Preparation for Travel / Foreign or Domestic
Summer is right around the corner and I think we can all agree that Summer travel is fun and exciting. We love to think about the great time we will have visiting new areas of the United States and traveling abroad to countries we had only dreamed of visiting. We think about our interaction with the new people we will meet and making new friends, eating different foods and seeing sights only read about in books.
In this chapter I would like to cover with you how to keep your travel adventures happy, safe and free from unwanted incidents or even tragedy. Everything in this chapter can be of value when traveling alone or with your family.
Trip Planning and Not-So Common Sense Ideas
When planning a trip within the United States and abroad understand that most big cities have a web site. You can pull up the city that you plan to visit and get a plethora of information and knowledge on the population, demographics, government, police, crime rate and they even have a visitor section to assist you on how to locate hotspots and other fun places to go. If traveling outside the United States and into countries that you may not be sure of you can still look them up on line but also go to the Department of State web site (https://travel.state.gov) to research that country and any government or security issues that they may be having. The Department of State web site is always putting up travel advisories that American travelers must know about. Sometimes they will tell you not to go to into specific countries. It is best to pay attention to this.
Once you have done your destination research on line your next step would be to secure an airline ticket and hotel. Usually airlines and hotels are picked due to budget or past experiences. This is fine. What I want you to be concerned about is where you sit on the aircraft, the location and reputation of your hotel and how you will get there, rental car or cab.
Let’s look at airline seating. Book early enough so you can get a good selection of seats. Usually an aisle seat is best. Why an aisle seat you may ask! Well in today’s world if something should happen at 30,000 feet and you feel the need to intervene or assist others or just get out and get to the restroom faster it’s easier to get up and move around. Also, the seating at the center of the aircraft close to the wings is usually more stable during rougher flights.
Part of your travel research should also be to Google Earth and Google Map the final destination airport and hotel distance and locate a couple routes on how to get there. Google Earth and Google Maps are Apps that you can down load into your smart phone and see or plan a route or multiple routes from one point to another. Both apps can come in very handy when traveling in strange US cities or even foreign countries. If you are using a smart phone overseas be sure to check with your phone provider and see if they have an overseas plan so it doesn’t get to costly for you. On most phones you can get the app for “WhatsApp”. WhatsApp is a messaging app that lets users text, chat, and share media, including voice messages and video, with individuals or groups. Whatsapp relies on data to send messages, like iMessage or BBM, so it doesn’t cut into your monthly text allotment. Whatsapp is a great app for overseas use.
If you have a rental car familiarize yourself with the navigation system in the vehicle or have one down loaded in your phone and know how to use it. A properly used navigation system can prevent a lot of heartache and buy you a bit of time when traveling in unknown areas. It can be used for emergency prevention or just finding routes to help beat city traffic. Do this on your smart phone and lock it in for future use. Give yourself a brief on laws of the road, especially if in foreign countries.
Now that you have your destination figured out, airline, rental car and hotel booked it’s time to pack. Business or pleasure? No matter what it is plan accordingly and try not to stand out in a crowd with your attire. Don’t look touristy upon your arrival.
Airports in the US and abroad harbor thieves who work the public transportation areas in cities looking for easy targets to rob and sometimes kidnap. With that said the way you dress and the type of luggage you drag behind you could mark you as a potential victim.
Now that you are packed and ready to go you should leave travel information with a family member or friend. Such travel information should consist of airlines and flight numbers, layovers, final destination city, hotel name and phone number and how long you will be staying in the hotel at your destination. Then last but not least, return flight information.
Awareness and Communication At Home and Abroad
Once you have landed at your final destination always be aware of your surroundings and what is going on around you. Never leave your luggage unattended even with the Bell boy at the hotel! Believe it or not luggage theft is a big business in foreign countries. Think of the valuables that people keep in their luggage; computers, jewelry, cameras and expensive clothing to name a few. Think like a bad guy and look around at how many people are not paying attention and see how easy it would be to walk off with their luggage.
Make a phone call to family or that trusted friend to let them know you are on the ground and heading to your hotel. If you take a cab to the hotel you should already have some knowledge of how to get to the destination. Pay attention to the route and the cab driver. If in a foreign country make sure you use a reputable taxi company that is either recommended or supplied by the hotel in which you are staying. The taxi business in foreign countries is unregulated and can be associated with criminal activity. Taxi fares are on a cash basis. If you can drive a car you can be a qualified taxi driver.
Don’t be that tourist who is left on the side of the road watching their luggage and other belongings drive away into the night. If just that happens consider yourself lucky that you were not beaten, raped or murdered.
If traveling in a foreign country try not to advertise that you are a foreigner. Watch how you dress and what jewelry you are wearing. Always have your identification on you. Actually it is best not to wear jewelry during travel in foreign countries. Jewelry is a sign of money and could put a mark on you with thieves. Do not wear t-shirts or ball caps with American markings such as the American flag. Pick-pockets and petty thieves are prevalent in tourist areas. Be aware of how you carry cash and personal belongings on you so you can protect yourself from an unfortunate loss that may cause you to be stranded.
In any foreign country and the United States try to stay out of high crime areas. Chances are that you are not familiar with the area so listen to your gut instincts and turn away from these areas. If you are in a high crime area you are asking for trouble. The chances of being robbed, kidnapped or killed are high. Even if the authorities see you and detain you it is still a problem of explaining why you were there in the first place. As an American detained in a foreign countries high crime area even with explanation you may be held for a very long time. Let’s avoid that from the beginning. You can learn more on the State Department web site under “Arrest or Detention of a U.S. Citizen Abroad.”
If you have any problems while traveling abroad such as Lost or Stolen passports, Victim of a Crime, Medical Emergencies, Arrested or Detained contact the closest US Embassy or Consulate.