What you need to know if you are traveling overseas this summer

In this May 9, 2017 photo, U.S. passports lie on a table in Dallas, Texas. The U.S. State Department
It’s best to renew your passport about nine months before it expires, one of the tips from the American Red Cross for Americans going abroad this summer.
(Benny Snyder / Associated Press)

More than 38 million Americans traveled overseas last year. If you are leaving the country for the first time or the 100th time, it pays to think about making sure you have safe travels.

The American Red Cross offers tips that should be part of your travel plans — and most won’t cost you anything but time.

— In case you get separated from family or friends while traveling abroad, have a plan on where and how you will reunite.

— Register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Share your travel plans by signing up online, and the embassy in whatever country you are visiting will find you in the event of an emergency. It also can help you get in touch with family and friends, and send you information about what’s going on at your destination.


— Do you know the six-month passport rule? Some countries won’t let you enter if it will expire in six months or less. It pays to renew your passport early, about nine months before the expiration date.

— Know the emergency numbers to call in the country you are visiting. The world doesn’t operate on 911. Here’s a reference list of emergency contact numbers in many countries. Make sure you have the relevant ones on your cellphone or written down.

— Read up on what the State Department can and can’t do for you in a crisis. Every dangerous situation is different, but the online tutorial spells out what happens during an evacuation and how to receive updates during a crisis.

— Bring medications and insect repellent, especially if you’re traveling to places that have mosquito-borne illnesses such as Zika, malaria or dengue.


— Study what natural disasters could happen at your destinations. Tsunamis, volcanoes and hurricanes are unavoidable, but you need to have a plan if you are traveling to areas where these catastrophes are possibilities. The Red Cross offers these tips for most major disasters — and what to do.

-- Check out evacuation routes and emergency exits at your destination, in case of natural disasters such as flooding.

— When you get to your destination, make sure you know the location of the nearest embassy and how to contact staff there.

— Bring a “yellow card” (International Certificate of Vaccination) with a list the shots you’ve had, allergies, etc.

— Download the Red Cross’ first aid app before you leave the country. It provides direction on basic first aid skills that can save a life.

— Inform your credit card companies what countries you will be visiting. That way you don’t run the risk of having your cards shut off because of purchases overseas.