- Stay in touch with your government. Before crossing any borders, find out about your government's embassy, consulate or home office in the country you're visiting. Check their website for excellent
and up-to-date online reports advising of security, safety, weather or health issues at your destination. Make note of their local address and telephone number. These people are your representatives
on foreign soil and are an invaluable connection to have. In case of natural disasters, travelers should contact their government office immediately. This is the easiest way for a country to verify
the safety and location of their citizens and to protect them if and when necessary.
- Travel insurance. You might think twice about not leaving home without it... In the past I was never a big advocate of travel insurance, probably because many policies only offer
cancellation coverage. As a travel optimist I never miss a planned and paid-for trip. However, whether you are crossing the county for a one day meeting or traveling abroad for a month, you might
think again about emergency medical insurance. Most of us have heard horror stories about inadequately insured travelers who go off feeling perfectly well and then an unfortunate accident puts them
in hospital. Just be cautious and do what feels right. If you are someone who takes out extra insurance for car, home and/or life, you should probably use the same rationale with travel insurance.
- Names of relatives and friends. Sure you know your loved ones' phone numbers by rote, but it's incredible what happens to your memory under duress. In your wallet, make it standard
procedure to carry the names, phone/fax numbers and e-mail addresses of several of your closest relatives or friends. In any emergency, they will want to hear that you're safe and vice versa.
- Phone cards are cheaper. If you don't own a cell phone, always carry a prepaid international calling card or have your own calling card with you when you travel. Staying at a hotel during a crisis
means you'll be making a lot of calls from your room. Allowing yourself to rely strictly on a hotel's phone service generally means spending a lot more money than you bargained for. Calling cards will
reduce your costs considerably.
- Two pieces of photo ID. Be prepared. Along with your passport, carry your driver's license as well. Your passport adds legitimacy to any emergency banking transaction that might need to be carried
out while you're away; it establishes your identify at hotels worldwide and it is the best way for others to reach your family should you become ill or injured on the road. Your driver's license becomes
your second piece of photo ID. It adds further credence to your passport and, most importantly, it stretches your transportation possibilities in a pinch. Need to get from one place to another in North
America and no flights are available? You've got all the documentation necessary to rent a car and you're on your way with as little fuss as possible.
- Extra photos help. Two passport photos don't take up any room in your wallet but they could come in so handy when you really need them. Replacing a lost passport, European metro/train pass, membership
card or senior ID becomes a lot simpler when you don't have to go off in search of a photographer's shop to begin the process.
- Extra emergency cash. Yes, there are credit cards, cash cards and travelers checks, but a small stashed backup emergency fund in American dollars can't hurt when you travel. Try using a vitamin
bottle with a few pills still in it so that your container looks and sounds authentic. Roll up some cash and store it in this secret container and then forget about it. It can generally be left in your
hotel room, hostel dorm or carried in your backpack without fear of thieves making off with it. Call this your 'Just in Case' money.
- Always pack light. Think ahead to possible snags in travel plans and how you'll handle all your luggage. Perhaps, due to poor weather your plane is diverted, you can't find public transportation,
a departure gate might change or no porters are available. Whatever the circumstances, it will always be you that's left trying to move your baggage. When that happens you'll definitely be unhappy with
yourself for not packing lighter. P.S. No matter what the temperature at your destination is, always carry or wear a thin, light jacket. In an unexpected situation, this is one piece of clothing that
always makes sense, plus is it easier to wear than to carry.
- Message for moms... If you're a mother traveling with a baby, be sure to pack formula and water for four or five extra feedings. Ditto for your diaper supply. Don't assume that you will always
complete your travel plans in the time expected. Under these circumstances it certainly pays to carry more and be prepared. Think ahead, too, to any extra medication you or your child might need along
- Eat right. One never knows when an easy one-hour intercity flight will have to be replaced with an adventurous 10-hour train ride. While soft drinks and snack foods are usually readily available
at all train stations, you might not be satisfied with the concept of junk food sold at inflated prices. Instead seek out a supermarket and stock up with bottled water and healthy choices that will
make your journey infinitely more pleasurable.
- Rule of thumb... always take half as many clothes as you think you will need and twice as much money.
- Other Important Contacts
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