I was browsing the internet several weeks back and came across the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program through the US State Department. This will be a very brief review of the website and the process to sign up, rather than of any actual assistance provided by the State Department. Hopefully I won’t ever need to provide that sort of review!
STEP is an online service by the State Department that allows you to register your trip abroad. The first steps are to register yourself by providing your passport number, contact information, and contact information for your ’emergency contact’ – which should not be someone travelling with you. I put down my husband as the first line of contact and my dad as a secondary contact. You can also edit your ‘privacy settings’ to direct the release of your information. I decided to go with family members, legal representative, and medical representative, but that’s it.
I agree to allow the State Department to disclose my information to:
* Please check one or more.
– Family members
– Legal Representative
– Medical Representative
– Members of Congress
1. Contact Information
The first step is to enter your travel destination and the dates of travel, as well as the address or phone number of where you will be staying. That is where I ran into my first bit of trouble. You can’t get past the first page unless you have an address or phone number entered. Since my friend will be picking me up from the airport on St. Kitts, I hadn’t even thought to ask for her address yet! I also don’t have her local phone number – we communicate mostly through Facebook messages to keep communication costs low.
I suppose that is the other good thing about going through the STEP process. Not only does the State Department know where US citizens will be in the event of an emergency, but it makes you gather a few more details about your journey than you would otherwise.
So I asked my friend for her address and local phone number and to my surprise, apparently addresses on St. Kitts don’t really exist!
The island is so small that they don’t really have a formal street name and numbering system like they do in more developed countries. So she gave me her local number and a general address to the town where she lives… as well as directions to give any taxi drivers (“It is right behind ‘Insert Name Here’ Rental Car Agency”).
After that, I had the option to enter information for anyone travelling with me (skipped this part since I’m travelling alone).
2. Emails and Alerts
The next page offers me the chance to opt in to alerts and emails for a specific country. I signed up for alerts for St. Kitts and Nevis – though it does note that this is separate from any trips that I’ve entered into their database.
After I clicked “next”, I got a page full of information about my destination. Unfortunately, that information is telling me that Hurricane / Typhoon Season is still ongoing! (It runs June 1 to November 30)… I’ve got my fingers crossed that I only enjoy wonderful weather while I’m there!
I also got a wall of text (literally, one giant paragraph with no breaks, that required scrolling to see the whole thing) as a Worldwide Travel Alert… way to put a damper on my excitement, State Department!
“The Department of State has issued this Worldwide Caution to update information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.”