Safe sailing

By Jen Haley, producer


NEW YORK (CNN) -- The devastating earthquakes in Chile and Haiti are poignant reminders that we need to take precautions before traveling abroad. Here are top tips on how to keep safe when visiting a different country.

1) Register your trip

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Before you leave, make sure you register your travel plans with the State Department. They have an online service at travel.state.gov. Click on create an account and fill out some basic personal information. You should also provide an emergency contact. Make sure it's not someone who's traveling with you.

So, why go through all of this? When an emergency happens -- like a natural disaster -- the nearest U.S. Embassy will be able to locate you. If you're worried about privacy concerns, keep in mind that your information isn't released to other people without your consent.

2) What to leave behind

When you're traveling, make sure someone back home knows where you are. Leave copies of your passport information page and any visas. Other things to make copies of include: your airline tickets, drivers license, itinerary and the credit cards you plan to take.

3) Get alerts and warnings

Make it your business to get up to speed on any travel warnings or alerts that are issued from the State Department. These alerts or warnings cover everything from terrorist threats to the threat of natural disaster. Here's where to go for that info: on the Web: travel.state.gov. Or, you can call (888) 407-4747 from within the U.S.

And make sure you are aware of all the rules you have to follow when you are in a different country. Go to travel.state.gov and look at country-specific information. You'll get the lowdown on crime rates, the condition of medical facilities or what road conditions are like.

Talkback: Do you take any special precautions when traveling abroad? To top of page

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