Safe Travels – What is the safest country?

Safe Travels for Family Vacations

When you choose a destination for family vacations safety is a major concern. Watching the news can give you a very unbalanced idea of what is a safe city and wasn’t isn’t.  Misconceptions can really hurt your opinion of a city. You’ll hear about places that have problems – new and old and some will really be exaggerated. There is a lot to consider when you choose a place for the perfect family adventure.

collage of photos of the United States

When I look at a destination I try to keep an open mind while doing research. World travelers are open minded people, right? We want to see the world or what it really is and want to make our own decisions!

Of course we want to have safe travels and some of the questions I ask myself are:

*Is this a safe neighborhood for a hotel?

*Is it safe to walk around a night near this hotel?

*Where are the places in this city I should avoid?

*Are there any common scams I should know about?

* Is there a place more common for things like pick pockets so I can be aware or avoid?

Is the US a safe travel destination? When people from around the world consider coming to the United States…what do they think about how safe our country is?

niagra falls

Safe Travels in the United States –  Take the Media with a Grain of Salt

The media likes to tell stories that shock and get attention. Naturally, horrible tragedies are high on the list of things that the media will show. This is especially true of stories from other countries.  The news from other countries is doing to be limited to the most shocking of all because you won’t hear all the day to day ‘normal’ stuff.

For example, when we were researching our trip to Turkey for 2015, ISIS, which is now called Daesh, was creating havoc near the Syrian border to Turkey. We heard on the news about attacks there. I looked at a map trying to decide how close this area was to Istanbul and Cappadocia which were the places we were looking forward to visit. I needed to know: How close are these things? How likely is it that the terror group coming from the border could arrive quickly in the areas we wanted to visit? Research is KEY!

During my research on that trip I had long and interested chats with the travel agent we used – Lale of SRM travel. I was fascinated during our conversations about the safety of HER country that she had concerns about the safety of MY country. As naive as it sounds, I was surprised. Turns out…the only news they get in Turkey about the United States is the shocking type, too. So, they had heard only of shootings and not much else.

BUT

The truth is that shootings are very rare and MOST people in the United States have never seen one. NEVER.

Additionally, consider the source of your information on safe travels carefully. We all know that the days of unbiased  journalism are over as a rule. Now you have to be very careful to find a truly unbiased source of news.  It is commonly known here in the states for example, that news sources are biased one way or another. We like to get our news from the BBC which we consider to be a very neutral source of information. Then, we can form our own opinions. At the very least, be  sure to cross reference andy information you find so you can make an informed decisions.

light house in Maine

Safe Travels in the United States – What You See in the Movies is NOT real.

I think it is safe to say that what we see in the movies about ANY countries – unless it is a documentary, is NOT true. Since so many of the world’s movies come from the states, the tourism websites specifically address this thinking.

The USA Tourist website has this to say:

“The USA is not a dangerous place

Forget what you saw in the movies. You are safe in the USA. Learning a little about our cultural differences is the only “weapon” you’ll need for trouble-free travel. Despite the news reports about tourist troubles on Florida highways and the availability of handguns, the United States is a relatively safe place. Remember: the “horror stories” make interesting news because they are unusual events.

The typical crime victim in the USA is not a sweet little grandmother or a European tourist. Most crime victims are single, unemployed, young men. Members of their own families usually kill murder victims. Our gun crimes scare people. Some people even avoid a trip to the USA for fear of a bullet. Don’t worry, you will find little danger. All cities have “good” and “bad” areas. Talk to locals to get an idea of where the “bad” areas are located and avoid them especially at night. “Drive-by” shootings only occur in the neighborhoods full of gang conflicts. Most Americans have never seen a shooting except in the movies.”

Safe Travels in the United States – Guns

Gun control and gun ownership in the United States is a hot topic. People feel really strongly about it – no matter which side of the argument they are on. It is a part of the culture that seems very odd to others in the world.

As a born and bred Texas gal, I grew up around guns. My dad had guns in the house and other than the ‘leave them alone’ safety lesson, we paid them no mind. They were as ordinary as silverware on the table. Uncles visited the deer lease each year where they killed dinner for the freezer and hung the dead heads of past hunts on the living room wall. Trucks often had rifle racks which were clearly visible as your rode down the street – and no, we didn’t live in the country. This was in suburbia!

As a young single woman, I took a gun safety course, applied for and received my concealed carry license. I carried my gun, purchased at a gun show with my dad, when out at night and occasionally on dates. I know it sounds weird now, but at the time it seemed like the thing to do.

Now, as a married mom, I have long let the concealed license lapse and wouldn’t dream of carrying a gun. I multi-task too much to be focused enough to use one even in a dire emergency. I fear I would accidentally hurting myself or another good guy or, God forbid, a kid could get to it. But, I understand the passion behind our gun laws and the force of those who relish our ‘God given and country backed’ right to own and carry guns.

How does this affect or concern travelers to the United States? Do they wonder how many people around them are carrying a weapon?

How many concealed weapons are there in the United States?

Information for numbers of concealed weapon permits: 

Florida 1.3 million permits

Pennsylvania   887,000 permits

Georgia 600,000 permits

Texas 519,000 permits

Remember how many people there are in the United States….. 325,032,004.

With a population of 325, 032, 004 with just 3,306,884 permits means only 1% have concealed gun permits.

Safe Travels in the United States – Cowboys

When you watch movies about the states you might get the impression we are all gun toting cowboys with brash attitudes and that gangs run the streets. Not true!

Real cowboys are few and far between these days. A cowboy’s job is herd cattle and that is a job only done in a few places. You will see, especially in places like Texas, Colorado and Wyoming, people that love their cowboy attire! Boots and hats and belts are all accessories!

The only people that carry guns around routinely are police officers.

Safe Travels in the United States – Are mass shootings common?

No, mass shootings are not common though they do happen in the United States. These things are so very sad and horrible… BUT they are not common.

2017 – 333 mass shootings as of September 29

2016 – 477 mass shootings

2015 –  371 mass shootings

2014 – 325 mass shootings

To put that in perspective….in the above shootings hundreds of people were injured or killed out a population of millions of people =  325,032,004 people.

Also, consider where these horrible tragedies take place – where tourists do not usually visit.

UPDATE – I read the above line today and want to weep. The Las Vegas shooting happened this morning – in a spot full of tourists from all over the world.

I’m sure you have heard of the recent terrible shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada – the worst in our country’s history. It saddens me that such a thing even exists in our world. How can we speak of the US being a safe travel destination in light of an event like that one?

Well, because it still is. It is beyond sadness to write of 58 deaths and hundreds of wounded people. Horrible tragedy. But what was the risk at that event? With more than 22,000 people in attendance and 58 dead, your risk is less than 1 %….much less – only 0.3%  And with 2,000,000 people in Las Vegas that night…your risk was sooo much lower than that – .00003%.

Is it horrible that the US can’t or won’t do something about gun violence? Yes, it is. Is it horrible that there are gun deaths AT ALL? Yes, it is. But the risk is small and we can’t give in to the insanity of the few who wish us harm and hide in our rooms.

The truth of gun violence in the US is that your risk is only high in these situations: 1) unintentional injury – from someone playing with a gun for example, 2) suicide and 3) in a situation where you know the shooter well – such as gang violence among gang members and in domestic violence situations.

Hawaii National Volcano Park

Safe Travels in the United States – Are foreign travelers worried about visiting the United States?

We read all about people scared (and rightly so, I understand) about visiting Paris and Syria and Iran and Mexico and other places in the world because of violence. But are we now one of them….those places…too dangerous to visit?

When we visited Turkey in 2015 we were a little nervous as things in Syria were heating up. In conversations with the Istanbul travel agent I worked with, I was told that her Turkish friends thought she was crazy for visiting the US because so many people had guns and kids were getting shot in the schools. I was shocked at this attitude because I had never considered the US an unsafe place, but…..perhaps now it is..unsafe…just like ‘those’ places we would never dream of visiting. Who am I to reassure her? I’m worried about visiting her country but there are shootings here.

What is the truth? The United States is a great place for safe travels for family vacations. The crime rate keeps getting lower.

What would you tell someone who was worried about visiting the US? Would you tell them the United States is safe?

Safe Travels in the United States – Be Vigilant at Soft Targets

Places that are ‘soft targets’ are areas like concert halls, transportation hubs, shopping malls and sporting event arenas where lots of people gather. Besides hurting people in the moment, these attacks hurt people beyond that by making people afraid and less likely to get out and live their lives happily.

How should we act when visiting  soft target areas? John Cohen, formerly with the Department of Homeland Security says,

“… people should “be aware but not afraid” of going to soft target areas, noting that they should be observant, should alert law enforcement if they spot anything suspicious and, because there may be increased security at large events like concerts, should plan accordingly.”

Safe Travels in the United States – How to Act in a Dangerous Situation?

Dangerous situations happen all over the world. The best thing to do is to be prepared and think about how you would react BEFORE and emergency. In schools we have fire drills to prepare the kids  – just in case. On airplane flights, we discuss what to do in an emergency on every flight – just in case. Now is the time to learn what to do in an emergency – just in case.

If you are in a dangerous situation the rule is “Run, Hide, Fight”.

If you can….run away from the danger. If you can’t run away from the danger for some reason then find a place to hide. Lastly if running and hiding are not options then you have to fight.

Thomas Nestel III, of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has this to say about what to do if you find yourself in a mass shooting:

Running, if you have a clear exit, is the best choice. Don’t worry about any of your stuff, just drop it and leave it behind. Try to get other people to flee with you, if they will do so immediately. If you can see a shooter, he can see you, so try to crouch and run as fast as you can so that you are not an easy target. Keep running until you reach a place of safety. THEN call 911. if you are wounded, KEEP RUNNING as long as you can.”

Safe Travels in the United States – Which Safe City to Visit?

Crime levels in the US have declined over the last two decades. It is now safer than EVER to visit the United States.

Check out these safe city lists!

Travel and Leisure says: Top 18 list of BEST Cities to visit in the United States for Solo Travelers: 

If it is safe for a SOLO traveler you know it is safe for family vacations, too.

1 – Asheville, North Carolina

2- Austin, Texas

If Austin is on your itinerary, read things to do on Texas’ State Capital – Austin, Texas!

Cathedral of Junk – Austin is Proud to be Weird

Hope Outdoor Gallery – Fun Family Vacation Idea

Bat Viewing! – Largest Urban Bat Colony – Austin, Texas

3 – Boulder, Colorado

4 – Charleston, South Carolina

5 – Islamorado, Florida

6 – Louisville, Kentucky

7 – Marfa, Texas

8 – New York, New York

If New York is on your itinerary for family vacations, read things to do in the New York City!

New York Pizza – Can you Tell the Difference?

Famous Lions and the Original Winnie the Pooh – New York Public Library

Just like Hogwart’s library – The JP Morgan Library in New York City

9 – Ojai, California

Visit Los Angeles when you stay in Ojai – it is just 75 miles north of LA!

Top Things to Do in Los Angeles, Califorinia

10 – Outer Banks, North Carolina

11 – Portland, Oregon

12 – Portsmouth, New Hampshire

13 – Red Lodge, Montana

14 – San Deigo, California

15 – Santa Fe, New Mexico

16 – Seattle, Washington

17 – Washington, D. C.

18 – Winona, Minnesota

According to A Secure Life, these are the top 3 safest cities in the US to visit alone:

  1. New York, New York
  2. San Diego, California
  3. Seattle, Washington

Escape Here lists these as the safest cities for women to travel alone in the US:

Safe cities for women are also safe for family vacations!

1. Seattle, Washington

2. New York, New York

3. Honolulu, Hawaii

4. Portland, Oregon

5 .San Francisco

We LOVED San Francisco. What a great city. Super kid friendly and very open minded.

Things to Do in San Francisco for family vacations

Before you Go – Read Books about San Francisco with the kids

Rough Guides 2017 list of 30 Best Places to Go With Kids lists Florida as #8, Colorado #18,  and Zion National Park in Utah #20. While this list is not specifically a ‘safe place to travel’ list I feel certain that safety was a consideration.

You can see there are LOTS of safe places for family vacations in the United States.

Safe Travels in the United States – Where Can You Get Information on Safe Travels?

A good place to get honest, unbiased information is from your own government websites regarding foreign travel to the United States and other countries. If you are from the United States and looking for information on safe travels abroad you can look for travel warnings at

For those in England, you can go to www.gov.uk and search foreign travel advice where you’ll read this about the United States…

“Violent crime, including gun crime, rarely involves tourists, but you should take care when travelling in unfamiliar areas. Avoid walking through less travelled areas alone, especially at night.”

AND

“Crime associated with the illegal drugs trade is a major issue in Mexican states bordering Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.”

But of course….anything having to do with illegal drugs is bad news. And, it makes sense that if you intend to have safe travels then you need to avoid illegal anything. Stay away from illegal drugs – in any country.

When you are choosing a hotel and wanting to choose a great area of town that is safe, look online for help. Consult bloggers in the areas you want to visit. Talk to travel agents that are experts in the areas for help choosing a safe spot.

Pack a simple rubber door stop can add to your safety in a hotel room! Toss one in the bag for more peace of mind.

When we booked a hotel in Athens I thought I had chosen wisely. It had good reviews on Booking.com and on the map looked close to an area I had heard GREAT things about. Well, thankfully, I accidentally found out that even though the hotel I had chosen LOOKED very close on the map, those 2-3 streets made a big difference. I consulted two travel agents who both agreed the area I had chosen was not safe. Whew!! I feel like I dodged a bullet there so I chose another hotel. Be very careful when you choose!

Safe Travels in the United States – How to Be Safe at Night

Lots of travelers like to get out at night and explore the night life in an area. This can be so much fun! We’ve visited shows and had wonderful dinners that kept us out in the evenings. It is important to feel safe enough to get out and explore!

Since you’ve chosen a safe hotel, ask them how to get to the nightlife safely. Sometimes you might need to take a taxi so you aren’t walking out at night. Perhaps you need to take a certain route to assure you are in the safest area.  Get the scoop from a local.

  1. Do not walk alone at night. I’m pretty sure this is good advice for any place!
  2. Be careful how much you drink. Keep your wits about you!
  3. Be aware of your surroundings. Walk with purpose.

Safe Travels in the United States – Road Travel

When you drive in countries other than your own you should bring your home drivers license and insurance AND an international driving permit. These documents will be very important for renting a car as well.

Familiarize yourself with driving laws and road signs before you attempt driving in a new country.

Traffic Law for ALL states in the United States:

1. Drive on the right side of the road.

2. Obey the speed limit.

3. Wear your seat belt.

4. Do NOT drink and drive.

5. You must have a drivers license and insurance.

6. Stop at a red light.

7. Do NOT leave the scene of an accident.

Each state has additional specific traffic  laws. For example, in some places it is OK to turn right when the light is red and in other places it is not OK. Click on the state below to read up on the specific traffic laws for THAT state where you’ll be driving.

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

District of Columbia

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming

Read here about international driving permits.

Safe Travels in the United States – What To Do if You Are Stopped by Police

If a police officer wants you to stop, they will flash the lights on the top of their car and turn on the siren as they are driving behind you.

1. As soon as it is safe to do so, pull over and stop.

2. Turn off the car.

3. Turn on the inside car light.

4. Roll down the window.

5. Put BOTH  hands on the steering wheel.

6. Be calm and respectful.

7. When the officer asks for drivers license, car registration and insurance show them.

What NOT to do if stopped by the police:

The MOST important thing to do if you are approached by police in ANY circumstance is to remain calm and keep your hands visible.

  1. Do NOT offer a bribe. Bribery is against the law and will get you into big trouble.
  2. Do NOT run. Running makes people think you are guilty and could result in a charge called ‘resisting arrest’.
  3. Do NOT speak rudely. Police offers are professionals but also human. Be respectful.

Read more about your rights and how to act if you are approached by a police officer.

Safe Travels in the United States – Traveling as a Minority

Firstly, I am not a minority. I do not pretend to know of traveling as a minority from personal experience. I’m just offering information as I have been able to find it in an effort to help all travelers prepare to have safe travels.

The HUGE majority of the people in the United States are warm, welcoming and accepting people. The United States was founded on religious freedom and the people here, with exception of Native American Peoples, are ALL from somewhere else. The United States is proudly a melting pot. Here you’ll find people from every continent on Earth – their religions, their music, their food, their culture.

However, in every country there are some terrible people. So, just an FYI –

The states making up the ‘bible belt’ might are more conservative than other states. The Bible Belt consists of these states: Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, North and South Carolina, parts of Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) recommends 

“women, members of the LGBTQ community, people of color, and other minority groups to reconsider going to the state of Missouri.”

Learn more about LGBT traveling and Traveling While Black.

Safe Travels in the United States – Calling For Help

If you have an emergency and need help, use any phone to call 9-1-1. An operator will answer and ask, “What is your emergency?”

Speak clearly and calmly to explain your need. Calling 9-1-1 can call the police, ambulance, and fire department services. Only call 9-1-1 in a true emergency.

Safe Travels in the United States – Digital Searches upon Entry to the US

US Customs and Boarder Patrol agents have the right to search travelers’ physical luggage without a warrant for YEARS. Now that right has been expanded to include digital devices.

Even though they have the right to search digital devices – it still isn’t done much. In 2016 there were 23,877 electronic media searches which is just .0061% of all the people who came into the country.

You are certainly not likely to have your devices searched.

The US is not the only country to search digital devices at the borders. Israel and the United Kingdom, for example, do the same thing.

If your digital device is to be searched you have a choice – a) allow the search and continue on with your travels or b) deny the search and risk being denied entry to the country. You just have to ask yourself how important digital privacy is to you.

I’ve never been asked for my social media information or had my digital device searched at the airport, but if they want to see lots of cat videos and recipes on pinterest…and this website…I’m happy to oblige so I can get on with the business of traveling!

Safe Travels in the United States – Treatment of Women

Women in the United States have freedoms unlike any other country. A woman can work, dress, and become educated in any form –  in any place. Women have rights.

In short – be respectful of women. If she says, “No” that is exactly what she means. The laws are very strict and the punishment severe for men who do not respect a woman when she says “No”.

If you are from a country where ‘Eve teasing’ is acceptable then you need to read this clearly. There is NO such thing as ‘Eve teasing’ in the US that is acceptable. You will be arrested and charge with assault for doing anything that could be considered ‘Eve teasing’ back in your home country.

Even if a woman is wearing a low cut blouse, or a short skirt, or makeup, or high heels, or perfume she is NOT necessarily interested in romance. These actions are normal in the United States and are just an indication of her personal fashion style = NOT an indication of her morales or her desires for romantic attention. If she says NO to your romantic advances then leave her alone or risk getting arrested.

Do not touch a woman without her permission. The laws grant women the right to fight back and other people will come to her aid if you are bothering her. Keep your hands to yourself.

Prostitution is illegal except in some places in Nevada. Punishment is severe.

Safe Travels in the United States – What about scams?

When you travel to a country other than your own you need to be careful of potential scams. Sometimes you’ll encounter people begging on the street. Beggers might have a sign that says something like, “Anything helps. God Bless.” or “Will Work for Food”. If you feel led to give a few coins then do so, but it is also perfectly ok to just ignore them and walk on by.

In some countries in Europe you’ll encounter people who want to ‘give’ you something – like a bracelet or a flower. Be VERY careful to side step these people and walk on by – clutching your bag carefully to avoid getting pick pocketed. These people their money from stealing. The ‘gift’ is just to get you to pause so that an associate digs in your bag to steal your money.

There are many safe places in the world for family vacations. Choose wisely and have a wonderful and safe family adventure!

collage of photos of the United States

Other fun spots to visit in the United States: Read more about United States travel here!

The Blue Dog – Art in New Orleans

NOMA – Art in New Orleans

The Blue Dog, NOMA Sculpture Garden, www.theeducationaltourist.com

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

The Educational Tourist

 

 

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3 Responses

  1. Wyatt says:

    As an Leo I disagree. I am against any additional gun control laws. The only people who care are not the ones shooting people. Especially not where terrorism is concerned.

  1. September 26, 2017

    […] Is the US a Safe Destination for Travel with KIDS? […]

  2. October 2, 2017

    […] Safe Travels in the United States for Family Vacations […]

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