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eiffel tower paris Either we travelers should seriously be worried, or this is just another day in an unstable, unpredictable world. Yesterday, the State Department issued a travel alert for U.S. citizens visiting Europe in response to the threat of terrorist attacks from Al Qaeda. Travelers in Europe should “take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling,” cautions the State Department. Several international governments, including Japan and the U.K., have also issued warnings for travelers in Europe.

Although information detailing when and where the attacks might happen has been vague (to put it mildly), authorities have been clear about one thing: this is not a travel warning instructing citizens to cancel their travel plans. This is a less-severe travel alert, which means the State Department is simply telling people to be watchful and aware.

Travelers have been abuzz over the State Department’s ambiguous warning, which leaves much to the imagination. Short of staying home, what exactly can we do to protect ourselves when faced with an alert covering a vast continent? The State Department recommends that citizens visiting Europe register their travel plans with the U.S. Embassy (you can do so here); yet it provides no clear-cut instruction beyond this one tip.

Seeing that terrorist attacks — as well as theft, kidnapping and other crimes — take place every day around the world, smart travelers know to be on guard when touring public places. Is this warning really of any use to already vigilant vacationers?

When I’m standing in line at a popular international attraction, wedged into a plane seat or holding on to the ceiling bar on a crowded European bus, I’m continually conscious of two things: the location of my valuables (particularly my passport and wallet), and who and what is around me.

I keep my eyes open. I’m not traveling in Europe presently, but if I were, I don’t imagine I would change my behavior in response to this recent travel alert. How about you?

–written by Caroline Costello

travel insurance poodle
If your girlfriend finds a new beau, your French poodle becomes angry or you get subpoenaed as a character witness for your criminal uncle, Travel Insurance International has you covered. The company, which sells travel insurance policies, has released a jocular slideshow titled 21 Reasons You Need Travel Insurance, listing a flock of fantastic, funny situations — all of which call for a good travel insurance policy.

Though many of Travel Insurance International’s scenarios are, to say the least, a bit silly, there’s some semblance of truth in each slide. Check out the eighth one: “Your French poodle Gigi is stuck in a Chicago kennel while you are stuck in a Paris hospital. Gigi yelps at you on the phone as you tell her you’ll be home soon. Pet Care coverage will pay her boarding costs for a few more days.” It’s unlikely that your French poodle will develop the ability to communicate with you over the phone (I know some dog lovers who would disagree with me on this point, but I’ll stick to my guns). However, it’s true that any event that keeps you abroad for longer than anticipated will come with a caboodle of expensive consequences — including kennel fees for pet owners.

Travel Insurance International’s slideshow reminds us that Murphy’s Law still applies when you’re on vacation. Not sure whether or not you need insurance? Get answers in Travel Insurance Tips.

Do you book insurance when you travel?

–written by Caroline Costello