After the stress of midterms and projects, spring break is finally coming up soon for the students of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Students utilize their spring break in different ways. Some choose to rest at home, while others take their time off from school as an opportunity to travel. 

Students deciding to travel out of state should take caution as there is always a risk when traveling a significant distance to any place. However, students who have planned to travel outside of the United States should be especially cautious at this time. Paying attention to the United States Government’s travel advisories is one such precaution that anyone traveling outside of the United States would be wise to take.

One country that those choosing to travel should be particularly apprehensive about at this time is Mexico. The United States Government has recently announced a travel advisory for most states located within Mexico. This advisory comes as a result of the kidnapping of four American citizens who were traveling to Mexico.

The travel advisory issued orders that United States citizens should not travel to the Mexican states of Colima, Guerrero, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas due to crime and kidnapping. The travel advisory also requests that citizens reconsider traveling to the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Durango, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos and Sonora for the same reason. Additionally, travelers are advised to exercise increased caution when visiting a large number of other states within Mexico.

For those who still choose to travel to Mexico, the United States Department of State has provided a list of precautions for travelers to follow in order to better assure their safety. Following these tips should greatly decrease the potential risk faced by those traveling to the areas listed above. 

One such safety tip involves keeping traveling companions and family informed on your plans and whereabouts, including sending one’s current GPS location if separated from other travelers. U.S. citizens are also advised to drive on well-populated roads whenever possible and to always avoid traveling after dark. Travelers should also be extremely cautious of where they get drinks or medicine from.

The United States Department of State also recommends that travelers sign up for a special program provided by the Bureau of Consular Affairs. This service is called the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, also known as STEP. STEP can be a very useful tool for all U.S. citizens traveling outside of the country, even if they are traveling to a usually safe location. Emergencies can happen at any time, and it is always useful to be prepared. 

 STEP is a free service that allows for United States citizens and nationals to register their trip outside of the country with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. This ensures that the Embassy is aware of your presence in the country in the event of an emergency, whether it be a natural disaster or something more personal. 

STEP also allows travelers to receive alerts and notifications about their destination country, enabling them to make informed and up-to-date decisions about their travel plans. STEP can also provide a way for U.S. citizens to contact their families back in the United States in the event of an emergency.

Traveling can always include risks, especially when traveling to certain areas. Students who choose to leave the state, or even the country, during spring break should be careful and mindful with their planning and traveling. Following advisories from the U.S. Department of State and enrolling in STEP are a couple of ways for students to ensure their own safety while traveling abroad.