RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SAFE, SMOOTH TRAVEL
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
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
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 (www.travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html).
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.