Going on vacation should be relaxing, but there are so many things that can go wrong that it can end up stressing you out more than calming you down.

Why is travel safety important?

According to a report published by the U.S. Department of Justice, there is a correlation between increases in tourism and crime rates. Tourists often carry large amounts of cash and can let their guard down while they’re in “vacation mode,” making them easy targets for theft and other crimes.

Travel safety and security tips

It’s not just crime you need to be aware of — health and safety are also important to look out for. Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally, here are some tips to help keep you safe while you’re away from home.

1. Choose a safe destination

The easiest way to travel safely is to travel somewhere safe. When you’re researching potential destinations, look up their crime rates and be sure to check the State Department’s website for travel advisories.

It’s also important to go somewhere that’s safe in terms of health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updates their website with health concerns and recommended vaccines for over 200 destinations.

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2. Be prepared

Always have a backup plan in case something goes wrong.

Make sure you know what hospitals are in your area and how to get help if you need it. Consider getting travel insurance, which can include coverage for medical expenses, baggage loss, missed connections and more.

Make digital copies of your passport and other important documents. If you’re traveling internationally, make sure you know the number and location of the local U.S. Embassy.

3. Know where you’re going

While it may be fun to hitchhike around and see where the wind takes you, it certainly isn’t the safest way to travel. Instead, have a plan for every day of your trip: where you’re going, how you’ll get there and where you’ll spend the night. Make sure to book reservations for accommodations ahead of time.

When you’re out and about during the day, make an itinerary and map out your routes. Avoid getting lost by planning your way ahead of time. If you do need to stop and figure out where you are, pick a safe location to do so.

4. Blend in and don’t act like a tourist

This one is important for a couple of reasons. First, pickpockets keep an eye out for tourists, since they’re easier targets. Second, I’ve found in my own travels that locals are a lot nicer to you when you aren’t being loud and obnoxious.

So, how do you blend in? Depends on where you’re going. Try to wear clothing that fits into the style of the area you’re visiting. Simple, nice clothing without logos or images is a good place to start.

Wherever you are, try to keep to yourself and be respectful of local customs. If you’re in a place where they speak a different language, learn a few helpful phrases.

5. Stay alert for scams and pickpockets

Keep your valuables close to you and use bags with sturdy straps that are difficult for pickpockets to reach into.

The Washington Post has a list of common travel scams to look out for, but take the time to research common scams specific to the area you’ll be visiting. Generally, it’s best practice to distance yourself from groups of strangers and not accept anything a stranger tries to hand you.

6. Be cautious about what you eat and drink

No one likes food poisoning, and it’s especially unfortunate when you’re in an unfamiliar place and had more fun plans in mind.

Certain meats, produce and even water in some countries can carry dangerous illnesses and bacteria, so it’s important to avoid anything that could make you sick. The CDC has a list of food and drink to look out for, but you can also research the area you’ll be visiting for specific concerns.

If you’re in an area with unsafe tap water, make sure to only drink bottled water. Even the water you brush your teeth with should only come from a trusted source.

7. Wash your hands regularly

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s especially important when you’re in a new area. Getting sick is a great way to derail your relaxing vacation plans, and staying clean can help you do that. Carrying hand sanitizer is also a great way to eliminate germs and harmful bacteria.

8. Situational awareness

Sometimes, the best thing you can do to stay safe is to be aware of your situation and actively looking out for potential dangers.

On a hike in an unfamiliar area? Stick to the trail and watch out for animals. Renting a car for a scenic drive through the country? Follow the local speed limit and other regulations and watch out for other vehicles. Going for a swim in the ocean? Make sure you have proper experience and equipment and that you aren’t alone.