News reports about terrorist attacks, rampant crime or an unsettling string of deaths in an idyllic destination such as the Dominican Republic may give you pause when selecting a vacation spot—or make you wonder if the place you chose is safe to visit at all.
Before deciding you may be better off with a staycation, keep in mind that for most travelers “the actual risks are more mundane,” says Matthew Bradley, of International SOS, a medical and travel security services company. In most places, you’re likelier to experience petty theft, traffic accidents or gastrointestinal problems than a terrorist attack. Instead of writing off certain places because of bad press, use these strategies to judge a destination.
Check government advisories.
To review the U.S. Department of State’s advice for travelers, go to https:// travel.state.gov and click on “Travel Advisories” at the top of the home page. Each country is rated one of four levels, with Level 1 advising travelers to “exercise normal precautions” and Level 4 indicating “do not travel.” Read the full advisory and the Safety and Security section because these writeups describe the severity of the dangers you could face and drill down into regions or cities that carry higher— or lower—risks than elsewhere in the country.
Sometimes advisories issue alarming warnings, such as “terrorist groups continue p