8 simple tips for safer travels abroad

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travel safety streamWriter Oscar Wilde is rumored to have encouraged people to “Live life with no excuses, travel with no regrets.” If you plan to travel abroad this summer, the best way to follow Wilde’s advice is to prepare thoroughly — by making a packing list, buying a passport case or checking in with your bank to let them know you’ll be out of the country.

From offering a travel assistance program to help plan ahead for emergencies while abroad to savings and discounts on travel options through UAB Perks, UAB makes that preparation easier. Plus, tips from Jeff Walker, Ph.D., professor in and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, will help keep your home and belongings secure while traveling this summer.

Know your benefits coverage

The University of Alabama System offers a travel assistance program to ensure travelers are prepared for unexpected circumstances. Effective May 1, the program is meant to augment personal preparation and other emergency precautions, the program includes benefits for medical expenses while traveling abroad, emergency evacuation and assistance and security evacuation, plus general advice and consultation for international travelers through International SOS, the world’s largest medical and travel security services firm.

The program is available for all UAB students and employees and UAB Medicine employees traveling outside the United States for study-abroad programs, business, conferences, research, independent study or internships recognized and authorized by UAB. Travel assistance is included in study-abroad program fees and in UAB and UAB Medicine employees’ business travel expenses. Dependents and companions of covered travelers, such as partners accompanying employees on a trip, are not covered by the program. The UA System recommends purchasing secondary leisure travel insurance for them.

Some hazardous activities are excluded from coverage, such as off-road motorcycling, mountain climbing, sky diving and more. Read this brochure to learn more.

Want an in-depth look at the travel assistance program? Watch these webinars.

Be sure you’re getting the best deal.

UAB partners with local travel agency Xcursions Travel LLC to help employees book discounted trips to international destinations such as Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Employees who present their ONE Card during an informational session can have booking and administrative fees waived. Learn more at uab.edu/perks.

Get your passport on campus.

UAB Passport Services, a United States Department of State Passport Acceptance facility, is open 8:30-11 a.m. and 1:30-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The office has been recognized by the United States government for its innovative approach in providing access to the public for obtaining or renewing passports. Passport Services is located in UBOB 126.

Appointments are required; book them online. Be sure to bring a personal check or money order, the execution fee, a completed passport application, proof of U.S. citizenship or nationality, proof of identity and a passport photo. Passport photos can be taken on-site for a fee. Learn more about requirement specifics online.

Protect your home from afar:

  • Ask your neighbors to stay watchful
  • Put in a vacation notice with local police
  • Avoid posting travel plans on social media
  • Vary schedule for automated home lighting
  • Lock all doors and windows
  • Remove garbage cans from the curb
  • Pause subscription deliveries

Ensure your devices are travel-ready.

Change your passwords before you go, and set up multifactor authentication for your accounts where possible, recommends UAB Information Technology. They also advocate for updating antivirus software and enabling [Find my Device] and remote-wiping options in case your device is stolen or goes missing.

They also recommend only traveling with the data you need, which could mean leaving some devices at home, removing certain personal data from them, shifting your data to a secure cloud service or using temporary devices.

If you need to travel with all your data and devices, protect your information using encryption, and store a full backup at home. Keep in mind that encryption works best when a device is turned off. Also, rely on secure passwords rather than biometric locks, such as fingerprint or face recognition, to lock your devices.

Be sure to log out of all browsers and apps that allow access to online content and remove saved login credentials by turning off cookies and auto-filling forms. Additionally, delete any content that may be considered illegal or questionable in other countries.

For more information on how to keep your data and devices safe while traveling, visit uab.edu/it.

Stay in the best hotel you can.

Not everyone can stay in a five-star hotel, and that’s OK, criminal justice Professor Walker told UAB News. The best practice is to do due diligence when researching where you’ll stay during a trip, he says.

“Be sure to read reviews and pull up a map to check out the surrounding area.”

“Find a hotel that works for your budget; but be sure to read the hotel reviews and pull up a map to check out the surrounding area,” he said. If booking rental property, ask friends and family about their experiences with rental property websites and check out the reviews and neighborhoods.

“Pay attention to exactly what you are booking,” Walker said. “Properties on popular rental websites range from an entire home or apartment to only a room inside a home or apartment.”

Secure your valuables.

Walker recommends using a hotel safe if one is available. If not, keep valuables with you whenever you are out of the room and keep cash and credit cards stored separately so you have options if your wallet is lost or stolen.

Keep your eyes peeled.

Pay attention to what is going on around you. It is also a good idea to let friends and family at home know your itinerary, Walker says.