If you have a European vacation booked, the U.S. government wants you to consider a rain check.
In the wake of the head of Europol declaring an “aggressive” new strategy by ISIS militants to attack Europe and reports of at least 440 fighters deploying in the wake of Tuesday’s attack in Brussels, the State Department is asking American citizens to consider “the potential risks of travel to and throughout Europe."
The all-encompassing travel alert is not unprecedented — similar announcements have been issued following recent terrorist attacks in Beirut, Mali and Paris — but it is certainly uncommon.
It’s important to note this is a Travel Alert, as opposed to a Travel Warning. Warnings are issued when the government wants you to “consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all,” whereas alerts go out due to short-term situations the feds “think you should know about when planning travel to a country.”
While the government has clearly stopped short of issuing an out-and-out ban, they are asking citizens to exercise vigilance when using mass transportation or visiting crowded places such as sporting events, tourist sites and restaurants, and to take “particular caution during religious holidays and at large festivals” or gatherings.
The alert expires on June 20, but if you have a trip booked that can’t be changed, the State Department recommends:
- Checking in with them for the latest alerts and warnings before any trip abroad
- Signing up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get travel updates
- Having the local emergency number for all destinations on hand and accessible
- Preparing for delays due to added security screenings and unexpected disruptions
- And locating the nearest U.S. embassy to your destination as a precaution
Be safe and keep your head on a swivel.