There are few experiences in life that can feed our souls quite like traveling. Venturing abroad exposes us to all the incredible and diverse cultures of the globe, and it usually leaves us slightly different than we were before. So before a big trip, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement, as a new land and memories await! But before you get on a plane, it's imperative to ensure you're prepared to embark on both an enjoyable and safe trip.
To help jet-setters prep for trips abroad, Sheryl Hill, a world speaker and award-winning author, founded Depart Smart. Dedicated to travel safety, the nonprofit organization created a safety education and training course to help people identify and mitigate risks while they're off seeing the world. Hill shares seven important safety tips that can help protect you on your next global adventure.
- Know before you go. Hill recommends browsing the US Department of States Country Specific Alerts, Warnings, and Local Laws and Customs. "The State Department puts warnings out to citizens advising them to seriously consider not traveling there at all! An alert may turn into a warning. You can also find the closest US Embassy and contact details, so you can reach them if needed."
- Be reachable. To ensure you can be reached should an emergency situation arise, register your trip in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. "This way your consulate can notify you of emergency situations back home and abroad. They can't forewarn or help you if they don't know where you are and how to reach you. It's like having a consulate in your pocket." Even your friends and family can sign up for alerts while you're away.
- Go to a travel clinic. "It takes weeks for your immune system to build protections against foreign disease. Your travel medicine expert can also forewarn you about disease outbreaks." She also encourages travelers to translate their important health info into the local language, just in case.
- Update your contacts. "Know the emergency number for fire, police, and ambulance. It's not 911 almost everywhere else. You should also be able to ask for help and identify your address."
- Don't skimp on travel insurance. Medical evacuations can leave you multiple thousands of dollars in the hole, and some hospitals will require payment before they treat you. "Most reputable travel insurances will have a 24x7 hotline and translator to get the best possible care for you. But, read the fine print! You don't want your travel insurance to be null and void because you had one too many cocktails."
- Name an emergency contact. "Make sure your emergency contacts have passports that pass the validity rule. This means passports must be valid for six months beyond your return. They should also have money and power of attorney to get to you and be able to help."
- Keep backups of the really important stuff. "Store your important documents electronically; tools like Dropbox, iCloud, MS OneDrive are useful for this. If your wallet is lost or stolen, you can notify your credit card companies, and even use the numbers for emergency cash if needed. Having a copy of your passport makes expediting a replacement easier for the US Embassy."