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Travel Safe and Smart

I was working the morning of September 11, 2001. I was a young video editor for a local television station in my hometown of Medford, Oregon. We were right in the middle of the morning newscast when we saw the live feed of the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center. Shortly after our show ended, I had to edit hours and hours of video from both planes slamming into the World Trade Center, as well as the images from Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. Four months after 9/11, I boarded a plane to Portland. I had a panic attack in the middle of the flight. Now nearly 15 years later, I still occasionally get panic attacks when I am 20,000 feet in the air. There are some images that you will never forget.

That fear of flying hasn’t gotten any easier to overcome lately with recent incidents involving airplanes. I was flying through LAX when news of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 broke on news networks around the world. I was at the airport, awaiting a flight to San Francisco, when I heard about Flight MH17, the plane that was shot down in the skies above Ukraine. Now here we are, just days before I leave for Denver, and another plane has gone down. EgyptAir Flight 804 was heading to Cairo from Paris when it vanished from radar. It is believed the plane crashed somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea with 66 people aboard at the time. I also believe I have the worst timing when it comes to flying.

It is hard to escape the headlines. Right now, I am looking at a headline on CNN that states: “Is flying more dangerous than ever?” The next article I see: “Is It Safe to Fly?” Recent incidents involving airplanes certainly begs these questions. However, the headlines and news reports are misleading and tend dilute the statistics. According to data released by the International Air Transport Association, more than 3.5 billion people flew safely on 37.6 million flights in 2015. The odds are certainly in your favor. Air travel is still relatively safe even today. There are a lot more car crashes then plane crashes. However, automobile accidents don’t get the same kind of coverage compared to a plane crash. So it is easy for anyone to reach the conclusion that flying is dangerous.

But what about terrorism? That’s a fair question considering recent events. Unfortunately, we live in a time where terrorism is our new normal. The events of September 11 taught us that lesson. And remember even before 9/11, there were incidents of planes that were brought down because of terrorists. It is because of this reality that you get to stand in long lines at security checkpoints (and if you are flying through large airports, these lines can last for an hour or more). This reality should never keep you from flying. Again, 37.6 million planes flew safely around the globe in 2015. I’m honestly more worried about that pesky Zika Virus when I travel.

There are a few things you can do to keep your mind at ease the next time you board a plane for your International Vacation Home Exchange.

1)       Pack smart. Be sure to check and see what you can and cannot bring onboard a plane. It will save you some hassle at the airport.
2)      Check alerts. If you are traveling abroad, look and see if there are any travel alerts that you should be aware of in the country you are traveling to for vacation.
3)      Arrive at the airport early. Security is incredibly tight and that means you will likely face long waits at security checkpoints.
4)      Be patient. Long waits and random checks can get frustrating. Be patient and let security officials do their jobs.
5)      Report anything suspicious.
6)      Listen to instructions from crew members onboard the plane.

Most importantly, have fun. Your next trip is going to be fun and a memorable one. Don’t let recent events convince you otherwise. And as always, safe travels.

Thank you to guest travel writer Carla Pruitt. You can follow Carla on Twitter at @crobscarla 


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