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European travel: What does 'be vigilant' mean?

Police officers stand in front of the Eiffel

Police officers stand in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, after another bomb threat. (Sept. 14, 2010) (Credit: AP )

Since Sunday, when the U.S. State Department issued an alert for European travel, we've heard a lot about "being vigilant." But what, exactly, does that mean?

Will constantly looking over their shoulders keep tourists safe? Not exactly.

While hotels and airlines are slashing rates and fares to entice travelers, travel expert Bob Diener, founder of getaroom.com, has helped decipher the cryptic advice.

"We are telling travelers to Europe not to wear sneakers," he said. "Europeans usually wear shoes, except to ballgames, and wearing sneakers make Americans stick out." 

Office buddy Jamshid Mousavinezhad chimed in with his own suggestion for trying to fit in with the locals: Wear a European football team cap. Good one, Jamshid.

Besides trying hard not to look American, travelers should avoid really crowded places, like public transit during rush hour, and register with the State Department's travel registration website.

Still nervous about traveling, even with all the tempting deals floating around? "Savvy travelers are taking advantage of this opportunity and booking months ahead where this alert will no longer be a concern – getting themselves great deals," Diener said.

Share your suggestions for not looking American in the comments field below.

>>Read about the travel alert

>>Europe travel guide

>>Reader photos from all over the world

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