The US Department of State has a service called the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) for US citizens and nationals who are either traveling/living abroad.
The STEP website states the following:
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Benefits of enrolling in STEP, per the website:
–Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
-Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
-Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
I have been aware of this program for a while but never actually used it until the last two trips. I was in Cancun for a weekend in February and did my first enrollment then. And for our recent trip to Panama, I enrolled both my own trip as well as created one for Mr. JJ. I was able to add Sonny JJ and Missy JJ to his enrollment so we were all accounted for.
During our trip this week, we received two alerts, one about the protest in Colon, Panama which our tour guide had mentioned about and we had caught on local TV news. The other was about a natural disaster drill that was being conducted in Managua on the morning of our supposed arrival. The drill might potentially have caused traffic delays. I found these alerts useful and will likely continue to enroll our future travels as well.
As for enrolling the trips, I first created an account for Mr. JJ and myself. This process followed the outlined steps below, was quite simple and took a few minutes only.
Step 1: Privacy act notice agreement
Step 2: User name and password set up
Step 3: Traveler information
Step 4: Emergency Contact information
Once the account is set up, you can then log in and add a trip or residence abroad. This includes destination information, length of stay and any additional travelers information which is where I added the children.
The US Department of State has updated its travel advisory system as of January 2018.
As mentioned above, I think this is a useful tool in my pre-travel prep for future trips. Have you tried the STEP notifications? What do you think about this program? Share your thoughts.