The Brancatelli File By Joe Brancatelli
Running Scared on the Road
January 10, 1994 -- It's official: American travelers are running scared.

Two surveys, both conducted after a string of violent incidents last fall involving tourists, confirm the fact that Americans now place safety above all else when planning a vacation.

One of the surveys, The National Travel Monitor, concluded that more than 80 percent of pleasure travelers rate safety as their primary concern when choosing a travel destination. The other survey, conducted by the Burson-Marsteller public relations firm, revealed that four out of ten travelers say they are more concerned about safety now than they were just a year ago.

There's no reason to doubt the accuracy of the surveys. And there's certainly nothing wrong with Americans finally realizing that being on vacation doesn't mean you're exempt from the social ills of the destination you're visiting. It can happen to you.

But it's a mistake to let fear be your only travel guide. Like life itself, travel involves a certain amount of risk. But the risk can be minimized. Here's how to do it.

Be realistic However unwittingly, travelers too often adopt a dangerous attitude: that they are somehow immune from crime simply because they are tourists. Smart travelers never let down their guard. They take the same precautions about their physical safety when traveling as they do when they're at home.

Do some homework Visit an out-of-town news dealer and pick up several editions of your destination's local newspaper. That will give you a good idea about prevailing conditions. If your destination is overseas, call the U.S. State Department Citizen's Emergency Center (202-647-5225). It operates around the clock and offers health and safety information on virtually every nation.

Ask for help Too many travelers plan in a vacuum. If safety is an issue for you, get some help. Any good travel agent will gladly discuss safety concerns with you. And the travel industry is beginning to address the issue. Loews Hotels (800-23-LOEWS), for example, has just published "Stay Safe and Sound," a free guide chock full common-sense tips for safe travel.

To thine own self be true Fear is a very personal thing, so do what makes you feel safe. Afraid of exploring a destination on your own? Then book guided group tours instead. Worried about lodging safety? Avoid any hotel or motel where the rooms open to the outside of the property rather than onto an interior hallway. Nervous about being stalked in a rented car? Then rent a mobile phone when you rent your car.

This column originally appeared in Travel Holiday magazine.

This column is Copyright 1994-2017 by Joe Brancatelli. is Copyright 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.