What is the S.T.E.P United States STEP PROGRAM

What is the S.T.E.P. Program with the US Department of State?

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When we were preparing to leave the United States in 2016, to travel the world with our kids, as a full-time traveling nomad family, one of my TOP Priorities was making sure we were safe.

I’m a worrier when it comes to safety, especially if it involves our kids.

There are many things I researched regarding travel safety but one thing stood out as something I HAD to be diligent about.

I read about the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program for US Citizens – S.T.E.P. Whether you are traveling, or staying home, you can come to this site for important safety updates and alerts.

For travelers, especially if you are traveling out of the country, you NEED to be diligent and enroll yourself and then add your traveling companions with you, including their passport and contact information.

I’ve been utilizing this system since we left the states on September 1, 2016.

My husband thought is was ridiculous to constantly alert the government about where we were at any given moment, he’s paranoid about like the NSA watching our nefarious plans… 😉

Anyway, I’ve gotten little alerts from time to time about making sure we avoid certain places due to demonstrations or events like increased abductions and murders in Mexico and so forth. Just knowing to be extra cautious or thoughtful about our movements around the world has been really helpful.

Our son and I had watched a movie, The Impossible, about the 2004 Tsunami that hit Thailand and several other countries. I kept thinking about this movie as a big reason for also making sure I was updating all our information in STEP.

If there was a natural disaster, I’d want to make sure that the United States Government knew our general whereabouts. Most people don’t even use this service and there is no way the government knows that they are in, for example, Phuket vs Chiang Mai Thailand when a tsunami hits. With the STEP program, you can give your exact address at any given dates along with contact phone and email addresses and emergency contacts.

Since January 2020 the Coronavirus Pandemic around the world has been an important reason to enroll and update our travels.

As of now, we are in Warsaw Poland. Over the past 2 months we’ve received, almost daily, emails and text alerts from the various US Embassy’s in the countries we’ve been visiting. Most recently, the Warsaw US Embassy.

I am alerted to information daily with any updates as well as current in-place rules about the local governments rules for Movement, flights in and out of the country, border closures, etc… and it’s all in English.

Speaking of English, it is challenging to understand what is going on in Poland when we don’t speak or read Polish. Trying to use Google Translate or some Facebook Expat groups to keep us in the know isn’t reliable.

I’ve seen people from all over the world say that they’ve tried to reach the various Embassies around the world to help get them home but most were not enrolled in the STEP program. Trying to get an Embassy to call or email you back during a world emergency is very difficult and not something you should expect.

It’s MY duty to make sure that I do my part to get help by enrolling in S.T.E.P. as it’s not the governments job to bail me out or contact me.

I get daily alerts as to what airline (LOT) is providing flights out of Poland to the US. At first there were flights every couple of days to either Chicago or NYC but now there are only flights to Chicago and the very last flight offered is on April 4th. After that, there are NO international flights for us to take to leave Poland.

Since we have decided to stay in Poland to wait out the Covid-19 Pandemic (coronavirus) we want to make sure that the US Government knows that we are still here and we also want these updates to continue. READ my post about how we ended up in Poland and our experience with STEP.

Anyway, check it out. Enroll. Update your information for each stop and location you visit.

We travel with our 2 year old and if something happened to Shawn or I, we want the government to know to find our toddler and to contact our daughter Alex in an emergency.

Also, I always gave our local Embassy and Police information to Shawn, Alex and Sam to keep on their phones in case of an emergency. We also always discussed emergency plans should we ever get separated.

When we first started traveling there were a LOT of terror attacks around the world. Just a few weeks after we left London there were several that occurred in the areas we had visited. It was surreal and you just never know what could happen on any day, at any moment.

2 weeks ago I did contact the US Embassy in Warsaw to see about our Visa-Free Schengen time which is up on April 28th. They got back to me about 6 days later but I did receive a response. They offered all their contact phone and email addresses as well.

I mean, you don’t want to live in constant fear and such but like…take care of your shit. Don’t bury your head in the sand and skip around like nothing could ever happen to you. Make sure you and your family are ‘in the system’ so they can get help if needed.

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17 thoughts on “What is the S.T.E.P. Program with the US Department of State?”

  1. Taci- Life Beyond Zebra

    Thanks for this! I am always good about leaving my itinerary and info with family in case something happens but this is an added level of security for sure. I will be bookmarking it for future travel for sure.

  2. This is a very helpful information for US travellers, actually to all travellers regarding safety & info. You just don’t know when you need help when travelling. I’d have to check if there is similar program in Canada. Thanks for this & stay safe in Poland.

  3. brilliant! I am so happy to know this exists! And probably more important then ever to know about. Thank you so much for this valuable article.

  4. I’d never heard of the program but it’s something I will definitely use now that my family and I have started doing international traveling.

  5. This post is so helpful and so timely. I saw STEP mentioned on the TSA website when I was signing up for TSA pre-check. I didn’t think much about it at the time (December) and I had forgotten about it. I will definitely make sure we do this every time we travel out of the country.

  6. This is so smart. I just learned about this program a few months ago. I would definitely use it when traveling abroad and have recommended it to family and friends.

  7. This is a great safety check when traveling abroad for sure. I’ll have to add this to my todo list when I plan my travels. Thanks for the safety tip!

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