Whether abroad or domestic, traveling to a new place can be both scary and exciting so it pays to be prepared.
- Booking and confirming. What sucks more than getting in a cab and ending up at the wrong airport, the wrong gate, or even the wrong hotel when you land? It costs you nothing but a few minutes to email hotels ahead to confirm your booking. PRO TIP: Double Check and Triple Check your apps, boarding passes, and Priority Passes and even your lunch passes, if applicable.
- Medication and medical assistance. For allergies and other serious medical needs, heavy research is recommended. Many foreign countries have heavily regulated policies on traveling with medication. You’ll be surprised to know that some of the over-the-counter medications available in the United States are highly restricted or differently regulated in other countries. Similarly, many countries will not even see you if you do not have medical insurance. PRO TIP: Travel Insurance is offered in a variety of ways through travel sites, credit cards, and private institutions. They cover everything from hospitalization and some go as far as evacuation coverage for when that flight gets cancelled due to a Volcano erupting. (True story from a friend)
- Communication. Just like AT&T said, do have the capability to reach out and touch someone. When traveling, especially international, having an unlocked phone and international SIM card works wonders, even if you can only text. PRO TIP: Those SIM Cards are usually on a timer so make sure you’re NOT putting them into the phone and activating too early. Otherwise you’ll have a reduced length of time to use that SIM when you land. PRO TIP #2: Have a portable battery pack handy. 100Wh is the United States TSA legal limit, roughly 26k mAh.
- Mapping your trip. Make sure you know where you’re going, the opening and closing time of events. Transportation in and out of the event. This all seems like common sense but places like Japan don’t have a 24/7 transit system and you could be stuck overnight in another part of town away from friends and family. PRO TIP: Google Maps is your friend. There are tons of mobile apps that have offline map saving capability. PRO TIP #2 :Place a pin for your local embassies and consulates is also a good thing.
- Awareness . In an ideal world, everyone would be able to travel in relative safety. Remain vigilant, even if you are familiar with a place. Many of us let our guard down around places that we know, believing that we’re safe. I once read that most car accidents happen less than 5 minutes or 5 miles from a persons home. PRO TIP: Each major government and some foreign government issues threat levels, travel advisories, and a variety of other warnings about specific countries and places where hazards may exist.
- Duress. Sometimes, we end up in a place and time where something bad is happening out of your control. If they want your wallet, toss it and run away. Give up the bag if that’s what they want. Your iPhone or your life? You choose. PRO TIP: When losing documents because of theft or mugging, it helps to have back up copies of your documents digitally saved. This helps local officials assist you in getting home. PRO TIP #2: There are certain belts that allow you to fold small bills into a hidden zipper. Thus even without your bag, you may have some emergency currency saved. Paper bills are usually better than coin, which jingle when the body is searched. So forget storing money in socks! Get a belt! PRO TIP #3: If a short-cut looks easy but is dark versus a well-lit path that may take an extra few minutes, err on the side of caution even if you’re tired and take the well-lit one. After all, you’re on vacation, take in the sights! PRO TIP #4: Cabbies can and will lie, be aware.
- Inform your friends and family. Let the people in your life know where you’re going and for how long. Tell a trusted neighbor you’ll be gone or have a house/apartment sitter. PRO TIP: Have a safe word that you and emergency contacts will know so that they know it’s really you and you are not under duress.
- Convenience. For something a little less scary and more fun, going through security. No really, I mean it. Granted that going through security is a hassle but it’s a necessary one for safety. There are however, programs such as TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry that allow for expedited security screenings. These programs require typically background checks and an interview but this preparation allows you to leave your belt and shoes on, and maybe even leave your laptop or tablet in your bag. Isn’t that nice? PRO TIP: There are certain travel credit cards that come with assistance or outright will cover the fees for these kinds of programs.
- Fee’s- of the international transaction kind. It’s generally better to go to a safe and secure bank upon landing at your destination to take out money than travel with a large sum of cash in your luggage. For one thing, what if your luggage is lost or stolen. For another, large sums of money usually make customs agents curious, and certain large sums aren’t even legally allowed to be carried into some countries unless declared. PRO TIP: Before leaving, check with your bank about exchanging currency is fine but the fine print may include a fee or percentage the bank or institution takes in order to give you that exchange. PRO TIP#2: Use at least 1 bank that operates internationally, in the area where you are going. This helps with foreign transaction fee’s, though ATM fee’s are a different matter altogether.
- Local knowledge. It’s okay to have pride in one’s culture, heritage, hometown or sports team but remember that you are now a guest in someone else’s hometown and culture. Keep an open mind or you risk offending your host and those around you. PRO TIP: Ask questions in a calm non-accusatory manner if something you disagree with is being said or done. At least at the start, a lot of miscommunication can be avoided with a calm attitude and some awareness of local customs. PRO TIP #2: Know what rights you have and don’t have. Never leave your Passport or Drivers License in a place like checked luggage that you can’t immediately access to show proof of ID.