i first heard about the US State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) during Passport Day two years ago. it’s a service that lets you submit your travel plans to the State Department so they can keep you notified of any worrisome developments at your destination(s) as well as let them (and the appropriate embassies) know who and where you are so they can better assist you in case something goes south, whether a personal need or large-scale events.
from my post on Passport Day, relaying what i was told by the director of the Philadelphia Passport Agency about the benefits of STEP:
if, for example, you lose your passport overseas, you will have all your relevant information in this system that can be retrieved at an embassy for quicker identification and assistance, including your passport number. also, you can authorize disclosure of information to friends and family who may be wondering about your whereabouts or current status (it’s completely opt-in, so they won’t tell anyone anything by default). you can also receive travel warnings and other notices for countries you will be visiting…the point is, you never know when something might happen (*knock on wood*) like a death in the family or if you get arrested for something you didn’t know was illegal. the state department can help you out, and you can expedite the process if you are registered with STEP.
i’ve been pretty lax about putting my upcoming travels in (it’s not hard, just busy work), but after reading the latest State Department alert for traveling to Russia, i figure better safe(r) than sorry, even though i will only be in Russia for a couple days (and Sochi for less than 24 hours). note that if you don’t want to sign up for the full STEP program, you can also subscribe to updates for specific countries by visiting their Email Subscriptions page.
p.s. it’s too bad they can’t just pull in information from TripIt! that would make a great summer intern job, IMHO.