BEFORE YOU TRAVEL, READ THESE TIPS

With good advance planning, travel is exciting, stimulating, and relaxing. The following are some reminders, safety tips and general information to ensure your travel plans go smoothly and your stay away from home is as stress-free as possible, and most of all FUN!

Bring enough prescription medication in case of loss, theft, breakage, or spillage. A note from your doctor with a medical diagnosis for a chronic condition as well as medications and dosage prescribed can be invaluable. You may want to carry an extra pair of eyeglasses and hearing-aid batteries. Don’t forget to bring plenty of sunscreen and insect repellent. A first aid kit may also come in handy. Make sure it includes anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, and aspirin or cold tablets. Always pack medication in your carry-on bag. The center for disease control at 404-639-3311 has up to date information on epidemics, vaccinations, and unsafe conditions in your planned destination.

Try not to pack more luggage than you reasonably handle by yourself. Choose luggage that is lightweight and flexible, yet durable enough to withstand rough treatment. Pack firmly. Clothes that move around usually come out wrinkled. Luggage identification is important. Make sure that your bags have the correct information inside and outside and that the luggage tag is securely fastened. Remove old baggage claim tags that might confuse the baggage handlers. You may wish to attach a brightly colored ribbon or sticker to your luggage to help distinguish your bags from similar ones in the baggage claim area.

Pack the following: band-aids, soap antiseptic wipes, tweezers, a non-aspirin pain reliever, medications for colds and diarrhea and any prescribed medications (in labeled, original containers). Those with corrected vision should carry the lens prescription as well as extra glasses.

Your travel agent can provide brochures and tourist information about the countries you plan to visit and will also be able to provide you with the Department of State travel warnings for any country on your itinerary. Look in your local bookstore and public library for books on foreign travel. Many countries have tourist information offices in large cities that can give you brochures, and in some cases, maps. Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs of the countries to which you are traveling. Remember, while in a country you are subject to its laws! If you are unfamiliar with the local language, carry a card or matchbook with the hotel’s name and address. You can show the card or matchbook to a cab driver or police officer if you get lost. Before leaving the United States, make up several pocket cards with key phrases in the local language (i.e., “Which way is the airport?” and “Where are the restrooms?”)

When traveling internationally, carry a passport even if you don’t need one (it’s always the best form of ID), and make two photocopies of the data page (one for someone at home and another for you, carried separately from your passport). If you lose your passport, promptly call the nearest embassy or consulate and the local police. Make sure you have a signed, valid passport and visas, if required. Also, before you go, fill in the emergency information page of your passport and check the expiration date. Many countries require you to present a passport with an expiration date of no less than 6 months from the end of your visit to their country.

GET YOUR PASSPORT

Confirm flight times and dates for all portions of your trip to make sure that it matches up with your information. Make copies of your air travel itinerary and leave a copy with your workplace and family members or friends. Provide your travel agent, family or friend and airline with phone numbers where you can be reached during your travels. Expect long waits to get through security check points and keep identification handy for security checks by authorities and airport personnel at parking lots, curbside check-in, ticket counters, security gates, airport gates and on the plane.

On the flight, drink plenty of non-alcoholic and decaffeinated liquids, eat lightly and rest. With three hours sleep during a transatlantic flight, you will be functional the day you land. On arrival day, stay awake until an early local bedtime.

Evaluate the risk of terrorism, and then travel in a way that minimizes the risk. English newspapers and broadcasts are available in most of the world and should be used to find out about the current situation.

Shorts, if not frowned upon, will almost certainly brand you as a foreigner in most countries, as will sneakers and baseball caps. A flashy wardrobe or one that is too casual can mark you as a tourist. Maintain a low profile. Leave the expensive jewelry and watches at home. Do not display large amounts of cash or travelers checks.

When traveling, use a money belt. Wear it around your waist, completely hidden from sight. Only carry in your pockets as much cash as you will need for one day, and the rest in a money belt or a safe at the hotel. Do you need traveler’s checks? It depends on where you’re headed. If you’re going to rural areas and small towns, go with cash; traveler’s checks are best used in cities. Record the numbers of all your checks, and keep this listing in a separate place, crossing off the numbers of the checks you’ve cashed.

The best way to protect yourself against financial loss. The most useful plan is a comprehensive policy that includes coverage for trip cancellation and interruption, default, trip delay, and medical expenses (with a waiver for pre-existing conditions. Always buy travel insurance directly from an insurance company or agent; if you buy it from a cruise line, airline, or tour operator that goes out of business, you probably will not be covered for the agency or operators default, a major risk. Before you make any purchase, review your existing health and home-owner’s policies to find out whether or not that cover expenses incurred while traveling.

ID your kids. On an index card, write each childís name, your name and hotel address and phone number, as well as the phone number of a close friend or relaive back home. Always have a recent, clear photo of your child with you. If you do get separated, the authorities will want an up-to-date picture. Show your children how to call the front desk. While they may know how to dial 911 in case of emergency at home, unless you tell them, they wonít know to dial 9 for an outside line, or to dial 0 for the hotel receptionist. Mexico has a law that requires a child traveling alone or with only one parent to carry written, notarized consent from the absent parent or parents.

Whenever possible, pay with a major credit card so you can cancel payment or be reimbursed if there’s a problem, provided you can produce documentation. This is the best way to pay, whether you’re buying travel arrangements before your trip or shopping at your destination. When shopping abroad, keep receipts for all your purchases. When you return home, be ready to show customs officials what you’ve bought. If you feel a duty is incorrect, appeal the assessment. If you object to the way your clearance was handled, get the inspector’s badge number. In either case, first ask to see a supervisor, when write to the appropriate authorities, beginning with the port director at your point of entry.

In most developing and third-world countries, it is best to drink bottled water. Avoid alcohol consumption and caffeine in flight due to dehydration. Eat three balanced meals per day, but avoid large meals late at night. Stay away from fried foods and creamy sauces particularly in many foreign countries. Raw, unpeeled or uncooked fruits and vegetables may be unsafe in some locales. Wash your hands often.

Stay in quality hotels on well-traveled streets. Close and lock your room door at all times. Check sliding glass doors, windows, and connecting room doors. Acquaint yourself with the location of stairways, fire escapes, exits, and alarms. Do not answer your hotel room door without verifying who it is. If someone claims to be a hotel employee, call the front desk to verify.

Get maps and directions in advance. If you need to stop for directions, go to well-lit public areas. Lock your car doors while driving and when parked. Do not pick up or offer to drive strangers. Avoid being out on the streets late at night. Be observant when entering parking lots.

REQUIRED READING FOR TRAVELERS

Americans love to travel. It’s one of our greatest freedoms and now more than ever it is important to practice these safety and general travel tips.

The following is a list of websites providing extensive information on US embassy locations, travel warnings and advisories, passports or visas, airlines, children and travel, international, home security, language, money and credit cards, packing, rental car and hotel tips. We hope you find these links helpful in your current and future travels!