Be Prepared When Traveling Abroad

It is important to be prepared and to expect the unexpected wherever in the world you may be. By preparing carefully you can prevent serious and costly problems for you and your family or loved ones.

Country travel advice and advisories – Get country-specific information on safety and security, local laws and customs, entry requirements, health conditions and other important travel issues. No matter where in the world you intend to travel, make sure you check http://travel.state.gov/ for valuable information.

Travel documents – Make sure you have a signed, valid passport, and a visa, if required, and fill in the emergency information page of your passport. Carry a photo copy of your Passport and Visa as well. It does not hurt to leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with friends or family, so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.

Always pack a small First-Aid Kit – While we live in 2014, not 1914, and you can find modern medicine anywhere in the world, I always pack a small first aid kit with some basic essentials just to be safe. Why waste time searching a strange city for eye drops, Pepto Bismol or Imodium? I take Tylenol, stomach illness medicine, eye drops, Band-Aids, scissors, hydrocortisone cream, anti-bacterial ointment, and a small supply of doctor-approved antibiotics. I can usually find a pharmacy when I need one, but if they do not understand your needs, it can be a difficult situation. So in case of an emergency it’s good to have these items handy.

Cash and Cards – I always keep one back-up credit card and bank card with me in case of emergencies. You never know when one bank might decide to lock your account for suspicious activity without telling you (yes, that has happened to me), or when you might get robbed. I recently had my bank account information stolen while I was traveling in Europe. My bank had to deactivate my card and if I had not had a second one with me, I would not have had access to any money.

With the advent of the chip credit card, many countries do not take the American-style credit card anymore (cards with just a magnetic strip). While you should be able to use a credit card pretty much everywhere, you never know when you might not. One of my cards was rejected in Denmark because it lacked a chip, and I had to run to a bank to get money. We get used to using credit cards, but it is always good to have a little cash. I myself prefer cash. You usually get the best exchange rate on cash and avoid credit card foreign transaction fees.

One of the most important things I ever learned as a Boy Scout (they did not know I was gay way back then!) is their motto to always “be prepared” and as I’ve grown up and traveled the world, I’ve found this to also be a travel truism.

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