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State Department Wants Older Travelers to Stay Safe

Advisory campaign is part of new effort to inform those going abroad

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En español | The U.S. Department of State is a good source of information for all American travelers planning international trips. Now the State Department is making a concerted effort to ensure older travelers know how to stay safe and connected while abroad.

“We want to make sure that when (older people) do travel abroad, whether it’s for a vacation or they’re retiring abroad or conducting business abroad, that they have the information they need to make decisions about their safety, about their security and about their welfare,” says Michelle Bernier-Toth, the agency’s managing director for Overseas Citizens Services.

To help you plan your next big trip, get AARP’s twice-monthly Travel newsletter.

While many of the tips are nothing new to experienced travelers of any age (leave contact information with family and/or friends, for instance), some of the advice and information on a State Department website — including a useful downloadable checklist — are good reminders. Among them:

Do your research. Learn about your destination before you go at After you research things to do and sites to see you'll want to get the latest information from the federal government on matters such as visa requirements, vaccination necessity, currency, safety and security and more.   

Prepare for medication/medical issues. Make sure you pack enough medication, says Bernier-Toth, “and maybe a little extra in case you get delayed or stranded someplace.” Talk to doctors ahead of time to avoid potential problems — travel with a prescription in case a refill is needed, and discuss how traveling through time zones may affect medication schedules. And remember that Medicare does not provide coverage overseas.

Make sure your passport is up-to-date. It needs to be valid for at least six months after the date of your return. Some countries won't accept it if it's nearing its expiration date.   

Watch out for scams. Check the state department site, which includes information on country-specific scams, such as thieves using distractions, posing as police or setting-up fake ATMs. “There are many and it varies from location to location,” says Bernier-Toth.

Talk to your bank. Let your bank or credit card company know that you will be traveling so that they do not freeze your accounts when they notice unusual activity. Ask about any international banking partnerships they have to find out where you can make deposits and withdrawals. Try a mixture of both credit cards and traveler's checks if ATM access will be limited in your destination.

Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program or STEP. The program allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The benefits of enrollment include receiving safety information about a destination and the ability for the embassy or relatives to reach you in an emergency.

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