Holiday Travel Tips
The holiday season is upon us once again and many of us will be traveling with our families and friends over the next few weeks. Following are some common sense travel safety tips:
- If you are traveling with children, make sure that you have a plan in place in case you get separated in a crowd. If your child is under the age of 10, we recommend that they wear ID bracelets on their wrists or attached to a belt loop. Information on the bracelet should include the child’s name, the parents’ name and contact information including the number of a cell phone (one that works internationally if you are traveling abroad) and any medical information that would be necessary in an emergency situation. There are many websites that sell inexpensive ID bracelets for children online. Older children should memorize the international cell phone number and be taught how to dial it. Older children should also be taught the name and address of the hotel or home where their family is staying while on vacation and basic flight information like time and carrier. Children should be taught to approach uniformed adults for help, but to otherwise just remain in one place until they are found. You should carry several recent photos of your child and be able to access emailable versions of those photos.
- Make sure that you and your family get the necessary immunizations before you go abroad. Diseases that were once practically wiped out are on the rise in some countries. You may need to seek out a doctor that specializes in Travel Medicine, as your general practitioner will most likely not have the right shots on hand. For information on health issues and immunizations required by specific countries, you can visit www.cdc.gov/health.
- Check the website of the U.S. Secretary of State for travel warnings or terror alerts before traveling abroad. You can find the information you need at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis_pa_tw_1168.html. You may also want to check the website of the Canadian government at http://www.voyage.gc.ca/dest/ctry/reportpage-en.asp, as they may have different information.
- No matter how brief your stay in a foreign country, always locate the U.S. embassy or consulate and let them know that you are in the country. If you plan to stay for more than a few days, you should leave copies of your passport, visa, driver’s license, and health insurance, bank and credit cards with a friend or family member. Better yet, scan copies into an emailable format. Should you become the victim of theft or kidnapping, this could prove to be invaluable.
- Plan your ground transportation in advance. Call ahead to your hotel and ask for a recommendation for a car service. A service that has a relationship with your hotel will be a safer option than taxis, particularly in foreign cities, and you will not have to wait in line. Get the car service to give you a quote on the price when you make the reservation so that you know what to expect.
- If you are traveling with an elderly family member, make sure that they have a list of all medications that they are on and contact information for their doctors. Be sure that any family member that is on medication has full prescriptions as their medication may not be available where you are traveling. If you are traveling abroad with someone who may need a wheelchair or a walker, make sure that your hotel is accessible to the handicapped. Foreign hotels don’t always have the same regulations that American hotels do regarding the disabled.
- Whether or not you are traveling with someone who has health issues, it is a good idea to purchase insurance from a medical evacuation service. Companies like Interfor partner, MedjetAssist will fly you or your family back to your home hospital in the event of a medical emergency and coordinate care with the doctors in the location where the emergency took place. The insurance is inexpensive and paying for something like that on your own would cost tens of thousands of dollars if not more, depending on your location.
- Advise your family to dress conservatively and to leave expensive jewelry, watches, PDAs, and MP3 players at home to avoid being the victim of theft or a mugging. Don’t carry all of your cash or traveler’s checks with you at once and if you carry a wallet in your pants, keep it in your front pocket. You should also carry a separate amount of cash in a different pocket or in a cash belt so that if you are the victim of theft you won’t be stranded with no money. If you are carrying a purse or messenger style bag, wear the strap diagonally across your body rather than over one shoulder. You are a much easier target for a purse snatcher if your purse is dangling from your shoulder.
- Choose your hotel carefully. The best locations are in areas where there is some degree of nightlife. If you choose a hotel in a business district you might find that the neighborhood is deserted at night. It is much safer to stay somewhere there is a degree of foot traffic after sundown. If you are traveling abroad, Interfor recommends staying in low-profile European chain hotels. The standards for security and hygiene will reliably good and they don’t attract the same attention from protestors and possibly terrorists as American owned chains and high profile luxury hotels.
- Don’t exchange currency at the airport. Criminals often target foreign visitors exchanging large sums at airport banks and foreign exchange kiosks.