Fiji, France, Japan, or the Yucatán...
Wherever your next trip takes you, your travel plans could get tripped up if you're not planning ahead.
For some, ditching plans and being spontaneous can be part of the fun of it all. It can lead to some welcome surprises.
But surprises on a vacation can also be pretty stressful. And unexpected events aren't always good.
In fact, they can become big problems pretty quickly — and they can end up turning the trip of your dreams into a total NIGHTMARE.
Unfortunately, many of us know that firsthand.
And most of us have experienced at least one travel headache recently. That can mean flight delays or cancellations, along with unexpected expenses, travel scams, and more.1
For the lucky few who've had their vacations work out perfectly, there are pretty good chances they haven't escaped someone else's vacation horror story.
So, what can we do to keep our trips FUN?
How can we give ourselves better chances of an amazing vacation, instead of rolling the dice with travel disasters?
Let's find out by checking out some simple and highly effective safety tips for the modern jetsetter.
Try to dress like the locals. Leave your designer duds at home, and don't wear flashy jewelry. You don't want to stand out and call attention to yourself as a tourist. Instead, you want to keep a low profile and be a chameleon in your surroundings.
Pro Tip: Invest in a secure travel bag. There are several options out there with slash-proof fabric, interlocking zippers, and other features that can make it much harder for thieves to steal from you.
Know who to call and what to do in case of an emergency. Keep a short list of emergency contacts where you can easily access them, like in your phone. If you're traveling abroad, look up and memorize the phone number for 911 (check this list). Also, know where the closest U.S. embassy is (you can look that up here).
Pro Tip: Sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), so you can get alerts from the U.S. Embassy about any disasters or civil unrest in your destination. You can also get alerts about family emergencies through STEP.
Start with any medications you take regularly. Include allergy medicines, inhalers, and/or motion sickness drugs, if needed. Also, don't forget bandages for minor cuts, antiseptic wipes, and some type of over-the-counter pain medicine. This kit can help you avoid injury or treat minor injuries on the go.
Pro Tip: Pack sunscreen, bug repellent, and an Epi-Pen. Epi-Pens can be lifesavers for severe allergic reactions.
Make sure you get both trip insurance and travel medical insurance. While trip insurance can cover cancellations and lost or stolen property, travel medical insurance can cover medical needs and emergency care on your trip.
Pro Tip: Double check whether your insurance covers just one trip or a given period of time. If you travel more often, you may want to consider an annual travel insurance plan, so you always have that coverage in the background.
Scan your ID, passport, travel itinerary, airline tickets, hotel confirmations, and other travel documents you'll need on your vacation. If anything happens to the physical versions of these items, your digital backups can verify who you are and help you get to where you need to be. That can help you avoid huge disruptions in a trip.
Pro Tip: Scan vaccination cards, medication information, and emergency contact information. Keep your digital items all in a "digital wallet" or a secure cloud location, so you can access them anywhere you have secure internet access.
Whenever possible, don't travel alone. Vacation with a friend, a family member, or a group if you can. If you're on your own abroad, you can be a much easier target for unsavory characters. It can also be easier to get lost, get lonely, and make a wrong call when you're alone in a strange place. A travel companion can be another set of eyes and ears looking out for you. Plus, they may make your trip more fun!
Pro Tip: If you don't have a travel buddy (or even if you do), sign up for an organized tour as part of your vacation. If you start your trip with a tour, you won't only have a group to go on some excursions with, but you could also meet some new friends to buddy up with for other activities later.
Call or check in with a friend or loved one back home every day, ideally around the same time, if possible. When you do, briefly share your upcoming plans, like where you're going, who you're going with, and what you're going to do. If you do this and anything goes wrong, it can be much easier to figure out where you are and get you help ASAP.
Pro Tip: Plan your home check-ins in the morning, right before you go out for the day, or in the evenings, right before you eat dinner or go to bed. And remember, you don't need someone to pick up on the other end for your check-in to be effective. Leaving a message daily works just the same.
Keep your wits about you. Look around without looking like you're lost, such as by taking a moment to sit down and observe calmly. Pay attention to your surroundings, including who's around you, at all times. Don't drink too much alcohol. And trust your gut. If you get a weird feeling about somebody or a certain situation, trust your instincts.
Pro Tip: Don't share too much with strangers or locals. Keep your cards close to your chest. That can mean not disclosing that you're a first timer to an area and not sharing the name of your hotel (or the address of your accommodation).
Keep at least two stashes of money and credit cards when you travel. Carry one stash and hide the other in a separate, secure spot. That way, you'll have instant access to back-up funds if you're pickpocketed or you somehow lose the cash you're carrying.
Pro Tip: Hide your emergency cash stash in unusual places, like in an empty (dry) toiletry bottle, inside of a sock or shoe, or in between a mobile device and its case.
Are any of these tips already habits for you?
Which new ones will you try on your next vacation?
No matter where you go or what you already know about travel safety, the reality is we can be really vulnerable when we’re abroad — and the more we travel safely, the better we’ll be at protecting ourselves and still have a great time.
That’s one reason why it’s so important to think ahead, have a contingency plan, and be proactive about travel safety.
It’s not the only one, though.
After all, when travel plans go off the rails, our wallets can take a hit.
Replacing lost or stolen items, rebooking flights, and more can all come at eye watering costs when we’re scrambling to get vacation plans back on track.
But we can get ahead of all of that with the right travel safety plans and some good old-fashioned common sense.
That’s especially true when it comes to handling our finances abroad.
And it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort.
In fact, we can start by simply being mindful of how we carry and access cash as travelers.
That means not carrying around large amounts of money at any point. It also means no nighttime ATM trips.
Those small choices can add up and have a HUGE impact on how much risk you assume while you travel.
And it just takes a little foresight and some thoughtful prep to limit those risks.
With that and a little help from some folks you trust, you can be well on your way to enjoying much safer (and still spectacular) travels.