As summer 2015 comes to a close and your travel wallets turn to fall and winter escapes, it is good to review a few tips for when you are traveling far away from home — especially out of the country.
Keep in mind that some trips to nearby Canada and Mexico are easier than ones to the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Africa or South America. Factors you should consider when planning a trip abroad depend on the language spoken in the country you are visiting, the currency, the political situation and the accessibility to health care or an American embassy.
Here are five suggestions to make your trip safe and fun.
Consider travel insurance
Travel insurance can be very important if you pick the right company and if the company is responsive to individual needs while traveling. A great website is Travelinsurancereview.net. The site includes reviews, guides and articles, as well as comments from actual insurance buyers. The positive and negative reviews will give you an idea of consumer satisfaction. There are other websites you can check out before purchasing and don’t forget to ask your friends on Facebook if anyone had an experience with a particular travel insurance company. I picked Insure and Go (insureandgousa.com) for my next trip to Europe. Also, check your own health-care plan to see what is covered when traveling abroad and what is not. Hospitals and doctors in foreign countries might want cash up front and ask you to make a claim when you return home.
Register for Global Entry and TSA Precheck
There is no need to wait in long lines at the airport or at the border when returning home (unless you are a criminal). U.S. Customs and Border Protection offers a fast, easy and hassle-free way to enter the United States. Basically, this is a program for trusted, frequent travelers. The online application is simple and costs just $100, a fee that some credit cards even cover. Visit cbp.gov for guidelines and an online application. The site has very useful information on travel.
Call your bank and credit-card issuer
Ask your bank if it can order foreign currency in advance of your trip. You might need some cash as soon as you arrive and ATMs are not always readily available or can have high fees at places like airports. In an effort to protect consumers from fraud, let your credit-card issuer and bank know that you are traveling abroad and for how long. Ask your credit-card company about foreign transaction fees (look for cards that don’t have unnecessary fees). It is best to use one credit card while traveling, and be sure to ask about travel-insurance benefits the card company might offer as part of its service.
Create an itinerary
Leave a detailed itinerary with someone back home and put a copy of it in a safe location with you while you travel, like your hotel safe. It should include the date of your trips and where you are staying, along with confirmation numbers and any planned activities. Be sure to make a copy of or take a picture of your passport, driver’s license and your primary credit card. A recommended app is Trip It (tripit.com).
Be prepared for the unexpected
If a flight is delayed, your hotel room is robbed or you are hurt while traveling, stay calm. Remember, culturally, your behavior could either help or hurt you. Most situations are fixable. If you have any unexpected expenses, like those associated with lost or delayed luggage, call your credit-card company first and ask about covered benefits. Don’t forget the U.S. Embassy can also assist you with a travel emergency, including lost or stolen passports. And I find that the Four Seasons is always a great place to find an exceptional concierge who can recommend good local doctors, pharmacies and other essentials. (Let’s hope they don’t ask if you are a paying guest!)
Happy and safe travels!