Five Ways to Overcome Fear of Terrorism While Traveling

The odds of being killed in an organized attack are significantly low

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 2: Two New York City policemen with the Counterterrorism Bureau keep watch over vehicular traffic along the West Side Highway April 2, 2017 in New York City. The officers are tasked with guarding against the threat of international and domestic terrorism and protect critical infrastructure in New York City.
••• Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

In the years following 2001, terrorism has become a primary concern of many international travelers. In the blink of an eye, paradise can be lost due to a coordinated attack by groups dedicated to spreading violence in the name of many different causes. Although these situations are tragic, these highly publicized events represent a much lower risk than the more regular situations modern adventurers face while abroad.

When planning a trip, it may be tempting to stop all travels out of fear of a terrorist attack. Although the U.S. State Department has announced a worldwide alert for travelers due to increased terrorism, there are ways to overcome those fears. Here are five ways travelers can overcome their fears of a terrorist attack prior to departure.

More Americans Have Been Killed by Gun Violence Than Terrorism

Although acts of terrorism are highly publicized and often result in many casualties, the number of Americans killed in a coordinated attack has dwindled since the September 11th attacks. In an analysis completed by CNN, only 3,380 Americans have been killed in the United States by terrorism since 2001. Comparatively, over 400,000 have been killed by gun violence in the same period of time. Simply put: Americans have more chances of being shot while traveling within their home country than being caught in the middle of a terrorist attack.

More Mundane Actions Hold a Higher Risk of Death Than Terrorism

Around the world, thousands of Americans are killed every year due to a number of actions. However, terrorism was not a significant cause of deaths between 2001 and 2013. According to statistics collected by the U.S. State Department, only 350 Americans were killed during that time period due to acts of terrorism, breaking down to an average of 29 per year.

In 2014 alone, over 500 Americans abroad died due to automobile accidents, homicide, and drowning combined.  

Health Threats Kill More Americans Than Terrorism

Although organized terrorist cells provide a major threat to Americans, there are many other threats travelers should consider before canceling their trip due to terrorism. The Economist collected death statistics from the National Safety Council and the National Academies to determine American's odds of being killed by any particular incident. Heart disease came at the top of the list, with the average American having 467-to-1 odds of dying due to a heart condition. Heart conditions can provide a major threat to those traveling abroad, as many travel insurance policies will not extend benefits to pre-existing medical conditions.

Islamic Terror Equates for Only 2.5 Percent of Attacks in the United States

Although Islamic-centric terrorism has occupied headlines, the odds of being caught in an attack perpetrated by one of these groups is significantly low. According to statistics collected by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, only 2.5 percent of all terrorist attacks in the United States between 1970 and 2012 were perpetrated by those with extreme Islamic motivations.

The remainder of the attacks were completed in the name of a number of ideologies, including racial ideologies, animal rights, and war protest.

Travel Insurance May Cover Terrorism in Certain Situations

Finally, for those travelers who have deeply rooted concerns about terrorism affecting their travel plans, there is hope through travel insurance. Many travel insurance policies include benefits for terrorism, allowing travelers to receive aid if they are caught in the middle of an attack. However, in order to access terrorism benefits, a situation must often be declared an active act of terrorism by a national authority. Purchasing a travel insurance plan early in the trip planning process can unlock 'cancel for any reason' benefits, allowing travelers to literally cancel their trip prior to departure and still receive a partial refund of their non-refundable deposits.

Although the fear of a terrorist attack is a rational concern, the threat alone should not be enough to prevent us from traveling. By understanding the realistic risk of an attack, travelers can make sure they plan appropriately while seeing the world safely.