Specific precautions to take to protect you and your family from the worst-case scenario.
By Caroline Davis, Contributing Writer
Americans are redefining the very meaning of international travel—some foregoing standard vacations in favor of extended, meaningful experiences. Many families are opting out of the sun, sea and sand holiday vacations and looking to explore remote destinations, with some more affordable than ever before. While you may be a pro-traveler when it comes to roaming the U.S., traveling abroad is a completely different experience that requires quite a bit of preparation.
In addition to thoroughly doing your research, there are six specific precautions that you should take to protect yourself and your family from worst-case scenarios.
Travel Medical Insurance
Call your insurance agency before your departure to inquire if your policy covers you and your family overseas. If your policy doesn’t cover you internationally, you should purchase travel insurance before leaving the country. Travel insurance will protect you in case of injury or theft overseas. If you don’t have it and happen to get injured while abroad, you are risking paying upfront for medical care or an early departure home. Be sure to research local laws, customs and medical care to anywhere you plan on visiting. If your children need specific medications that aren’t accessible, you’ll want to know that ahead of time. Also, get a letter from your doctor for medications you are bringing as some countries have strict laws, even for over-the-counter medications.
Be a Minimalist: Less is More
It’s easy to over-pack when traveling abroad, but try very hard to pack only what’s necessary. You’ll likely change flights more than once so there’s a higher risk of the airline losing your luggage—not to mention some airlines outside the U.S. have strict luggage sizing requirements. Your family probably won’t want to lug giant suitcases around your destination and it could make you a target for thieves. Make sure to pack all essentials in your carry-ons in case of a luggage loss. When wandering the streets of your destination, carry a sturdy purse or backpack that can’t be easily snatched and make sure to always carry your bag in front of your body. Keep your money in more than one location in case of possible theft or loss of a bag.
Try to Blend In
While it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings, try to blend with the culture of the country you are visiting. If a foreign language is spoken, it’s a great idea to familiarize yourself with basic phrases so you can communicate easily. For example, some restaurants don’t offer English menus so it would be helpful if you had a little background. You’ll receive better treatment from locals and be less of a target for criminals if you don’t act like a tourist. In addition to blending in, don’t wear flashy jewelry and keep items such as electronics stashed away in your bag. In some countries it’s not even safe to keep cell phones out on the table as you dine. Attempting to blend in will ultimately give you and your family a well-rounded learning experience.
Be Inquisitive Regarding Public Transport
Getting from place to place in a foreign country can be a tough job. It’s easy to become frustrated and take any cab that comes your way, however you should choose your means of transportation carefully. Don’t take any private cars or cabs that aren’t registered with the city—it can be extremely dangerous. Arrange for a car to pick you up from the airport before arriving so that you won’t become stressed or overwhelmed when you’re jet-lagged. When taking trains, subways or buses inquire about the operation schedule in advance so that you’ll never be left stranded. Plan ahead in order to avoid any major complications.
Make Copies of Documents and Notify Your Bank
International travel requires you to have a variety of important documents on hand at all times such as passport, immunization records, medical insurance, travel insurance and visa’s. If you’re traveling alone with kids, some foreign border officials require custodial documents. It’s vital that you obtain all of these documents before departure and store them in a safe place upon arrival. Make hard copies in the event that you should misplace the original documents. It’s also good idea to scan and email a file to your inbox so that you will be prepared no matter what. Be sure to notify your bank and credit card provider of your departure and inquire about exchange rates. For information on ATMs or using cash and credit cards, read about your destination.
During your time abroad, never reveal the location of where you are staying to anyone you don’t know and trust. If you’re in public and feel you are being followed, stop at a public place instead of leading the stranger back to where you are staying. Remaining inconspicuous will keep you and your family safe from danger. Always have the contact details for the nearest U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate with you—in English and local language.
Great points! Each and every one of them! The only thing I would add is that traveling as a family of four, cabs/taxis can sometimes be a good alternative to paying for 4 train tickets, but it really depends. More often than not, we go with regular public transportation. It’s a lot more interesting too, and it’s part of the immersion we try to achieve to some extent with traveling.
Yeah, public transportation is for sure cheaper – especially if you’re traveling with a group.
Great tips. I just wanted to add that knowing the local holidays of the countries you will be visiting is also helpful. We were stressed when leaving Paris one time because it was a local holiday that we were unaware of, and the trains were on a different schedule. Doesn’t hurt to check in advance, just in case. Another time, we were affected by the semiannual hourly time change when leaving Paris. We don’t have a good record with trying to get back to CDG, lol. Safe travels.
Great point! We had a similar issue in Italy a few years ago. Thanks for adding this one!
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