cautious. Most health insurance does not prepay for medical services or emergency medical evacuation. If you have to prepay for healthcare it can cost thousands upon thousands of dollars.  If you have to pay for medical evacuation you could potentially pay hundreds of thousands of dollars. When you do purchase travel insurance, you’ll want to read the fine print. It’s a good idea to have up to $500K in emergency evacuation and $1M in travel health insurance, you may never need it – but peace of mind and your life are priceless.

If you are going to do adventure activities like bungee jumping, zip-lining, scuba, you may want to upgrade to the adventure packages.  Call your travel insurance before you seek medical attention.  They may refer you to a private vs. a public hospital.

Third world countries are often high risk areas for express kidnapping. Find out the risk at your destination. If it’s very high, such as Brazil, India, or Mexico – consider supplemental ransom insurance.  You don’t want anyone to know you have it.

Benjamin Franklin is the father of insurance, designed to protect your from the probability of an eventuality.  It will cost a lot of Ben Franklin 100 dollar bills if you are uninsured.  It could also cost you your life.

Compared to the United States

There’s rarely an article, news report, or social media post made without someone citing the lack of gun control in the United States and the overwhelming loss of innocent lives from active shooters. The United States are extremely diligent in the capture and prosecution of criminals who cause harm.  This is not the case in many developing countries, like Mexico.  Justice in Mexico is working to correct that. They report journalists and mayors are more likely to die by homicide than the average population.  It’s important to keep a perspective on what if.  If someone you love is murdered in Mexico, justice will most likely not be served.

All inclusive spring break to Mexico, Jamaica, or the Bahamas

Consumer safety laws have not caught up with the travel industry. If they did, ticketing companies and travel agents would have a duty to inform and a duty of care to their customers.  They’d have to give you a safety report in much the same way car manufacturers and airlines have safety ratings.

Until then, you need super skills to depart smart with travel safety tools and contingency plans so you can be your own hero. In a relatively short time you can earn Travel HEROES Safety certification.  Safe journeys are not an accident.

Don’t let your employees leave the country without travel safety preparedness for work or vacation.  If their trip become a nightmare they’ll need skills, tools, and emergency action plans to return safely. Ask us about Travel Safety Standardized training. Saving lives is our mission.