Terrorist threats combined with civil and political unrest around the world in the past several years have made some people weary of global travel — not to mention the uneasiness of taking children along for the trip.
The truth, of course, is that no place in the world is 100-percent safe — even if you just plan to stay home. More banal problems, such as car accidents and other injuries, are common but occasionally overlooked threats to one’s safety, for example.
Still, many families might want to do careful research when it comes to vacation planning and select destinations that are lower risk than others. A great place to start is by checking the U.S. State Department’s website for travel advisories. It gives a simple, four-level advisory system: Level 1: exercise normal caution; Level 2: exercise increased caution; Level 3: reconsider travel; or 4: do not travel. These advisories are frequently updated based on the potential for terrorism, armed conflict and crime.
Another tool you might consider using is the Travel Risk Map. Not only does this tool offer an at-a-glance travel risk based on some of the factors under consideration by the state department, you can also evaluate your destination by medical risk (in case your family needs to get to a doctor) or road safety.
Based on the results from the Travel Risk Map, these are the five countries that are currently found to offer an insignificant travel risk — which means no significant targeted violence against foreigners combined with a good infrastructure and emergency services:
Take your kids to Oslo’s museums, visit Bergen and the fjord district on a Frozen-themed family vacation and watch for whales in Nordland. Or make unforgettable family memories seeing the Northern Lights and go dog-sledding in northern Norway.
Denmark is home to the original LEGOLAND (opened in 1968), as well as the world’s oldest amusement parks, Bakken and Tivoli Gardens. You can also camp in the Scandinavian Animal Park, home to wolves, bears and other Scandinavian wildlife.
Visit Helsinki for big-city museums and attractions or head to the amazing Moominworld, a fairytale theme park. You can also go for a husky safari in Lapland or visit Rovaniemi, the official home of Santa Claus (where you can also stay overnight).
Iceland is chock-full of diverse family-friendly experiences. Explore the museums of Reykjavik, take a dip in the geothermal pools, and visit the puffins that live in the Westman Islands. Travel to the Golden Circle, a spectacular trio of natural sites including Thingvellir National Park, where you can see the adjoining of tectonic plates connecting two continents. Geology: leveled up.
This under-the-radar Arctic destination is known for its ample opportunities for skiing, glacier hikes, snowmobiling and dog sledding. Learn about the Inuit culture through a guided tour or museum visit, or take a helicopter or small plane that glides over the breathtaking peaks and valleys of the world’s largest island that isn’t a continent.
In addition to having low crime and incidents of terrorism, these Scandinavian countries also have a low medical risk for travelers, with high quality care available throughout the country, and a low road safety risk.
“Scandinavian countries have robust infrastructure, few incidents of significant social unrest, very low crime rates and very little risk posed by terrorism,” says Mason Wray, a regional security expert for International SOS & Control Risks. “We can’t always predict the future, but using standard analytical forecasting and our expertise, we can say it’s quite unlikely risks in this zone are likely to notably increase any time soon.”