Traveling Without Fear
Our Savvy Traveler, Rudy Maxa, just returned from three weeks in Italy with a weekend stay in London - that should tell you how he personally feels about the safety of travel today. We asked him if there were some steps we might take to minimize our risk on the road in these uncertain times.
If you're flying domestically, consider smaller airports. Terrorism is all about symbols, and if you're trying to make a statement as a terrorist, you're more likely to target Los Angeles' international airport than the nearby airports in Long Beach, Burbank, or Ontario, all of which are served by major carriers. Substitute Providence, Rhode Island, or Manchester, New Hampshire, for Boston, or Long Island's Islip for New York's big three airports.
I'm not advocating this, but if you're REALLY paranoid about traveling, avoid big tourist destinations or landmarks, such as the White House or Statue of Liberty. In Washington, check out the Phillips Collection or in New York, visit the Cloisters. In other words, if you're a tourist, consider the small gems you might otherwise overlook. It's a great way to get to know a city, even on a first visit.
Again, I'm not endorsing THIS, but you might feel more comfortable flying a foreign carrier if you're going abroad. And again, avoid obvious icons that might be the target of terrorists. Like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Harrod's department store in London, or the Spanish Steps in Rome.
Blend in. We may be feeling renewed patriotism these days, but you might be less conspicuous abroad- and therefore less of a target - if you remove that American flag sticker from your luggage. Now, it's hard not to look like an American - shoes and clothes are often giveaways. But there's no need to wear a sweatshirt with the logo of a U.S. university on it. Tuck the tourist camera away. Avoid political discussions with people you don't know. And by all means, avoid large crowds who have gathered for a political rally or in response to some kind of emergency. If you're visiting a country where political tensions are running high, avoid places that serve as American emblems, such as McDonalds.
And speaking of countries where tensions are running high, this is not the best time to visit Jakarta in Indonesia or other destinations where protests against the American bombing of Afghanistan have turned violent. Should you cancel upcoming trips to countries such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan, or Turkey? It's an individual decision. I wouldn't, and the State Department hasn't issued any warnings, but I can understand why many Americans - especially first-time visitors to the Middle East in particular - might feel uneasy about doing so.
If you do go abroad, register at a local American embassy or consulate. That simply means providing your name, where you're staying, and some contact information. US embassies report a sharp upturn in the number of Americans who are doing that. Keep up with the news, and if things turn worse, consider cutting your trip short.
I argue you're more at risk behind the wheel of your car in your hometown than flying commercially or traveling overseas. Now is a good time to keep in mind there are some defensive measures you can take.
I'm Rudy Maxa, from the Savvy Traveler, for Marketplace.
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