Summer Vacation Tips

You're a registered member of every Internet travel site, your travel agent is on speed dial, and you've figured out a way to use your supermarket coupons to cut your flight costs. You've bags packed your bags two ounces under the airline regulations, your shampoo bottles are sealed, and your toothbrush is ready to rest on a new sink. And you're off! You couldn't be more prepared to finally take the vacation of your dreams...or could you?

Nobody likes to think of worst case scenarios, but when planning your vacation, a little preparation can go a long way. Anything that can happen to you at home can also occur while you're on holiday—falling ill, accidents, stolen wallets—and then some. While you can't stop bad things from happening, you can minimize their adverse impacts on your trip by taking a few precautions before you leave.

Consider Travel Insurance

One of the most obvious protections is insurance, which can cover a wide variety of potential mishaps from accidents to stolen credit cards. Although not very popular with Americans, nearly all other travelers, including English, French, German, Latin American, and Japanese, build the cost of travel insurance into their trip expenditures. Taking the time to look into travel insurance may save you a lot of worries—and money—later.

If you own a home, you should first check your homeowner's policy, as many cover your possessions abroad as well, including theft or loss of documents, money, and valuables, although the conditions and maximum amounts covered will differ. Moreover, if you paid for your trip with a credit card, you should also check to see if you acquired automatic limited travel insurance with your purchase. This type of insurance may cover such things as lost or stolen baggage, missed flight connections, and medical conditions.

If you still aren't covered to your satisfaction, many companies offer insurance especially for travelers at increasingly reasonable prices. Coverage varies widely but falls into four main categories: medical/health issues, property loss, trip cancellation/delays, and emergency evacuation. You should evaluate whether you can comfortably absorb potential costs of such occurrences in determining if you need this kind of protection.

Research local laws and emergency contacts

Other than insurance, what are some other precautions you can take? Regarding your health, drinking plenty of fluids, wearing comfortable shoes, and, if you're driving, obeying all traffic laws, are the best tips for staying out of a hospital on vacation. Before you leave or shortly after you arrive, though, you should find out about local services, emergency care, and police telephone numbers and/or locations just in case you need them.

Keep any medical history closeby

If you have pre-existing medical conditions or allergies, be sure to have the all information and any medication with you. Also, write your contacts in case of emergency inside your passport or on another paper that you will carry. Depending on where you are traveling, you should also check immunization requirements and make sure you're up to date.

Aside from health concerns, the biggest worry for travelers is being the victim of a crime. The best way to prevent becoming such a vacation statistic is to practice the kind of every day common sense you'd practice at home, such as not walking alone at night, not overindulging in alcohol or drugs that affect your reaction time, and being aware of your surroundings at all times. Simple things like going into a store or café to look at a map instead of stopping in the middle of the street can make you less susceptible to crime.

Keep it simple

Also, you should bring as little of your expensive possessions as possible; what you do bring should be secured at all times either on you or left at your hotel with a padlock. Always carry only enough cash as you absolutely need, using traveler's checks, credit cards, and ATM cards as your primary sources of funds.

Even with the best precautions, though, crime happens. Stolen credit cards are the number one fear, with visions of thousands of dollars being charged before you even realize your card was missing. Before you depart, write down all of your credit card numbers, pin numbers, and phone numbers to call in case your card is lost or stolen; just be sure to keep this information somewhere separate from your cards. Also, knowing your Social Security Number may help you get through the reporting process more quickly.

Most people who go on vacation emerge with no major incidents, but even paradise has problems. Yes, you've put in the required effort in planning the trip, but if you've left out the precautionary tips here, you're not done yet. Taking time before you leave to brace for the worst can help ensure that your dream vacation doesn't turn into a travel nightmare.

Bon voyage!