Several weeks ago, I heard from a reader who had purchased tickets for a late-March trip to Barcelona. Since political tensions there are running high — complete with strikes and protests — should he scrap his plans? he wonders.

The trip was planned well ahead of the turmoil, a result of a dispute between Catalan separatists and the Spanish government. Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, has seen rallies — some with hundreds of thousands of protesters — since the Catalan parliament declared independence from Spain in October, and the government responded by dissolving the parliament.

"Now we've been hearing all of the news reports of unrest. Do you have any advice? Should we go or try to change our destination?" the reader asked.

Answering such questions is tricky. The situation seems volatile, and will likely remain so at least until the election slated for Dec. 21. Of course, those elections are just as likely to stir passions as calm them. Still, late March is a long ways off.

Ultimately, travelers headed anywhere have to gauge their own comfort levels. But they should also be aware that some homework is required.

Monitor the situation via the U.S. State Department website ( Read the general information about the country, embassy notes and any warnings (none has been issued for Spain).

Check with media outlets; I have found that the BBC tends to keep good tabs on situations in Europe.

Register your travels at the State Department website, so that embassy staffers can reach you or send alerts should the need arise.

If you find yourself in a city that makes you feel uncomfortable, remember that Europe is filled with wonderful sights and is crisscrossed with train tracks. From Barcelona, for instance, a traveler could hop to Madrid or Valencia, or Toulouse, France.

Send your questions or tips to Travel editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.