Your best friend is about to embark on an adventure around the world.
“Safe travels!” you exclaim as they head out for their trip.
What does the expression really mean? Where did it come from? And did you even say it right?
Here’s everything you wanted to know about the expression, plus helpful tips to make sure your wish becomes a reality!
What Does Safe Travels Mean?
We say “safe travels” when someone we care about is about to take a trip. It means we’re wishing them well on their journey, hoping that everything goes smoothly and they arrive back home safe and happy.
The phrase is a simple platitude. It’s something we say to convey we care about someone and wish them the best in what they’re doing (in this case, traveling).
Where Did the Expression “Safe Travels” Come From?
The desire for safe travels has a deep history. People have wished their loved ones well on their journeys since the dawn of human civilization, and the practice continues today.
Ancient Rituals for Protecting Travels
In ancient times, leaving the safety of the homestead was fraught with dangers but necessary for the ever-waging wars and pursuit of trade.
Soldiers heading out to the battlefield engaged in a wide range of rituals to secure blessings and “safe travels” from priests or gods. The Romans took heading off to battle seriously, making sacrifices to ensure a fleet’s safe passage and conducting ritual cleansing of soldier’s feet.
Ancient societies called upon the Gods for protection for all types of journeys. The Norse conducted blood sacrifices before a quest, the Ancient Greeks blessed Hermes, and the Ancient Egyptians worshipped Khonsu, who watched over travelers at night.
Though most of our modern journeys are not subject to the same horrors as those in ancient times, the ritual of wishing someone well before they leave remains.
Some still pray to their chosen deity, asking them to grant a loved one a safe trip, while others stick to the platitude, but however you wish to express it, the meaning remains the same.
We want our loved ones to stay safe on their journey.
The Root of the Expression “Safe Travels”
Now that we understand the idea behind the phrase, let us dive into the English language phrase itself.
“Safe travels” is a modern, truncated way to say “I wish you safety during your travels,” which is a version of other phrases with the same meaning.
“Have a safe trip” and “I hope you have a safe journey” are two examples, but people use various verbiage to convey the same message.
The expression was modernized even more with the “have a safe flight” variety, which specifies well wishes for air travel. The phrase originates with other expressions of safety for journeys, such as “have a safe voyage” and “bon voyage!” which, historically, is related to a journey by sea.
Is It Safe Travel or Safe Travels?
When wishing someone safety on their pending trip, should you say “safe travels” or “safe travel”?
The word “safe” is an adjective, and the word “travel” acts as a noun in this sense. Grammar software often tells you to correct “safe travels” to “safe travel.”
But that doesn’t sound right.
“I wish you a safe travel” sounds wrong, but “I wish you safe travels” has a nice ring to it. Although both are technically correct, we usually think of “your travels” as a complete set of movements you will take during a trip rather than a single event, which makes it plural.
Making Your Wish for Safe Travels a Reality
Can saying “safe travels” be more than a platitude?
Here’s what you should do to help ensure your loved one has a safe trip.
The ancients may have been on to something in asking the Gods for safe passage. If you’re spiritual, consider asking the deity you worship to watch over your loved one on their trip.
Keep in Touch
The sooner you know something is wrong, the better your chances of correcting it. Keep in regular contact with your loved one during their trip, but don’t be overbearing about it.
If they’re going someplace that’s typically safe, there’s no need to check in every five minutes. Perhaps once a day or once every other day will suffice. However, if they’re going someplace that might be more dangerous or with limited connectivity, make a contact schedule and insist they stay with it.
Know Their Route
Keep a copy of their itinerary to know where they’re supposed to be. Keep abreast of current events in their destinations. They may not have the time or connectivity to check the news, but you can send them any new travel warnings and advisories that may pop up.
Make a Plan
While they are preparing for a trip, help develop a plan for what they will do if something goes wrong. Cover every possibility, from a stolen wallet or passport to a massive unscheduled protest. Consider the common scams in their destinations, and help them devise ways to protect themselves from these scammers. For example, many European countries have pickpockets, so advise them to watch their belongings and have a backup plan.
Talking about the potential safety hazards before they go will help them respond when an emergency happens.
Pack them a Safety Bag
Sometimes, we can offer gifts to keep them safe. If they’re going on a road trip, get them a roadside emergency bag for their car. If they’ll be staying at random hotels, gift them a doorstopper so they can prevent random people from breaking in. You can even put essential but often overlooked items like sunscreen, a first aid kit, or an in-flight survival kit.
The safety bag should be easy to carry and offer essentials for their specific trip.
No one wants to think about getting sick on their trip, but it’s best to plan for the worst and hope for the best. If they’re traveling overseas, advise them to get travel insurance, which will help them get treatment in any country or get home in case of illness.
Ensure they’re up to date on all their vaccinations if they’re traveling to a country with a disease that’s uncommon in the US. Some countries have infectious diseases such as Malaria, Dengue fever, and Tuberculosis.
Check with the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the World Health Organization for a list of recommended immunizations.
The last thing you can do to ensure your loved one has a safe trip is to provide a safety net in case of any problems. Be there to grab them an emergency flight, hotel, or rental car. Let them know they can count on you if something goes wrong.
You should also ensure that someone back home has complete color copies of their essential travel documents. Make copies of passports and IDs. If these items get stolen, you can send the copies to the local embassy, which will help them get replacements.
Travel is Typically Safe
Stop stressing. It’s unlikely that your loved one is heading off to a war-torn country with an unsafe rating from the Department of Safe.
The majority of tourist destinations around the world are completely safe. While travel safety is vital, letting them enjoy the trip and experience the world is also crucial.
Wish them safe travels, but don’t obsess over it. They’ll be fine!
Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.