by Rick Steves

What's the effect of September 11 on European travel now? Beyond heightened security and delays at predictable places, recent events have only caused Americans to receive the warmest European welcome in memory.

While we were hit hard, America is traveling on. Still, all of us want to travel as safely as possible. Here are some tips:

Flying is very safe. (It's safer than driving by any measure at any time.) If you aren't much of a patriot and want to cut your already miniscule risks, take this year's trip on a European airline.

To make good decisions, stay well-informed. English newspapers and broadcasts are available throughout Europe. American or British consulates can offer good advice in uncertain times. Internet access is readily available. On September 11 in a remote Italian village, I was online and as up-to-date on the news as well as anyone in the United States. (And, thanks to e-mail, I was in touch with my family and office as if I were across town.)

Consider State Department travel advisories, but don't trust them blindly ( A threat against the embassy in Rome doesn't affect my sightseeing at the Pantheon. While I travel right through many advisories (which can seem politically motivated), others (warnings about civil unrest in a country that's falling apart) are grounds to scrub my mission.

Be patient. Be thankful for security measures that may delay you. Call airports to confirm flight schedules before heading out. Europe is the acknowledged world leader in quality security. They've dealt with terrorist threats for decades.

Pack lighter than ever to minimize airport frustrations. New conditions at airports will favor those with carry-on size luggage. The basic limits have not changed (one 9-by-22-by-14 inch bag plus a day bag). Sharp items really are a no-no for carry-ons, so if you absolutely must travel with your Swiss Army knife, check your bag. But those checking bags will incur longer waits and less flexibility. Nimble ones with carry-on bags do better in the scramble to get through the flight schedule shuffling that follows any major disaster or scare.

Avoid being a target by melting into Europe. Fancy luggage and jewelry impresses only thieves and gives you an unnecessarily high profile. Travel and look like a local. This is smart travel anytime. Likely targets are icons of American culture -- towering American corporations, fancy high-profile American tour groups, military and diplomatic locations, and luxury hotels. Stay in local-style places. Terrorists don't bomb Pedro's Pension. That's where they sleep.

Stay in touch. For their peace of mind, call your loved ones at home. PIN cards make Europe-to-U.S. phone calls cheap (a dime a minute) and easy (they work on any phone -- public, cell, or hotel room). Or buy a global cell phone and be accessible 24 hours a day. If there's a train wreck somewhere in Italy, call your mom to let her know you survived. If you're a teenager with worrying parents, hit them up for a $1 a day for phone calls home, and check in regularly.

My mission in life is to inspire Americans to travel, and to absorb and savor the wonders of Europe.  Travel is a celebration of life and freedom.  A tourist builds travel memories upon the patter of a tour guide's narrative. A traveler connects with real Europeans.  Terrorists will not take that away from me.