1) Tell Your Friends and Family About Your Big Adventure! Then Again, Don't.
While everyone wants to brag about the epic trip they've been meticulously planning and scrounging up highly valued vacation days for, think twice about updating your Facebook status and twitter feed with a daily countdown to departure. It makes it far too easy for criminals to know exactly when and for how long you will be away from your home. If you have kids, keep in mind how soon you tell them too, as they are more likely to let anyone and everyone willing to listen know your home will be entirely vacant. (Besides, imagine the look of awe and surprise if you wait until the morning of, or night before to surprise your little ones that you're going on a trip! Safety aside, that alone may be worth the wait.)
2) Let SOMEONE Know About Your Plans
Letting someone know doesn't just mean your best friend has some vague details of your grand adventure involving para-sailing, moonlit walks on the beach, and little umbrellas in drinks being sipped on some remote island. Beyond keeping your house safe, it's important to ensure someone knows your whereabouts during your travels in case you find yourself in trouble, or news needs to make it to you from home. One person outside of those traveling with you should be given all the nitty gritty details of your itinerary like flight information, the hotels you'll be staying at, the name and contact of the tour company, etc. Should something happen, it puts everyone at ease knowing they can begin taking proactive steps to getting in contact with you. Plus, if it's a less developed country you're traversing, resolving matters of ticket changes, lost baggage etc. is often easier to resolve from the U.S. with better communication connections.
3) Register Your Travel Plans With the U.S. Embassy
If traveling abroad, it's a good idea to register with the U.S. Embassy in the country you'll be visiting to be assured you will receive any pertinent information should an issue or conflict arise in the country you're visiting. Should you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of replacing your passport if it becomes lost or stolen, the process is expedited if you're registered with the U.S. Embassy. This brings me to my next point:
4) Don't Travel With Your Passport!
Obviously, you need your passport to enter/depart a foreign country, but it's a wise idea to leave your passport in a safe in your hotel room, or front desk during your day-to-day adventures to avoid the worst-case scenario of losing or getting your passport stolen while in a foreign country. One option to carry around as proof of identification during day-to-day travels is a U.S. Passport Card, or simply your Driver's License. If you don't feel comfortable detaching yourself from your passport, then a money belt is essential to ensure it won't disappear in even the busiest of streets or most crowded of buses. Additionally, make two photocopies of your passport, leaving one with the same friend you leave your detailed itinerary with, and the other with you, but stored in a separate location from your passport. In fact, it's not a bad idea to make a copy of your other important items such as your credit cards, traveler's check serial numbers, and driver's license as well.
These seemingly simple tips are crucial in ensuring your time abroad is a positive experience. One that should something go wrong, you can “Keep Calm and Travel On”. And once returned, feel free to brag all you want about the fantastic planning skills and worthwhile time-off from work you had!