Travel Abroad - Some tips for safe travels and staying healthy
International travel can be fun and exciting. Numerous travel sites provide tips on traveling safely (like carry your medications and valuables in your carry-on luggage, and don’t post your travel plans/photos until you return). Here in The Woodlands we also have Vacation Watch services offered by the sheriff’s department. Below are some additional lesser known tips that may come in handy if misfortune strikes (e.g., flight delays and cancellations, you have a medical emergency, your passport is lost or stolen, etc.).
- Check several months in advance that your passport is valid for at least 6 months or more after the date at which you plan to return (some countries may require that your passport is valid up to a year), and whether visas are required.Make a few copies of your passport and visa and carry those around with you when you are sight-seeing.
- Let your credit card company know when and where you are traveling. Make copies of your cards and keep the copies in a couple of different bags.Check that credit cards are actually accepted in the places you are visiting – some places only take cash overseas (traveler’s checks may not be accepted as well). Carry some US currency (smaller bills) and get some local currency in advance of your arrival in-country.
- Check travel advisories for the countries you plan to visit at:
- Make sure to register with the State Department online in case of emergencies (e.g., natural disasters) at:https://step.state.gov/step/
- Check your vaccination records a couple of months in advance to make sure that you are up to date on appropriate vaccinations for all the countries you will visit, even if you are only going through the airport.You may wish to consider rabies vaccinations if traveling to countries with large unvaccinated feral populations of dogs and cats. Check your medications to make sure they are legal in the countries in which you are traveling. Keep your medications in their prescription bottles, and vitamins in their original bottles.
- Check your Power of Attorney in advance to make sure it is up to date. You may need a separate document for medical decision-making (e.g., a Living Will).
- Check your health insurance policies regarding care overseas – most only cover emergency care. Make extra copies of your health insurance card.As treatment overseas often means immediate payment, you may wish to consider purchasing additional coverage for international medical care and medical evacuation. There are numerous companies that provide this type of insurance at a fairly low cost (such as the well-known company International SOS at https://www.internationalsos.com/). This type of insurance is also sometimes bundled into a trip insurance policy.
- Make a master list of passport numbers, credit card numbers / customer service phone numbers, membership reward numbers, important phone numbers (family, airline/cruise numbers, local embassies, etc.), medications that you take, list of allergies/chronic illnesses, etc. Keep several copies and email/ take a photo on your phone and send the list to yourself, a trusted individual not traveling, and any trusted travel partners.
- Water may not be potable (safe to drink), even at your hotel, in some countries.In those countries, make sure to use bottled water to brush your teeth (check that the water is sealed!), and avoid ice in drinks.
- The American Citizens Officer at the US Embassy or Consulate can provide some assistance in an emergency, but it is extremely limited. They can usually give you a list of approved medical personnel and clinics, but will not make a recommendation.They generally provide notary services for documents, help replace your passport if lost or stolen, will visit if you are arrested, and will help with evacuation during civil strife or a large-scale natural disaster.The US Embassy website for the country provides additional information as to how they assist US citizens, and their contact information.