Whether you are taking a day trip or traveling overseas, it is important to properly prepare and stay safe. All travel should be planned with enthusiasm and excitement without forgetting to pack proper documents, research the locale you’re visiting, and make plans to stay safe during the trip.
Preparing for Travel
There is a lot of preparation no matter where you travel to or how you get there. If you are going on a road trip, Consumer Reports gives some helpful advice. If you will be driving, they suggest taking the car in for a check-up. Make sure everything is in working order before you head out on the road. Check that your emergency and medical kits are well stocked in your car. Also, keep in mind that there could be traffic issues during any high travel season, so remember to be patient and enjoy the ride to your destination.
If you are planning an overseas trip, the University of Notre Dame advises updating your passport if it will be expiring within 3-6 months of your travel return date. If you do need to update your passport, be sure to do so at least several months ahead of time. Depending on the country you will visit, check at the local embassy for any vaccines or visas that are needed before traveling.
Travel Warnings and Alerts
Before booking, especially international travel, it is recommended to check for travel warnings. When we hear this, we might think political upheaval, but this can also include inclement weather warnings. You can check for recent advisories and warnings at the US Department of Homeland Security.
Securing Your Home
Before leaving, properly secure your house or apartment to avoid coming back to a ransacked home. The Minnesota Government website has a great pamphlet on how to secure your home from attempted break-ins. They note that:
- Most break-ins are crimes of opportunity by amateurs. Be sure that all doors and windows are locked and have properly working locks installed.
- Have a neighbor or the post office secure your mail.
- Install timers on lights and TVs, so it shows the appearance of someone being home.
- Have a trusted friend house sit or check on the house.
- Never broadcast your travel plans, especially on social media.
To learn more, visit Mortgage Calculator: Home security while traveling.
If you are crossing state lines, you will probably only need identification, insurance cards, and credit cards. Overseas travel or any flights will require proper identification and/or a passport. Some international travel will also require proof of your accommodations, a return ticket, and proof of funds.
Columbia University has a list of things to bring that also include:
- Travel visas
- Flight and other travel itineraries
- Written prescriptions
- Your medical history and allergies
- A travel preparedness plan
- Telephone numbers of friends and family
NPR reported on a European Commission decision to not reinstate the visa requirements for the European Union. As relationships between countries can change suddenly, be sure to keep up with any changes in visa requirements.
Health and Vaccinations
Before you travel, it is best to make sure you are in good health. The Centers for Disease Control suggest seeing your doctor before you travel. Tell your doctor where you are going, the duration of your travel, and any concerns you might have. Schedule the appointment well in advance in case you need certain vaccinations.
Plan ahead for any medications you might need on your trip. Do you have food allergies? Seasonal allergies? Do you get indigestion easily? Pack what you will need.
The most important is to pay attention to your health during your trip. Use sunscreen and insect repellant, be careful when consuming certain foods and water, limit alcohol intake, and wear proper gear for any activities such as scuba diving or rock climbing.
The Cleveland Clinic also gives great advice on what to do before traveling abroad. They list the vaccinations that are sometimes recommended for international travel, and the types of doctors to see for these.
For more information, visit Family Doctor: Air travel health tips.
Safety While in Transit
Now that you have prepared your documents and have seen a doctor for optimal health, let’s talk about the ways to be safe during travel.
If you are traveling on the road, Adventist Risk suggests the following.
- Make sure your vehicle insurance is up to date. Make a copy of it before you go.
- Check your tire traction and pressure. Make any needed repairs before your trip.
- Check all fluid levels in the car and fill any that need it.
- Pack a battery jumper cable. Clean any corrosion on the battery or replace the battery.
- Get familiar with the route you are taking. Check local weather reports to avoid inclement conditions.
- Avoid driving at night. If you are using a rental driver, make sure that the company is properly certified and professional.
La Salle University also advises to not travel in fear. Being fearful while traveling draws unwanted attention. This advice goes regardless of anywhere you travel. Their pamphlet also suggests keeping expensive looking things at home and to always pay attention to your surroundings.
Safety While at Your Destination
You arrived and are excited to begin exploring. Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network recommend the following to have a safe travel experience:
- Don’t get “vacation brain.” While it may seem relaxing to be on vacation, always be aware of your surroundings. Trust your gut if you feel uncomfortable. Before you leave your lodgings, know your route and area. If you meet new people, have them earn your trust.
- If you are drinking, keep track of your drink. Order and receive the drinks yourself to lower the chance of something being put in it.
- Think of a Plan B. Know the address of your lodgings and the surrounding area, carry a phone charger with you, and note the nearest hospital and police station.
While the hotel you are staying in should be a safe place, there are also steps to take to make your stay safer and more stress-free. Yale University recommends copying all of your credit cards, airline tickets, and other travel documents and keeping them in a safe place. Keep an eye on your baggage while you check in and out of the hotel. Make sure the credit card that is handed back to you is your own.
Carnegie Mellon University gives some safety tips in regards to hotel fires. Know where the nearest fire exit and fire alarm are located, should you need to use them. Counting the doors between your room and the fire escape will help in case smoke decreases visibility. If you are stuck in your room, call 911 and stuff wet towels or sheets around the door to keep smoke from coming in.
Advice for Solo Travelers
Many people enjoy traveling alone. While traveling in a group increases safety naturally, you can still enjoy a solo trip. The most important thing is to not travel in fear.
The US Travel Insurance Association suggests that you to leave your travel itinerary with a trusted family member or friend so that someone knows of your whereabouts. When you arrive at the hotel, check the room. Make sure that all windows and doors are locked as you leave. Check in with a friend or family member when you arrive. As always, travel with confidence. Make sure you know your surroundings as well as any routes you might take. Have alternate plans in case you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
Advice for Men
While men might think that they do not have to worry about safety during a trip, there is always a necessity to be safe while traveling, regardless of gender.
Before you purchase any travel itineraries, it is best to check on any travel warnings or alerts. The US Department of State website also informs travelers of Travel Scams to watch out for, whether you are a solo traveler or with a group.
Solo Traveler Network suggests wearing appropriate clothing, like loose clothing for travel to hot climates. Check travel reports and advisories, and become familiar with the political climate of the area. Respect local customs and do your best to not look like a tourist when traveling outside of tourist destinations.
Advice for Women
While there may be a few more concerns when traveling for women, it is still easy to stay safe and enjoy a trip by yourself. Travel Sense recommends researching your destination before you go. Depending on the location, any religion or culture in the area could affect the wardrobe you bring with you. Consider reserving or requesting a room near an elevator and on a higher floor. Get to know the staff and see if anyone might be available to escort you to your room should you come back late. Study the areas you will be visiting so that you don’t look like you are lost. Also, it’s a good idea to ask the concierge about which areas to – and not to – visit.
To learn more, go to University of Virginia: Travel safety for women.
Advice for Young Adults
If you are in school, you will most likely travel during spring or summer break. Many trips taken by younger people will be overseas. While it is easy for young adults to cut loose during vacation, there are still some things to remember to have a safe and exciting trip. Safe Spring Break has a comprehensive list of things to consider when traveling:
- If you are taking a road trip with friends, make sure to rotate drivers so that no one gets tired behind the wheel.
- Take a paper map in addition to GPS.
- If you are driving in a foreign country, familiarize yourself with local street signs and rules of the road. They will most likely not be the same as the US.
- When entering your hotel room, close the door firmly and tightly. Some doors do not close immediately.
- If you stop at an ATM, be sure to scan the area before entering any debit card or information.
- Drink responsibly. If you become too intoxicated, make sure a trusted friend can help you back to your room.
- Always keep an eye on your drink. Do not accept drinks from anyone you do not know or have just met.
If you do not have a passport, be sure to get one several months in advance. Passport requests can take quite some time to process and receive. Make sure you make travel arrangements in your name exactly as it appears on your passport or driver’s license.
For more information, go to:
- Brigham Young University: Tips and tricks for a safe and successful road trip
- Five Colleges: Travel safety
Advice for Families
Summer is also the time when families take to the road and skies for travel. There’s nothing more satisfying than making memories as a family during a safe vacation. Traveling families could be an easier target for pickpocketing and other crime, so it is important to check all maps and information before going out to tour.
The University of Massachusetts Medical School recommends that families stick together and avoid separating. If you do separate, intentionally or not, decide on a meeting spot and time before heading out. Make sure that your children understand not to take rides or presents from strangers while on vacation.
Traveling with Babies
Traveling with babies can be exciting and exhausting all at the same time. It is also probably more stressful to think about travel with an infant, with some of the stories of stressed out parents getting dirty looks from childless passengers. Don’t stress and be as prepared as you can.
While a baby’s age won’t necessarily affect their ability to handle air travel, it is best to get your doctor’s approval before making any travel plans or arrangements. Babies and infants who have been born prematurely or have underlying health issues might have the doctor delay travel, according to the Mayo Clinic website.
Make sure your child has a passport, should you be traveling overseas. Allow enough time for the passport to be processed and received before scheduling any travel. Whether you are flying or driving, make sure to bring your child’s car seat and double check that it is approved for air travel. Bring enough diapers and formula for the duration of the trip. While car travel will be easier for feedings, check air safety regulations in regards to bringing liquids and formulas on board before you travel. You can find more advice at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital website.
Traveling with Kids
Traveling with kids can be a really fun experience, and it’s definitely a new challenge to travel. Healthy Children give the following advice for traveling with children of all ages:
- Have your children wear shoes and outwear that can easily be taken off and put on.
- Get to the airport with plenty of time to get everyone through security. Account for random screenings.
- Car seats are the best way for a child under 2 to be safe if you are traveling by plane.
- Pack toys and snacks that will occupy your child for both plane and car rides.
- If you are renting a car, be sure to request a car seat for the child. Most agencies should be able to provide one.
- Make sure children under the age of 13 ride in the backseat of all vehicles.
For more information, go to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital: Traveling with children.