If you’re like most people, you’re probably busy making summer vacation plans. Maybe you’re thinking about a romantic holiday or exploring Patagonia’s caves or just relaxing at an Italian spa. If you’re like most people, you probably aren’t thinking about anything but having fun. The sad fact is, however, that every year a number of overseas travelers face unexpected challenges that threaten their health and safety. Before you start looking for deals and checking travel discount offers, take precautions now to make sure your trip is not only the getaway you dream of but a safe one as well.

Find Your Safe Haven

Political climates around the world change every day. Natural disasters can turn a paradise getaway into a struggle for survival. Of course, there are no guarantees when you travel, but you can plan your trip with safety in mind and reduce your risk. The U.S. Department of State advises citizens who are planning to travel abroad to be aware of travel warnings and alerts in various countries around the world. The State Department maintains a searchable online list of current warnings and alerts that encompass a variety of different threats, including civil wars, intense crime and violence, crimes targeting tourists, terrorist threats, and health concerns.

The Department of State recommends that overseas travelers enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Enrollment ensures that you receive important security and safety alerts before and during your trip.

Have a Happy, Healthy Vacation

Traveling into new environments, meeting new people, and exposure to different types of illnesses challenges your immune system. Diseases like Ebola are epidemic in some regions. It’s vital that you be aware of how to protect yourself against illness when you travel.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following vaccines for all overseas travelers, regardless of the destination:

  • Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
  • Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Polio
  • Annual flu

Additional vaccines depend on your destination. These may include yellow fever, hepatitis A, typhoid, and medication for malaria prevention. The CDC maintains an online database of worldwide health concerns, recommended vaccines, and medications that apply for your chosen vacation destination. It also issues alerts that advise avoiding certain destinations due to disease outbreaks or natural disasters and outlines enhanced precautions to ensure your health in countries with moderate risk factors.

The CDC recommends that you visit your doctor 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to make sure you are up-to-date on your vaccines and are healthy enough to travel. It also provides a checklist of items to pack, such as prescriptions, altitude sickness medication, diabetic syringes, insulin, inhalers, and other medical essentials, some of which must be accompanied by a letter from your doctor on official letterhead.

Taking the steps to make sure you and your family stay healthy doesn’t have to put a damper on the excitement of planning your getaway. By taking a few simple precautions before you leave, you can relax and enjoy a worry-free summer retreat.