This summer, I’ll be in France, Belgium, Argentina, Chile, Canada and five U. S. cities. Here are five steps I take, and you can too, to keep safe while traveling.
Double check everything
It is essential to check and re-check all your reservations. Airlines can change their schedules even after you purchase your tickets — even on the day of departure. The airlines can also change planes, which means your seat assignment can be changed too. So for all of you who want to avoid a middle seat, it is best to check in at least twice before flying. It’s also smart to double check your hotel reservation for both arrival and departure dates, especially if you made your reservation through a third-party hotel booking site and not directly with the hotel. Be sure to call your car insurance and credit-card companies before your trip to confirm if you already have car-rental insurance coverage, so you can avoid costly insurance fees.
Register with Department of State
Travel registration is a free service provided by the federal government to U.S. citizens traveling to a foreign country. Registration allows you to record information about your upcoming trip abroad so the Department of State can assist you in case of an emergency. Register your trip at www.travel.state.gov. Also at this site, you can find travel warnings, travel alerts and specific country information.
Share your itinerary
It’s smart to share your detailed travel itinerary with someone back home. You will want to e-mail it from an account that you can remotely access, such as Yahoo or Gmail. This itinerary should include all your travel information, including airline name and flight number, all reservation numbers, hotel or cruise-line phone numbers, your international cell number, your passport number, names of everyone traveling with you and any information that might be needed in case of emergency.
Plan ahead to avoid fees
Call your credit-card company and bank to inquire about fees you might incur while using your credit or debit card outside the country. Most credit-card companies charge a foreign-transaction fee plus a currency-conversion fee. Your bank will also charge significantly more when using your debit card to access currency outside the U.S. There are credit cards and local banks that don’t charge fees, so be sure to shop around. Your cell phone, text messaging and data plans can get very expensive when roaming abroad. Your cell-phone carrier might offer international plans — sometimes expensive. Or consider renting an international cell phone from a company such as Vodafone, which will charge you only a few dollars a day, plus a per-minute charge.
It’s a wise investment to buy travel insurance from a gay-friendly company such as Travel Guard, which is a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. Travel insurance can provide significant health-insurance coverage, especially internationally, and a wide range of emergency services such as prescriptions refills, evacuation and other benefits such as trip interruption. You can buy this insurance by the trip or for the year. Also, be mindful of what information you share on social networking sites, like Facebook. You may be telling lots of people where you are, that you are not home or traveling alone. Be strategic in what you post.
Jeff Guaracino is a vice president for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation and the author of “Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing.” He has learned how to find the best deals and travel resources out there for the LGBT community. When traveling locally, check out visitphilly.com.