Unless purposefully setting out to drop off the radar, nobody jumps on an airplane with the intention of becoming a missing person overseas. However, it is vital to remember that US citizens can and do disappear abroad, far from home, and without the critical support networks that support their everyday safety. Acknowledging this fact doesn’t have to mean skipping all of the incredible destinations on your bucket list. Instead, there are a number of safe travel tips that you can take to minimize the risk of your dream trip becoming a nightmare.
Through our work as international missing persons investigators at Lauth Missing Persons, we often venture overseas to pick up the trail of those whose loved ones are deeply concerned. By following the tips below, you can avoid becoming a worrying statistic—or warranting a call from your family to our team.
1. Research Your Destination and Stay Ahead of Danger
One of the first and most crucial safe travel tips is research. While danger and criminality can be lurking anywhere in the world, some destinations are much more dangerous than others. This makes it vital to do your research when planning any trip so that you can better understand the risks.
Investigate your intended destination online, including discovering if danger is more elevated in certain local areas or at certain times. Where possible, subscribe to live updates and travel advice, and monitor the local news so you’ll know if the situation on the ground changes. Whether traveling as a tourist or on a business trip, some locations may warrant a security risk assessment or professional support on arrival.
2. Create an Itinerary and Plan to Communicate With Loved Ones
Far too often, when we begin our work to find a missing US citizen abroad, we find that they didn’t communicate their most recent movements with their family or friends. This is a recipe for disaster if something untoward happens. In contrast, simple communication can dramatically increase your safety.
With this in mind, create an itinerary for your closest friends or family members and update it promptly if plans change. Communicate frequently, sharing details such as where you are staying and planned day trips, or even if something unusual has occurred.
3. Avoid Routine and Don’t Overshare Publicly
When it comes to safe travel tips, it doesn’t get more universal than oversharing on social media. Criminals are always on the lookout for those made vulnerable by routine behaviors. For example, a tourist who habitually takes a dark shortcut or visits the ATM at the same time each evening is an easy target for express kidnapping, a term that describes holding someone hostage and forcing them to withdraw money from their bank account.
You can protect yourself when traveling by mixing up your daily habits. You can also mitigate the risk of being targeted by keeping any social media or blog posts that share your location or plans private for as long as you’re in the area.
4. Prioritize Security and Backup Your Essentials
At times, a missing person abroad is simply someone who has lost all means of communication. When in an area with limited internet and cell phone coverage, losing your bag with documentation and financial means can be a crisis in the making.
This makes it pertinent to safely store essentials wherever possible and keep spare copies of travel documentation and ID in a secondary location. Keep valuables out of sight whenever around strangers and keep hard copies of crucial contact phone numbers.
5. Maintain Your Vigilance
Keeping your wits about you when traveling is always the strongest tactic when it comes to remaining safe. At times, this will mean choosing a better-lit street on the way home, while at others it will mean avoiding going out altogether.
Be vigilant about what’s going on around you, and if in doubt, refer to the old adage “If you feel threatened, leave. If in doubt, get out.” Always connect with those you trust if you feel unsafe traveling and consider reaching out to local police or your nearest US Embassy if you need urgent support.
What to Do If a Loved One is Missing Abroad
Whether you lose track of a traveling companion or grow concerned about a family member who is currently overseas, it is important to take any missing US citizen case seriously. Discover more about what can be done next on our free missing persons resource page, or reach out to the Lauth team if you would like the expert assistance of an international missing persons investigator.