What You Need to Know About the Global Travel Alert

The U.S. State Department has issued a major month-long global travel alert that will stay in effect through August 31. According to a statement on the agency's website, "current information" suggests that an Al-Qaeda terrorist attack could be imminent, and U.S. citizens should be especially vigilant when traveling abroad this month. On Sunday, the U.S. also closed down select embassies and consulates around the world as a precautionary measure.

This isn't the first time this has happened. But there hasn't been a global travel alert of this magnitude in a few years; the last one was announced around the time of the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

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According to the State Department, "U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Terrorists have targeted and attacked subway and rail systems, as well as aviation and maritime services. U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling."

Those measures include registering travel plans with the State Department. Visit the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) website and create an account by entering some personal information and some details about your trip; this will help the U.S. consular office to better assist you in case of an emergency abroad. Travel alert or no travel alert, it's always a good idea to enroll in STEP before heading overseas, especially when visiting destinations where civil unrest is widespread.

Beyond joining STEP, there's not a lot travelers can do to guard against terrorism. The State Department tells us to "be aware of [our] surroundings," but keeping cautious and alert while visiting an international destination is ever important no matter where or when you're traveling. Those hitting the road alone should give a copy of their itinerary to a friend or family member. Further, look up the location and contact information of the nearest American embassy in your destination, so that you'll have it on hand in case the worst happens.

Will the worldwide alert affect your travel plans?

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