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Has the new advisory changed your thoughts on travel?

My family has been planning and saving for a trip for months for December. We will begin in London, take the Eurostar to Paris, do some France and then fly out of Belgium. We are getting terrible push back from family and friends about keeping our plans. Especially with the warning (edit: it is an alert, not a warning) that just came out from the U.S. State Dept. I also have a friend who works for US intelligence in Germany who is giving me a hard time because there is such a likelihood of more happening. We have been determined to go so far, but today it seems the situation is not getting better, and I DONT want to cancel this trip, but I also don't want to be stupid and selfish when it comes to my children. This is the toughest decision ever. We have thought about staying out of big cities and just staying in smaller towns. I guess what I am asking is, what are you thoughts on traveling to these cities now that the new warning is out. What would your advice be. One last thought, we are planning on changing our departure to a different city then Brussels.

Posted by
6487 posts

This is just such a personal decision. If you would feel uncomfortable or nervous (looking over your shoulder, eyeing everybody on the street, afraid to take public transport, etc) to the point that it would interfere with your enjoyment of your trip, then maybe you would need to re-assess.

Personally I would not hesitate to go anyway, understanding that I may have to deal with transportation interruptions and make last minute adjustments to travel/destinations etc. if something should happen. It's just such a vague general warning that it's hard to work around, how do you go about avoiding 'hot spots' when nobody knows exactly what, where, or when they are. No matter where we go or what we do we're just moving targets to the terrorists. Something could happen and, then again, nothing may happen. As the French would say "c'est la vie".

Posted by
6876 posts

Some of my best trips have been in times of strife, like a week before the Iraq War in 1991/1992. We didn't have to put up with any crowds of tourists then. It was the first time I was at the Lowenbrau beer hall without any other English speaking people.
I wouldn't hesitate to go right now, but I'd be very careful on where I was visiting. Trouble is like lightning, as it's not apt to hit a second time in the exact same place a month later. But there again, I would avoid crowds and ethnic neighborhoods.

I often stay in small towns and B&B's just outside the larger cities anyway.
And I would prefer to completely avoid Brussels--and change the departure to Amsterdam if possible.

Posted by
9730 posts

I am not an expert in security or Intelligence, but when I read the State Department warning, my thought was ... they felt they had to put something out in the wake of the attacks in Parks and the lockdown in Brussels so this is what they came up with. I would, however, probably give your friend in Germany more credence than some of the others as they in theory would be giving advice based on knowledge rather than emotion.

This is a very tough decision. I don't currently have plans but after the Paris attacks I was imagining what I would do if I did have plans and concluded I would go. However, after what is going on in Brussels, I have to tell you I might change my mind about travel to Paris or Brussels. I would be OK with going to smaller cities/towns.

I know none of this is going to help you make your decision. This may seem knee-jerk to some, but I would probably change the airline ticket and fly out of somewhere else. I would probably also opt to stay in UK, not that they are less of a target but it would be easier to understand any UK government warnings and advice and also to be able to understand police in the event there is an emergency. In the UK, I would probably also choose to stay in some of the smaller cities.

Sorry you are having these tough decisions!

Posted by
21731 posts

Cannot tell you what to do as it has to be your decision and your comfort level with what you decide. It is all risk assessment. And nearly all of us are very poor at risk assessment because we rarely have complete information. The flow of information from media sources is very limited with no independent support.

Statistically the greatest opportunity for bodily harm is the drive to and from the airport. But that doesn't stop you from doing it. Even riding in a taxi or bus in Europe has some risk. The probability of you being involved in a terrorist attack is about the same as a lightning strike. I don't worry much about it. We are scheduled for month next year in France and never once thought about changing anything. And then, what could I change anyway when dealing with extremely random acts? I am sure there will be another attack somewhere but the probability of my being there when it happens is extremely low. I am happy with my approach. I worry about things I can control or influences and do not worry about anything beyond my control and that included late planes and terrorists acts. Personally I would go and not worry about it. Because --- what is the alternative ???? --- stay home? until it is over? Remember, it is not over till the fat lady sings. And I don't know any fat ladies. Good luck.

PS Most of my attitude probability is related to being a Viet Nam era veteran. So take it with a grain of salt.

Posted by
12923 posts

Especially with the warning that just came out from the U.S. State Dept. I also have a friend who works for US intelligence in Germany who is giving me a hard time because there is such a likelihood of more happening.

Don't forget that these are the same people who were totally clueless about the 'likelihood' of terrorist attacks before they actually happened on September 11, 2001 (NYC), March 11, 2004 (Madrid), July 7, 2005 (London) or November 13, 2015 (Paris).

Let's not also forget that following 9/11 the Homeland Security instituted a color coded terrorist alert indicating the likelihood of an attack. The system had 5 colors in increasing likelihood level (green, blue, yellow, orange, red). The system was in place for 10 years and it never went below Orange. Yet nothing happened.

My rule of thumb is that when these "intelligent" services predict a terrorist attack, that is when they almost certainly won't happen. It's when they don't warn us of anything that you should get more careful.

Just use normal precautions. Europe is heavily guarded now and you'll see heavily armed soldiers and policemen everywhere. That is not the environment where terrorists like to operate. They like to strike when we are not watching because they are basically coward losers. Actually it will be safer than usual because the pickpockets (I heard from friends) have disappeared too due to the heavy police presence.

In the unlikely event of another attack, whenever and wherever that happens, it won't happen in smaller towns. So if you go there you are always 100% safe. In any case the likelihood of being a victim of terrorism is always very low. 129 people died last week in Paris, a metro area of 10 million people. That is the number of people who die murdered in Chicago in just a few months every single year. If you think about it just recently several students died in a college in Roseburg, Oregon, killed by a heavily armed mad man. I've been to Roseburg many times, and it is a very small town. Should people not visit there because of that event?

Posted by
605 posts

It is difficult to provide prudent input to these types of questions. My own perspective is as follows: (1) I cancelled a trip to Toronto in 2000 (?) due to SARS and that was likely a mistake; (2) I spent March, April, and May 1999 in London (for school) when the London Nail Bomber (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Copeland) was active and I can say that paradoxically I wasn't too concerned for my own safety but that experience has tainted my perception of the city then and since; (3) whenever I travel, I try my best to understand the risks that I'm taking on and gather as much information as I can about those risks. France, in general, is less riskier than most other places I've traveled but recent events have created new risks to be aware of.

Here's some links to podcasts related to safety in France.

http://joinusinfrance.com/how-to-stay-safe-in-france-episode-50/

http://joinusinfrance.com/making-sense-of-terror-attacks-in-france/

Thanks and Good Luck!

-Matt

Posted by
2097 posts

Hi Amy,
This is just my two cents on this topic. I have decided that, as many people have observed, terrorists rarely attack in the same place twice. That would mean the specific neighborhoods that were attacked in Paris are probably safer now and the additional security presence at all the major tourist sights probably make those places safer as well. Brussels will, I suspect, ramp up their security as well so it will probably be safe too. I think it would be foolhardy to not be nervous but I know that terrorists cannot be everywhere at once so being a few individuals in one place I think the likelihood of being a victim of terrorism is fairly small if you are a tourist in Europe. There are 7 billion people on the planet. I live in Atlanta a city of many crimes, road rage, drive by shootings, you name it. In addition, fatalities on our freeways are in the news everyday.

I believe that airplane hijackings began to occur in the 1970's so we have lived with these added risks when traveling for years. The Munich Olympics of 1972 were disrupted by terrorists and many athletes were murdered. It does seem that our Western society is experiencing more terrorist acts than ever before. But, I remember traveling to England years ago when the IRA was still placing bombs in trash bins. The British simply removed the bins on the streets. I guess my point here is that we will adjust to this new reality. Look at Israel and all the attacks they have endured over the years. I for one still intend to make my European trips as long as I can. I will be more vigilant about my safety and try to be observant about my surroundings and always have in mind an exit strategy in case. Sad but true.

I do not believe terrorists can be everywhere so what I count on is the probability of something occurring when I happen to be in a tourist spot is probably pretty low. For goodness sake, I almost got run over by a bicyclist in Berlin this summer! Risks everywhere.
You have children, you did not say how old so I can certainly understand your concerns for them. I hope this helps and that if you make the trip you all will enjoy it!

Best,
Judy B

Posted by
4479 posts

My personal opinion is that I would delay my trip for a few months, mainly because I wouldn't be able to completely enjoy the trip with some "worry or hesitation" in the background - the opposite of being on vacation.

But, I completely understand your feeling of wanting to go! Either way, make a definite decision in your mind and don't second guess it.

Posted by
1120 posts

Most people cannot simply move their vacation to another time. You took the time off, you saved, now I think you should go and have a fantastic time. Be smart, have a plan in case an unlikely event occurs, and enjoy your travels.

Posted by
2833 posts

I will just point out that the alert is world-wide, so that includes the US and Canada as well.

But I completely understand your anxiety. If I were in your shoes, I would go, but would stay out of London and Brussels, and maybe Paris as well. Not so much because I think something is likely to happen there, but because I know I would worry the whole time and not enjoy the trip.

Posted by
6872 posts

The advisory is not exactly new information. There have been two Worldwide Cautions in place since January 2015, with basically the same message as the current alert. There were similar Worldwide Cautions in prior years (2012, 2013, and 2014). So this new alert is hardly a game changer, it existed in various forms since 9/11 (and probably even before).

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/worldwide-caution.html

Posted by
6649 posts

I went directly to the US State Department website to read about the alert. Its worth reading the explanation of the difference between an Alert and a Warning:
Travel Warnings
We issue a Travel Warning when we want you to consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all. Examples of reasons for issuing a Travel Warning might include unstable government, civil war, ongoing intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist attacks. We want you to know the risks of traveling to these places and to strongly consider not going to them at all. Travel Warnings remain in place until the situation changes; some have been in effect for years.

Travel Alerts
We issue a Travel Alert for short-term events we think you should know about when planning travel to a country. Examples of reasons for issuing a Travel Alert might include an election season that is bound to have many strikes, demonstrations, or disturbances; a health alert like an outbreak of H1N1; or evidence of an elevated risk of terrorist attacks. When these short-term events are over, we cancel the Travel Alert.

The Press uses words carelessly. Like Roberto said, we went for years in the US under an Orange Alert level. That never went away, they just realized it was perceived as meaningless. And its worldwide, not just Paris or Brussels. No, it would not change any of my plans.

Posted by
646 posts

I wouldn't worry too much about safety advisories when deciding whether to go. I doubt very much there is any real safety concern where you are going. But I'd pay attention to sight and transportation shutdowns. I doubt those will be an issue by December. But you can minimize the risk by having a cell phone with data or hotels that will advise you on site. Check daily for disruptions while you are there. Look for hotels with generous cancellation policies and research alternative cities and transport. If all else fails you could do London and surrounds just before taking Eurostar to Brussels and flying home, but I doubt that will be necessary. Nevertheless, you could have a great trip just around London.

The most likely possibility is you will have a great, safe, less crowded trip. If not you can make some changes on the fly.

However, if you would feel unsafe and uncomfortable, don't do it. Rational or not, that's not a vacation. Vacations shouldn't be stressful.

Posted by
77 posts

Thanks very much for your feedback. It has really given me a lot to think about. I had a good talk with my parents at lunch today, and so far we are still planning to go. We really can wait to decide as our plane tickets were purchased with frequent flier miles and as far as losing our money on hotels -- well we will be out the money whether we cancel now or the day before.

Belgium is a worry because it was reported that they do not have the funds for counter-terrorism units. They can only afford to follow one or two suspicious people and they mainly rely on US and French intelligence.

I do agree that bad things can happen anywhere. I do agree that lightening usually does not strike twice. But I am thinking about the places that will cause me to be looking over my shoulder and taking that in consideration. I had a police officer tell me yesterday to go, but to avoid very crowded touristy places and just keep our eyes open. I am comfortable with staying in smaller towns (we really love that as well), and if something happens while we are over there we can stay in UK and just not move on to Paris. Our kids are 15, 11, and 7. My tenth grader is only with us a couple more years before she graduates, we have saved and planned, and you know how it is with your kids' schedules. It can be so difficult to make things work. Not that any of that rules the decision, but it is something to consider.

Posted by
77 posts

Also, thank you for the clarification on the alert. I did not realize the difference.

Posted by
351 posts

It's not ideal, is it? My youngest child is studying in Europe (small town, not too worried about his safety there) and we are all going over for Christmas/New Years and we will be in big cities together. One advantage for us is that we are mainly trying to all be together, so if some sites become impossible, we still have that. Besides, I can't really cancel and leave the one child there doing Christmas alone, so we are going and I'm not overly nervous, but I can't say I don't think about it... The worst part is everyone asking, "Are you still going to go?" with that super concerned tone of voice. And you are right, I worry more about my kids (big kids - late teens and early twenties). Having traveled on a vacation (by car) the week of 9/11/01, I can say that we were welcomed so warmly and thanked for continuing to travel because the folks running hotels, restaurants and attractions were still trying to earn a living that week that we ultimately felt pretty good about not letting terrorists disrupt our plans.

Posted by
2788 posts

I will never let terrorists or their actions stop me from traveling. They may be able to stop me from going to certain locations but I will never sit home worrying about things. To do so only makes them the winners.

Posted by
74 posts

It costs $250 each to change a frequent flier ticket (Delta). You have 5 people, so that's a fast $1250 if you change. Or, you lose 250,000-300,000 frequent flier miles which are not realistically replaceable. So, yes- you're going.

Now the question is, where? I think your trip sounds really good. It's all very compact. For your situation, it wouldn't really be practical to fly everyone to Italy because for every expense I have, you have it x5.

Why stress about staying only in small towns? I think that's overkill. I've traveled the Eurostar and the security is top notch. The Chunnel would also be such an obvious choice that they would not let that happen. The French may be stretched but the Brits will have it covered. Perhaps the only thing I would consider is renting a car and driving to Brussels to fly out rather than taking a train or going early to sightsee. I'd think of Brussels as simply a transfer point to get home right now. The rest? Go for it. Use caution. Have fun.

Posted by
13564 posts

This is about personal comfort and enjoyment. There isn't a right or wrong. Don't do any thing that you will not enjoy. I don't think you have to make a decision now. But Don't Cancel.

If you want to be prepared for how you may feel when the time comes; hopefully there is some cancelation grace period on the accommodations, watch that and maybe look for alternates that have better cancelation terms. There is so much to see in the world, that there is no reason to waste those tickets. Look at low cost carriers out of London. You can get to a lot of Europe for under $150 out of London; and maybe you just land in Belgium on the way home long enough to change planes. OR maybe by then you feel good about what you have planned now. But you might feel better knowing you have researched the options.

My guess, or possibly my hope, is that the world comes to terms with all of this in the next few weeks and things smooth out a lot.

Posted by
31471 posts

Amy,

I agree with the consensus here. It's ultimately your decision, but if were in the same place I would carry on with the trip as planned. I imagine you've all been really looking forward to it, especially after saving and planning for months. Security is at a very high level now and will probably remain that way at least for the next few months.

Changing your departure city from Brussels seems reasonable though. You might consider Zürich, as that's a major hub and has lots of flights available, and it's an easy trip from Paris. You could spend a few days in Lucerne as it's a beautiful city and has good connections to Zürich airport. Also, Switzerland seems like a "safe" country, so that might allay some of your worries.

Posted by
12898 posts

Hi,

If you change the itinerary to only small towns, in which country? There are lots of small towns worthy of your time in Austria and Germany, not to mention France, depends on your priorities and planning. Skipping the big cities and focusing on smaller cities/towns is a trip in and of itself, all the more so when they are off the anglophone tourist radar.

Posted by
11613 posts

I can't advise for your family, but I will be in Germany, Rome and Brugge (via Brussels) for the holidays. I have reconfirmed my hotel reservations (made months ago).

Several people have asked (with concern) if I am still going, but I notice that they are people who don't travel internationally, anyway. Or haven't since before 9/11.

Posted by
74 posts

For the poster who said to switch her departure city to Zurich, she can't. On a frequent flyer ticket, that's a change of ticket and Delta charges $250 each for that. I'm not sure what airline OP is on but the rest are likely very similar. That's a $1250 hit to change departure cities. I would rather she spend money on a one-way rental car or hire a private driver from Paris to Brussels the day of her flight and just consider Brussels a departure point rather than a destination. I would not suggest she take the Thalys train, which would be what most of us would do under 3 months ago circumstances- take the train, sightsee a day or two in Brussels, come home. The American servicemen who foiled the train attack were traveling on the Thalys train in the opposite direction. The Belgians essentially have the city locked down. They're looking for something specific. I would not sightsee there right now.

Posted by
367 posts

As all others have said it is a personal decision. I leave on December 20th for a week in Paris and can't wait to go. I think that Paris will be very safe with all the increased security but I am not worried. I never considered not going. I think there is more risk of an accident or serious injury driving to work in the SF Bay area.

Not to discount your concerns though. If you are not comfortable then you will not enjoy your trip. Depending on the age of your children why don't you include them in the discussion. If they are truly scared and don't want to go then you may want to revisit your plans. But don't cancel over what you think they want or what your family and friends say.

Here is a really good article from CNN.
http://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/24/opinions/miller-ten-tips-surviving-age-of-terror/index.html

Posted by
288 posts

I put this on the Germany page, but I wanted to post this here too.

We are wheels up in two days heading to Bavaria and Baden-Würtenburg too. Things that I have done to put my mind at ease is regsitered with the State Dept in the STEP program. They sent me an email with the new alert. I really appreciated that. I am also following them on Facebook. I also copied the phone numbers for the consulates and the phone number for emergecies in Germany. I think your best bet is to stay alert of your surrounding and keep your wits about you. I decided to not let fear take away my joy of seeing the Christmarkets and crossing that off my bucket list. I hope you are able to enjoy your trip :)

A news report said not to save these in your phone, as batteries die and in an emergency cell service could be spotty. I put it with the copies of important information.

Posted by
77 posts

Hi all--

Here is my update, and I will try to answer some questions. We have talked with our two older kids (15 and 11) in a frank non-frightening way. They have discussed this matter in school so they know the basics. We talked about concerns and the reality of travel in this day and age. They have concerns but are not full of fear. As of today we are still going.

When I spoke of travel in smaller towns, I was still thinking France. Right now we have a rental car (we were including Normandy in our visit) for outside of Paris so we could go anywhere. Or take train, obviously.

We are flying delta. We have some leeway as my husband flies every week and is a diamond or whatever so they often waive fees for him. No guarantees of course, but typically they do.

I am on the fence w Belgium. Possibly we can just take the train in, spend the night and leave. Or just change the departure. I am going back and forth with that but really need to make a decision.

Thank you for all your advice and thoughts. They have helped me in this process and I've come a long way in two days! We are by nature a family of travelers. I would rather travel than have a bigger house or fancy things. So I am thinking we will still go. We have looked forward to this so long, and I can't imagine Christmas Day coming and thinking, gee I could be eating pain au chocolate in Paris right now! Not to mention we aren't doing Christmas presents (the trip is the present) so I would have to start shopping I guess. Okay, now I'm being silly but really I am feeling more comfortable with this decision.

Posted by
77 posts

Never mind about about waving the fees....my husband just laughed out loud when he read that. :)

Posted by
77 posts

And what do you guys think about Disneyland Paris? Would you skip that?

Although I say this as someone living near Walt Disney World --- I would probably go there. But watch everyone.

Posted by
4637 posts

I would skip it but not because of terrorists but simply that I am not going to Paris to see Disneyland Paris there.

Posted by
74 posts

You have kids on the trip. Take them to Disneyland.

Posted by
2020 posts

Since you live close to WDW I am assuming the kids have been there a lot.

It's the same basic park with worse food. (Yes, it's France home of good food and DLP produces inedible food!)

Seriously, there is very little unique at DisneyLand Paris vs Florida and there may be some things your kids find frustrating. For example, the French culture is not good on 'lines" as a general rule. It's more of a mob scene getting into places. THat said I went in December outside of Christmas and it wasn't that crowded.

And that's the other part, it can be COLD. (There is a reason Walt built his parks in Southern California and Orlando..... the folks doing Paris missed that memo!) When I went it was too cold to do a lot of stuff and anything with water was basically closed.

Posted by
99 posts

Amy,

Go ahead with your trip. Perhaps you could make a minor change or two if it helps ease your mind, but frankly, if I were in your place, I'd stick with your original plan. You made those decisions about your itinerary for good reasons, and nothing has happened that would warrant many changes. I don't want to minimize the tragedy that occured two weeks ago, but you just can't let that kind of thing drive you. It's too random.

My wife and I are in the process of planning our anniversary trip to France for next May. We'll get some flack from family and friends too, but we'll go anyway. Unless my driving provides some unwanted excitement, I expect the trip will be fun but drama free.

Posted by
498 posts

If you want to rationalize it: you're far more likely to be killed accidentally by a taxi driver in Paris or Brussels than by a terrorist.

But I'd urge you to not rationalize this way. Because the world is not more unsafe now than it was last year after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and you would have gone to Paris or Brussels this summer anyway.

In short, there is no way to know if you'll be the target of a terrorist in Brussels, or New York, or San Francisco, or Marseille, or in a small town theater in Peoria or New Haven.

Life your life. Or decide that the Islamic State is now in charge of the whole world and stay home.

PS I'm originally from Sarasota but live full time now in Terrorist-Target manahattan. And ride the subway every day.

Posted by
2196 posts

Hi Amy,
As mentioned by all, this is a personal decision. I live in Vienna and we travel often in Europe. In fact, I landed in Paris about 4 hours after the Friday evening attacks occurred. As you can imagine, CDG was a disaster - Schengen rules were suspended and we had to do TWO passport checks to get to baggage claim. It was certainly a stressful situation.

That Saturday NOTHING - and I mean NOTHING - was open. Residents were told to stay home and they did. Sunday, stores started to open and by Monday, everything was back to normal. There were often disruptions, primarily due to security issues. Because public transportation is a part of our day-to-day European life, I chose to ride the Roissy Airport bus from the Opera area (where we were staying) back to CDG for my departure. We got caught up in a massive raid in the Simplon area of town. Traffic was stopped, police and troops everywhere... and we were told to get off the bus... in the middle of nowhere. I have been to Paris 25+ times, have a European phone with data, and know the public transportation options. So I led 10 of us to the closest metro station, road BACK into town to catch the RER B train to the airport. Taxis were either full or hopelessly stuck in traffic.

Of my entire time in Paris this situation - and the closures of businesses and museums - were the biggest disruptions. What would I do if I was going back to Paris tomorrow? I would book a private transport from my hotel to the airport - someone knowledgeable of the streets of the city. (I saw many taxi drivers on their phones or working their GPS - I want someone who can get me to the airport on time!) . And I would probably be more cautious about using the Metro and RER trains. On Day 1 and 2, there was heavy security at many metro and train stations... By Day 4, it was primarily only at the major stations - so that's still an area of concern for me as it's such an easy target.

Would I go back tomorrow - YES! In fact, today we are flying to Barcelona, next week to Cannes, later that week we travel to Berlin, and then in 2 weeks we are on an overnight train to Cologne. Certainly we are more vigilant, as is EVERYONE.

I don't think it's possible to totally prevent all attacks. I have friends in Paris and Brussels and as they said, "Eventually we have to resume our lives." And they are doing so with resolve. The news reporting we see here is far different than that in the USA (I have a Slingbox so I see both continents)... and here they are far more candid about countries working together (and who is NOT - in their opinion). Hopefully the governments can put aside their differences to work together to address terrorism on a more global scale.

Travel is about experiences. I learned much about and from Parisians I talked to in the days after the attack. I am glad we went and so were they. Numerous times in restaurants, shops, stores, etc. they would come up to me in English and "Thank Me" for being there - and staying. The people I spoke with are understandably nervous, angry, afraid, frustrated... but they are quite determined to maintain their lifestyle. It was an impactful trip for us.

We're fortunate to have been to Paris and Brussels many times. For us, this trip wasn't about climbing the Eiffel Tower or seeing the Mona Lisa - been there, done that many times when showing friends Paris. Some of these sites may be closed on your trip (if there is another event), so you have to take that into consideration. For us, it was not a concern - for a first-timer to Paris, it might be.

That said, it is still your decision and as I tell clients, you must have an acceptable level of comfort - and that's different for everyone. Good Luck in your travels!

Posted by
12898 posts

@ Ron in Rome...thanks for the extensive report, your confidence, ... very useful and informative. On the topic of resuming one's life in Paris, if one knows les français, their history and culture, they're not going to buckle. I find it more revealing in their willingness to talk, ie open up, if you talk to them in their language be it in France or Germany. I look forward to reading your assessment of Berlin.

Posted by
13564 posts

Fred, I agree. Most realistic and direct and informative post on the subject to date.

Posted by
5481 posts

Amy, although the Wikipedia numbers are old, it says that there were 669 murders by gun in Florida in 2010, for a rate of 3.9 per 100,000 of population. That's on the high side, even higher than Texas or Arizona. You need to think about dangers to your family in a wider-perspective way.

I'm inclined to believe the stories about poor inter-agency communication in Belgium, but we regularly hear about that being a problem in Washington D.C. It is appropriate to think about whether your ease of travel will be impaired, but I don't think you should worry so much about terrorism.

I happen to remember entering the Etoile Metro station in Paris about 20 years ago, to find a military commando team with long-guns making a routine sweep of the station. Europe is way ahead of us on this, and they don't have a pesky Constitution and Bill of Rights to deal with. It is true that they have more unhappy and unemployed immigrants than we do. That's another reason (among many) why it's wrong to demonize hard-working families of immigrants in the U.S. - it leads to discrimination, unemployment, and the kind of bitterness felt in these post-colonial European nations.

Posted by
211 posts

Nope. Not a bit. More scared of the interstates in Atlanta.

Posted by
24 posts

Such a timely post for me Amy. We are taking virtually the same trip in March with our 11 and 16 year old kids. This is a dream come true for us, as we will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary and taking our kids to two of our favorite cities! The recent events gave us pause as well, as will as the advisory from the State Department which expires a week before we leave (baring any further events). There is nothing short of war that would stop us from going. 30 years ago, my husband and I planned a trip to England for our honeymoon and there was a bombing of the middle eastern airline counter (can't even remember it's name) that flew to Heathrow IN Heathrow airport. At the vast urging of our Mothers, we regrettably cancelled. Ten years later, we traveled to Istanbul to the great horror of our families---it was fantastic! The world felt no safer then than now in both those instances. So we are going to London and France with our kids. I believe these will be safe and UN-eventful trips (I mean security-wise). As everyone else has said, you have to do what feels right--but I believe that we must carry-on.

On another note....would love to hear a bit about your itinerary as we are planning ours as I write this :0)

Bon Voyage!

Posted by
4479 posts

Sounds like you've made your decision, so now, enjoy the rest of your planning and have a great time together!!

Posted by
77 posts

Yes, we are planning on going still!

I am in the "OH MY GOSH WE LEAVE IN LIKE TWO WEEKS WHAT DO I STILL NEED TO DO" stage. I am trying to figure out rail passes and adaptors/convertors, etc. The worries cross my mind every once in a while, but for the most part I do feel fine.

The large majority of replies have been incredibly helpful and I am very grateful.

Posted by
1103 posts

Congrats on going. I just purchased my flight to Paris for May 2016. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
13564 posts

Amy, you need one type of adapter
http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0038L54ZO/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1448922206&sr=8-1&pi=SY200_QL40&keywords=schuko+plug+adapter&dpPl=1&dpID=412qrOLqL6L&ref=plSrch

AND unless you are bringing something like a curling iron you don't need a converter as all cell phone and laptop chargers don't require a converter. If you are bringing hair dryers and curling irons you might be best served buying a cheap dual voltage travel type; again do you can skip the bulky heavy converter

Posted by
24 posts

I'll add....we went to Euro-Disney shortly after it opened and it was EXACTLY like WDW Orlando (lived in Orlando for about 10 years, so were experts). It's also WAY outside Paris. It was fun, but in the same way WDW Orlando is fun so unless you have free tickets, pass and hit more stuff in the city or take a tour of the Loire Valley and see some authentic castles.

Posted by
7205 posts

I know these advisories have affected my thoughts on travel...I'm sick of getting 2 or 3 STEP notifications daily about how I should always be vigilant, stay away from crowds/protests, blah blah blah. I'm thinking our State Department is just trying to CYA by warning of travel to any destination.

Posted by
77 posts

Tim, I think you are correct. I am waiting until right before we leave to sign up for STEP.

Posted by
1812 posts

Amy, I understand your concern. If it's any comfort, we have also been thinking of our plans.

We fly out of Atlanta on Delta to Rome in December. The Paris attack didn't make us consider cancelling, but it did make us think of our itinerary. We will spend 90% of our time in small towns in Tuscany. I'm more concerned with pickpockets than terrorists.

We wanted to spend our last night, a Saturday, by taking a walking tour of Rome. That's the only thing we thought of skipping. Last night I signed us up for the walk. It's full steam ahead!

It looks like you've decided to go. Enjoy your trip. Practice situational awareness, but not paranoia.

BTW, we are getting push back from my wife's mother and step dad. They are in their 80's and sit around all day watching news and religious channels that specialize in spreading fear, loathing and bigotry. I get to see what small mindedness and paranoia does to people. They are miserable. We refuse to live our lives like that.

Posted by
31471 posts

DougMac,

In addition to "fear, loathing and bigotry", would it be safe to say that there's some degree of xenophobia as well? Have they ever travelled outside the U.S.?

Posted by
1812 posts

Ken,
If you count a couple of hours off a cruise ship, yes.

Posted by
541 posts

I hope this makes you feel a little better about your decision: I was in Paris during the attacks and the week following it. I have two young children and would not hesitate to take them there now. It was crazy up until they had the final shoot out the following Wednesday but after that, it felt pretty back to normal. We were there for an entire week with almost everything closed and there was still so much to do we had no problems being occupied.

As far as the State Department thing, total waste of time. It's just PR for the U.S. Media unless you need a new passport. My husband kept sending me screenshots of the news channels sayin all Americans in Paris need to call the embassy. We spent all night after the attacks calling. Got a busy signal. Finally got through and the message said they were closed until Monday. We called Monday like all the notices told us to. They said to call local emergency services if it was an emergency. Nice! Total waste of time.

Posted by
541 posts

A note on DLP: I'd take my little ones if they wanted to go but be warned, it's disappointing if you are expecting Disney World. I went with my Disney fan sister a couple of years ago. It's smaller and not kept in nearly the pristine shape. The food was borderline horrid so make a reservation at one of the restaurants prior to going so you at least get something edible. We had a great time but I won't go back until I have to.

Posted by
77 posts

Leslie, Wow! Thanks so much for your post. It is so great to have advice with someone who has a firsthand experience with the situation. I am getting excited to go and making lists of everything we need to do. We did have to renew our passports but they should be arriving any day.

The only thing I had been a bit anxious about was Belgium, but I have since calmed down and kept to the original itinerary. And we will only be there (in Brussels) one day before we fly out of that airport.

I can't believe it is right around the corner! My children were a bit anxious at first but we've had some great talks and they are good to go. I am excited for them to experience these cities, just walk around and eat some amazing food.

Posted by
258 posts

We live in California. I guess there will be a travel advisory about San Bernardino now.

Posted by
1 posts

It's a personal decision, but I would not cancel a trip based on government alerts. My husband and I are taking a European river cruise this spring, something we have waited several years to do. Since we fly into and out of Turkey, I know I will have heightened awareness of surroundings, but this is nothing new for me. Each day as I pass through the Hoboken Train terminal in New Jersey, I pass by at least 3 policeman in bulletproof vests, with a K-9 patrol and automatic weapons on display. Does that mean I shouldn't go to work each day? I admit the potential for terrorist attacks is concerning and disheartening--this is the nature of terrorism. I pass by these officers with a sigh for what this change represents. But cowering to terrorism means that the terrorists have had the impact they wanted. I will continue to travel, knowing that these random, yet calculated, acts of violence are beyond my control.

Posted by
1 posts

Live in the US and just got back from Paris on Tuesday. It was perfect. We had a wonderful time, and everything was open as expected. We were in town when the climate conference began, which really wasn't an inconvenience at all. In fact, it was quite exciting to see the different dignitaries being driven around in Place de la Concorde including Obama's motorcade. The city is in the holiday swing, so we loved seeing all the lights around town and highly recommend the Christmas market on Champs Elysees. This was my second time in Paris, and it was better than the first.

Posted by
16 posts

Hi Amy,
I hope you don't cancel your trip! Christmas time is by far my most favorite time in Europe. I am an American living in Germany and I also have relatives in Paris. Our feeling at the moment is that there is really no where on the planet where one can be 100 percent 'safe'. It's a state of mind. There are daily mass-shootings in the U.S.! If you stay home and change your schedule then the terrorists have won.
In Paris, there is a movement called 'terracing' where residents are taking 'selfies' of themselves enjoying their outdoor cafes. In Brussels during the lockdown, people were told not to send tweets about the police activity outside because it was possibly alerting the bad guys about their location. So residents began posting photos of cats dressed up in all sorts of costumes, so they wouldn't 'let the cat out of the bag'. The point is, don't stop living! This is probably one of the safest times to come to Europe. Christmas here is magical. Enjoy!

Posted by
7 posts

I guess we're in the minority here, my husband & I were planning on taking a river cruise from Paris thru the south of France this summer (hadn't booked yet) but have decided to stay in the USA instead. if we were already booked we would still go but since we aren't we figure we'll vacation a little more local, for a longer amount of time & take the money we save & put it into some things for our house (hello new paint, flooring & furniture for the den.) I should add that we have been to Europe several times & figure we'll just sit this year out & see a few more of the many amazing things this country has to offer. I know anything can happen anywhere at any time but we just like the idea of being closer to home. Have a great trip though, Europe is wonderful:)

Posted by
30 posts

My feeling is, France is a big country, Europe is a big continent, and it is a big world. Terrorism and danger can crop up at any place, at any time. Usually the time immediately after a terrible event such as the massacre in Paris, is actually the safest since the evil ones are in hiding. As a traveler, unless there are clear reports of say an imminent invasion of a country or all modes of transport are at high risk of attack, I feel myself to be generally safe. In fact, travel to such areas as Paris after a tragic incident gives us the opportunity to encourage, support and befriend the people of that country and possible give comfort in ways we otherwise may never be able to do as general tourists. I say, Vive la France, Viva Liberte et Fraternite!

Andy Andeck

Posted by
1 posts

We are in London right now and head to Amsterdam next week. As always London has many, many tourists. Our hotel is full. The Christmas decorations are wonderful and weather is fine. Somehow I feel that if we stop traveling the terrorists will have another victory. It is however a personal decision.

Posted by
2 posts

My 14 year old daughter and I just flew in and out of Brussels, spending a week in Belgium and the Netherlands for the Thanksgiving break from school. In Belgium we stayed in hotels in Bruges, Antwerp, and Brussels. There were armed soldiers around--enough to make a traveler feel safe but not so many as to convey a sense of panic. Other than that everything felt normal and calm. We had a great trip and knew right away that we had made the right decision. I like the Brussels airport which is clean, compact and has trains downstairs. The Christmas lights were lovely and the people friendly. We'd do it all again. I made one adjustment to our schedule: we skipped the Friday night opening of the sound and light show in the Grand Place in Brussels and went last Sunday night instead. In your shoes, as an added precaution, the only thing I think I'd avoid is a major tourist train route like Paris to Brussels. While we were gone there was a shooting where we live -- Colorado Springs. I'm so glad I wasn't sitting at home watching the news coverage of the tragedy, regretting (after the loss of life) that we had given up our trip. My daughter shares that opinion and was all in favor of making the pre-planned trip. She doesn't want to live in fear or give that victory (not traveling) to terrorists. As parents we need to help them find balance in today's world. Had the US State Dept. posted a warning against travel to Belgium, instead of an alert, we'd have gone someplace else. Best Wishes!

Posted by
5 posts

My daughter and I with her two small children were traveling around Spain and Portugal shortly after Bush launched his "Shock & Awe" campaign. People were surprised to find out that we were from the USA, as they rarely saw any Americans during the several years following the Sept 11 attacks. It simply never occurred to us to be worried, and we had a wonderful time. I am always being warned about this place or that and how it's full of thieves/drug dealers/con artists/you-name-it. The truth is, although there are risks no matter where you go---at home or abroad---you take a bigger risk driving on the freeway to get to the airport!

If the US, France, Britain, Israel, et al., would keep their noses out of the business of other nations, then there wouldn't be so many people itching to kill us. The more of us who travel, showing respect and genuine interest in other cultures, the more understanding & brotherhood we'll enjoy. If you don't speak the language, learning a few basic phrases and polite responses will go a long way towards establishing good will. Bon voyage and have fun!

Posted by
13564 posts

Jen, your concern is understandable and valid. Each has their own tolerance and comfort level and there is no arguing that. And, yes, you might be in the minority but I bet if there were some kind of a blind vote you would find the minority is larger than you think. We have a trip planned for the fall of 2016 that may or may not take place with what’s going on. I have time and will watch things. I also have a trips for February and mid-summer that I have little doubt will go on as planned.

Posted by
1 posts

I applaud Amy for putting her fears in perspective and going forward with her travel plans. No one who woke up, got dressed, and went to work in the World Trade Center complex on September 11 knew what would happen that morning. And no one who came home from work, met up with friends and went to the Bataclan or the nearby cafés on November 13 knew what would happen that night. Terrorism and acts of violence in general are random. They can't be predicted by the average person. That's why they terrorize. We have no control over them. Acts of terror are random. So are random acts of kindness and respect.

Perpetrators of acts of terror seek to destabilize society for one reason or another. We have a choice. We can surrender our freedom and allow our way of life to be altered by letting fear and paranoia drive our decision making and behavior. (This has already happened to a frightening degree in America.) Or we can continue to live our lives and fashion our society based on the values of freedom -- of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- that we say we cherish. Personally, I never allow any person to change me into something I don't want to be.

And frankly, I'm far more concerned about how a normal-looking young couple with a 6-month-old baby managed over a period of time to legally amass an arsenal of weapons and turn their townhome on a quiet residential street in sleepy Redlands, California into a bomb-making facility, while apparently nobody living in that complex -- or even in their family -- noticed or thought anything was out of the ordinary. Yes, I'm far more concerned about that than about being caught up in a random act of terrorism during a shortish vacation in a European city.

Posted by
77 posts

Isn't that the truth.

We leave in ten days. We are REALLY excited. Our kids were a little nervous a few weeks ago, but we feel good now. We have not changed any plans. We considered changing from Brussels, but we did not in the end.

Thanks for all the words of encouragement. It helps to be able to just hear some simple, calm logic sometimes.

I wish I could post a picture when we leave!

Posted by
2018 posts

Amy, I think you and your family have given a lot of thought to your decision and I think, made a good one. Maybe you can't post a photo but you CAN post a trip report-one I would love to read! Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
13564 posts

I am respectful of the Alerts at least because they still haven’t caught the eighth terrorist, Salah Abdeslam (last known to be in Brussels). And they haven’t found the two individuals he recruited from the migrants at Keleti Station in Budapest. I would be concerned that if Salah Abdeslam and the two from Budapest have received the help needed to go underground that there is a support organization which could be armed with the same fully automatic weapons and explosives as the was used in the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

Posted by
31471 posts

James E.,

The rumour is that Salah has made his way to Syria by now, so he may not be apprehended for a long time (if ever). Of course, it's highly likely there are others of his ilk waiting in the wings. Not that it matters, but it sounded like their weapons were semi-automatic.

Posted by
13564 posts

Ken, semi's? Really? I believe you, cause who knows. But this article sort of makes me think that they were fully automatic http://time.com/how-europes-terrorists-get-their-guns/ just based on the sources of the weapons. But its all so terrible it really doesn't matter. Any gun used for violence is going to do unimaginable harm. I still get nearly uncontrollably angry when I think of this sort of senseless act.

Posted by
541 posts

We spent a week watching France24 in English and BBC when we moved to the UK while we were in Paris during the attacks. The big story was what happened to Salah Abdeslam. Before we left there was interviews with people who talked to him (anonymous of course) that said he was more wanted by ISIS for not blowing himself up than by anyone else. I'm guessing he isn't among us anymore, not that there aren't others, but just this one might be off the radar hopefully.

Posted by
31471 posts

James E.,

I'm not sure if providing the rationale for my previous comments regarding the weapons is germane to the subject of this thread. I'll send you a PM.

Posted by
541 posts

Hope so. Watching the U2 concert live on HBO now. I'm not a sentimental person but damn! I had the unfortunate/fortunate privilege of occupying an apartment next to someone who lost someone to this. I'm forever changed by that.

Posted by
12898 posts

No, James, "they" would pull my thread first...lol. No one wants to listen to heavy duty contrary historical evidence. In like manner your thread would be #2 to be pulled. Seriously, your point is well taken!

Posted by
541 posts

If James and Fred started their own blog, I'd be follower #1. Love the history lessons and civil banter. I've googled more stuff from your posts than I have DailyMail pop culture references. That's actually a compliment :)

Posted by
541 posts

Awesome! Let's meet in SF since we all are in agreement that's actually the best city in the world :).

Posted by
13564 posts

Yeaaa, sure, SF, hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. See, Fred and I only see eye to eye on about 70 percent of things...... Personally I prefer G-d's Country to SF.

Posted by
77 posts

I think the only thing I am a wee bit nervous about is our train from paris to brussels. But for now we are not changing it. HOWEVER, they are refundable/exchangeable tickets, so we can if we feel we need to, or if the "vibe" changes.

Posted by
541 posts

Amy, I'll be brutally honest here. We took the TGV (high speed train) from Paris to Reims one day. I wasn't at all scared when we got there at. 6:30 in the morning. Before we borded, I was scared. lots going on before we got on the train. Different subject. It was early, no coffee, lots of suspicion going around the station, and the final shoot out in Paris was close by. BUT. I boarded that high speed train. No issues other than a mild shakedown of the middle eastern college blokes behind us. They knew it was coming and all was good.

Posted by
12898 posts

That's the level of security we can expect at Paris train stations because of what has happened. Gare de l'Est is a station visibly patrolled.

@ Leslie and James...Atlanta or Budapest would be fine too. One reason for going to Budapest is the local cuisine.