Your goals when traveling likely include, among other things, having fun, spending time with family and/or friends, taking in the sights, perhaps learning about a new culture, shopping, and tempting your taste buds with tantalizing flavors and exotic dishes. Another major goal of every vacationer these days is travel safety.
While there occasionally are circumstances which are beyond your control, still there is much that you can do before and during your trip to make it go safely and smoothly. Take a look through the following checklist for travel tips that we hope you will find useful when planning and enjoying your next vacation.
1. Ensure your passport will be valid for at least 6 months if you plan to travel internationally. If it is too near its expiry date, you may not be allowed to fly.
2. Don’t pack valuables in your checked baggage. Better still, leave your expensive jewelry and electronics behind.
3. Use an RFID-blocking wallet or neck stash to protect your personal information from credit card/passport skimmers, and to keep your identity from being stolen.
Use an RFID-blocking wallet or neck stash to protect yourself from skimmers.
4. Use the 3-1-1 rule for your liquids and gels when proceeding through airport security. Each liquid you store in your carry-on luggage must be in a container no larger than 3.4 oz. (3). Put all of these minuscule containers in 1 clear plastic bag (1). Each passenger is permitted 1 of these plastic bags (1).
5. Be prepared at airport security. If required, remove your shoes and place them in a bin together with your jacket, hat, and everything from your pockets. Place your 1 plastic bag of liquids/gels in a tray. Your laptop, tablet, cell phone also need to be in clear view for TSA staff to inspect. Of course, if you’re traveling internationally, you’d be wise to leave your laptop at home. You’ve spent all that money to get there, why not absorb yourself in the culture, scenery, architecture, food, and other aspects of your chosen destination rather than checking your Facebook page to see what your friend Jackie had for dinner last night, or the cute antics John & Sara’s little ones have been up to
6. If you’re traveling internationally, look up the address and phone number of the local American Embassy in the city to which you are traveling. Record this information both in English and in the local language so a cab driver or local resident will be able to assist you with finding the Embassy if an occasion should arise when you are in need of their help.
7. Be aware of your surroundings – always! If someone/something looks suspicious – trust your gut and get yourself away from the situation.
Always be aware of your surroundings!
8. Don’t ‘flash cash’. When you’re shopping or dining at a restaurant, don’t pull out wads of cash in order to pay your bill. Extra cash and credit card should be stored in your RFID-blocking neck stash or money belt. Keep easily accessible, only the amount of cash you’ll need or the one credit card you intend to use for the day.
9. Learn, before you leave home, about the currency of the country you will be visiting. What values does the currency come in? What is the approximate exchange rate? The more familiar you are with the unfamiliar coins and bills, the less likely that you will be taken advantage of by a shady merchant who may see you struggling with the local cash.
10. If you’re in a bar or lounge, never leave your beverage unattended, nor accept a drink from someone other than the bartender/server. Don’t over drink – particularly if you are alone. This leaves you far too vulnerable to thieves, pickpockets, and others who may wish to do you harm.
Never leave your drink unattended.
11. “When in Rome….” Respect the customs and culture of the country you are visiting. Obey the laws. Don’t assume that because you are an American, you may somehow be exempt from following the local laws – you most definitely are not!
12. Pack an extra pair of prescription glasses in your carry-on baggage, and take your lens prescription with you as well… Just in case you have a really bad day where you lose both pairs of glasses! It could happen :-). No need to be a Mr. Magoo….you should be able to get another pair of lenses made up if you carry your prescription with you.
13. Ensure you have enough medication with you for the duration of your trip. As an added precaution, take an additional week’s worth of pills. With the additional pills, you will still be okay if your flight home is delayed by a few days, or if you drop a pill and it rolls away as quickly as little ‘Johnny-Cake’ from the old children’s tale. Wear a medical alert bracelet if you have a pre-existing condition or a serious allergy. Carry your own EpiPen kit if necessary. If you are diabetic and use a syringe to self-administer your medication, be sure to carry a letter signed by your doctor that explains this.
Take an additional set of medication.
14. If you’re following the sun and heading farther south during the winter months, be kind to your skin! If it has been hidden under sweaters and parkas, a sudden change to the hot sun will not be its friend. Pack sunblock (or purchase some upon your arrival) and apply it liberally; wear a hat; don’t spend hours ‘soaking up the sun’ – sunburn is not a good look (nor is it healthy for your skin)…tanning is a gradual process.
15. There are many areas in which you can cut costs while traveling, but your travel insurance shouldn’t be one of them. Be certain that you have adequate medical insurance that will cover you in the event of illness, accident, or emergency evacuation while you are traveling. Ask questions of your insurance agent to ensure you know what you are covered for and that you are satisfied with the coverage.
16. Traveling by yourself with your children to visit grandma and grandpa? Be sure to get a signed letter of permission from their other parent. If you can’t satisfy the airline that your ex, even your current spouse, has knowledge that you are traveling alone with the children, the airline is perfectly within their right not to let you fly with them.
17. Leave a copy of your passport, travel itinerary (including contact info for hotels and airlines), and other ID with a trusted family member or friend at home. Take another copy for yourself to carry somewhere separate from the ‘real things’. If your passport or credit card should be stolen or lost, it will be much faster to replace them if you have the pertinent contact information at your fingertips.
18. If you plan to rent a vehicle while you’re traveling, be sure to use a reputable rental agency. Most hotels have an in-house service or can recommend a rental company to you.
19. Once you have decided on your vacation destination, check with your physician regarding which vaccinations may be necessary. Once you have received all of the required vaccinations, have your doctor record the names and dates and pack this information with the rest of your travel documents. For an extensive list of countries and their requirements, visit this website.
20. Check this government website if you are uncertain about any of the souvenirs and gifts you wish to bring home for family and friends. Don’t be disappointed by being told that what you have bought isn’t allowed to come into the USA.
Written by Emma Ghattas