Smart Traveler Enrollment Program: A Free Tool for Safer Travel Abroad

Everyone wants to be a smarter – and safer – traveler. Fortunately, the U.S. State Department has made smart, safe travel easy with its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP.

The STEP Travel Program is one of the best ways to stay abreast of security and safety issues in the countries where you travel. It works for two big reasons:

1)    It leverages the power and reach of the State Department’s network of embassies and consulates around the world; and

2)    It’s free.

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STEP was set up to protect the interests and lives of U.S. citizens when they travel abroad, and notify them of things that may put them in danger or alter their travel plans. 

How to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

You subscribe to the STEP travel program online, by providing your full name and email, and the countries you plan to visit. If you’re currently traveling, you can sign up for email alerts and updates pertaining to your itinerary.

You can also download the free Smart Traveler app from iTunes or Google Play, and use that to sign up and get alerts.

The one thing you need to remember about STEP is that it works on a per-trip basis. You need to sign up for each international trip you take.

5 reasons to use the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

  1. STEP can provide information about your destinations before you leave. You aren’t likely to cancel your trip just because the State Department sends you a security bulletin, but it never hurts to be more informed.

  2. STEP can send you safety updates. You’re probably not paying rapt attention to the news headlines when you’re traveling. You may not know if you’re heading into political unrest, violence, or natural disasters. STEP alerts you of these issues. And what could be better than having the State Department feeding you the latest travel information?

    Also read: The 6 Top Travel Emergencies and How To Deal With Them

  3. STEP can help with evacuation. When a crisis strikes, you’ll discover STEP’s real value. STEP will provide notifications of a pending natural disaster or emergency in your area, and send you evacuation information once a disaster hits. In addition, registering for STEP makes it easier for the State Department to find you, and get you the help you need – up to and including evacuation. In addition, STEP can make it easier for you to get to nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if you need help.

    Also read: How Travel Insurance Can Help with Medical Evacuation and Repatriation

  4. STEP makes it easier to contact you if a family emergency arises back home. There are two groups you need to worry about when you travel: You and your traveling companions, and then the folks back home. If disaster strikes back home, natural or otherwise, STEP can get in touch with you and help expedite your return home.

  5. STEP makes it easier for you to contact a local embassy or consulate. Even in a case of something as simple as getting lost in a city and being unable to find your way back to your hotel, STEP can help, either by giving directions or pointing you towards mass transit, a cab or an Uber.

Get more Tips to Travel Smarter Wherever You Go

You can see the real-world benefits of the STEP trave program once you’re out on the road. Suppose you’re in Paris and there’s a protest scheduled for that day that shuts down a lot of the city. STEP alerts you and you adjust your plans for the day.

Or suppose you’re traveling in Antarctica and you get a message that a relative is severely ill.  STEP can inform you of what’s going on and help you get in touch with the nearest embassy and consulate to arrange transportation back home.

One of the best things about STEP is how well it works with travel insurance. Consider the previous example. If a sick family member is one of the covered reasons for trip cancellation in your travel insurance plan, the insurance company can help cover the cost your trip back home, and STEP can inform you of the issue and guide you to the nearest embassy to start the return-home process.

Remember: You need to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program for each international trip you take.

But if you can remember that, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program will be a big step forward in travel safety for you and your traveling companions. Just don’t forget to pair it with travel insurance!

Also read: How Travel Insurance Helps When You’re Sick and Stuck Abroad


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