A lot of people take time to plan a vacation, but how many people actually plan for potential problems when on their trip? It’s not the most exciting thing to think about when booking a trip, vacations are supposed to be a carefree time to get away from stress. But you can save yourself a lot of heartaches by following our travel safety tips.
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Our Top Safety Tips for Travel
It was years of trial and error that helped us learn to have safe travels. We’ve been hospitalized on four continents, airlifted from the Amazon, robbed in Namibia, and scammed in countless countries. We’ve seen it all. Follow these safety tips for travel to have a stress free vacation and stay safe on your next trip.
When planning for your next trip, follow these travel safety tips to help travel safely and keep your life at home in tip top condition.
Before Leaving for our Vacation
Planning for a safe and healthy vacation starts before we even leave the country. Once we have our trip dates booked we have a list of things we do to prepare before we go. If we follow these travel safety steps, it makes for a more relaxing vacation and gives us the tools we need should an emergency occur.
- To help you plan for safe travel it’s a good idea to have a routine – Check out our Ultimate Pre-Travel Checklist
- Also, before you travel, check with your government website for health and safety information in the destination you are traveling to. Things change faster than ever these days and it’s good to stay up to date.
- In Canada, we check the Canadian Government travel advisories and we also check the U.S. State Department before choosing our destination.
Get Travel Insurance
The number one thing we always do before traveling is to make sure we have travel insurance. We call our provider to confirm we have full coverage for the duration of our vacation and talk with them about what we can and cannot do.
If we are rock climbing or scuba diving we take a close look at our policy for any general exclusions as well as definitions of high-risk activities. Personally, Dave and I choose to be insured together on one policy, which ends up being more cost-effective than two single insurance plans.
Annual Plan vs Single Trip
We also purchase an annual medical plan because we travel more than once a year. It is more convenient than having to get separate plans for each trip and it saves us money by purchasing one bundle for the year rather than separate plans for each trip.
Even before we travelled for a living, we always bought travel insurance. If we were crossing the border for a short one-day shopping trip or a month-long backpacking adventure, we’d always make sure we were covered. Anything can happen at any time no matter how short the trip.
- To read more about how we choose the right plan check out: How We Choose Travel Insurance
Travel Emergencies Can Happen
Dave and I have had a lot of mishaps on the road. We’ve been in a motorcycle accident in Thailand, I’ve had a serious blood infection in Africa, we’ve both been violently ill in several countries, and as you may know, Dave broke his back in the Amazon.
Insurance helped us out in those instances by covering the eligible hospital expenses, prescriptions and even flights home. But there are many other potential aspects of travel insurance that make it valuable to us when booking a vacation.
Travel Insurance May Cover
- If our trip is interrupted and we have to leave early we’re covered.
- We need emergency dental work during our trip – it’s covered
- We become sick or injured during our trip, hospital visits are covered
- Our luggage is lost or stolen – they’ve got you covered.
- Check out Do I Really Need Travel Medical Insurance?
Inform Your Bank About Travels
Before you fly, let your bank know where you are going so they don’t assume it is suspicious activity. When purchases are made overseas, banks and often assume it is fraud. Give them a call so they can make a note. Otherwise, you may find your accounts frozen.
We were recently in Cuba and I forgot to let my bank know that we’d be traveling. While in Havana I went to the ATM to withdraw Cuban pesos and my card didn’t work. I then tried my Visa and it didn’t work either. I thought it was the ATM, but when I got home, I had a message that there was a fraud alert on my cards and my accounts were locked. It caused us a lot of hassle as we had to try numerous ATMs and different cards.
- Check out a breakdown of the best travel credit cards
Check Travel Advisories
For your own travel safety, always do a quick search to check travel advisories to see if there are any warnings in the country we are visiting.
In the past, we’ve made the mistake of not checking. And during one of our travels, we didn’t realize that an election was going on that caused violent protests and unrest. Had we checked the advisory of the country, we would have waited to visit as there were several deaths and arrests.
Luckily we weren’t affected, (although we did see a military convoy of tanks drive by to arrest the opposition and his followers). It was a very unsettling experience. It’s always good to know what type of situation you are going into so check advisories for hurricane season and weather, volcanic activity, war or disease outbreaks.
- In Canada, we check the Canadian Government travel advisories and we also check the U.S. State Department before choosing our destination.
When thinking about travel safety, it’s important to take your house into consideration. Safety at home is just as important as safety on your travels.
I know people are really excited when going on vacation and want to tell all their friends, but letting everyone know online that you are going to be out of town is an invitation to be robbed. If you really feel the need to brag about your amazing vacation, wait until you get home.
Dave and I rarely post on social media in real-time. We don’t want people to know where we are at any given moment and we don’t want people to know when we’re not in our home. So, save the photo-sharing until you return.
Stop Mail and Newspaper Delivery
If you live in a house, nothing says “we’re not home” more than a pile of newspapers, It’s a simple phone call to stop mail and newspaper delivery while you are away. Get to know your neighbors and ask them to pick up any flyers and newspapers that are left at the front door.
Flyers are the one thing we haven’t been able to figure out how to stop coming in, so it’s good to have a friendly neighbor keep an eye out.
Put Timers on Lights
We are big fans of putting timers on lights to make people believe someone is home. We have timers on our lights all the time set to automatically turn on the evening.
When traveling, we also have a couple of lights set up inside too and we set the timers to turn on our indoor lights from 7 – 11 pm. They can be bought at Walmart, Home Depot, or Canadian Tire for peanuts and it could save a break-in.
Prescriptions and Medications
Before we travel, we make sure to fill any prescriptions that we need and pack them in our carry-on bag. We never check prescription medication in our luggage and always make sure we have it on us, with a copy of our prescription.
Pack a First Aid Kit
We’re not saying to bring the entire kitchen sink with you when traveling, but a basic travel first aid kit is important should anything happen. Simple things like ibuprofen, bandaids, antiseptic and allergy medication are all good things to have on hand. If you want to see what to pack in a first aid kit, we have an entire article on Packing a Travel First Aid Kit For Long Term Travel
Get Proper Vaccines
One of the most important travel safety tips for your health is to look into vaccinations. Before traveling, we do our research to see what vaccines we need well in advance. Some vaccines can take weeks or months to get the sequence of shots needed.
There are many life-threatening diseases that can be contracted in certain parts of the world where a vaccine could save our life. Depending on where we are traveling, we may need vaccines for typhoid, yellow fever, cholera, Japanese Encephalitis, and more. We check our vaccines regularly to make sure they are up to date so we can make sure to stay healthy.
Countries, where Yellow Fever is a risk, won’t even let us in if we don’t have our Yellow Fever vaccine certificate and it is always good to have Hepatitis A & B wherever we go.
There is a lot of information online, but we typically go to a travel clinic to see a doctor who specializes in travel disease so we know exactly what we need.
Travel Safety Tips for While on the Trip
While on your trip, keep your wits about you and always be aware of your surroundings. A lot of people let their guards down while on vacation, but you have to be just as diligent. The tips below will help you travel safely while you are on your vacation.
Money and Cards
Dave and I always split up our money and credit cards should one of us get robbed. If we have everything in one bag, we’re out of luck should a bag be stolen. We like to spread important documents and cards around our bags so we always have a backup plan.
We only carry a small amount of cash with us and we only have one or two credit cards on us when we go out. The rest is locked in the hotel safe.
Keep Important Documents with You
We made the mistake once of having me carry everything. Dave and I were separated on a train in Switzerland and he got stuck on the train when the doors closed and ended up going to an abandoned station. He didn’t have a cell phone, money or even his wallet. I had everything.
He had to wander around the station and get back on the train without a ticket praying that nobody stopped him. I had no way of knowing when or how he’d get back and the entire ordeal took more than an hour until we were united.
We never put all our money in one place again. We felt that Switzerland was safe, and we were only going direct from the hotel to the airport, so we thought we’d be fine having everything in one bag. Boy was we wrong.
Emergency Information on Hand
It’s one thing to have all your important documents on you, it’s another to know where they are if an emergency happens. When Dave broke his back, I was a mess and couldn’t remember anything. Having my travel insurance information at my fingertips helped a lot. Make copies of your passports, health insurance, and anything else that you might need to give to authorities. And have important phone numbers on hand.
Before we fly, we look into what the emergency phone number is for the country we visited. Not every country uses 911. The TripWise App is good to give updates on emergency numbers. It also offers health and safety information around the world in real-time.
It’s a good idea to have everything easily accessible in one place should anything happen, you can instantly make that call.
- Check out more of the best travel apps you should have The Best Travel Apps That Travelers Should Download Today
Best Travel Bag – Over the Shoulder Bag
The easiest way to keep your valuables close is to have a safe bag. My travel day bag is an over-the-shoulder bag that is nearly impossible to snatch. I really like the Pacsafe brand because there are several security measures like locking zippers and a slash-proof strap.
I also like using a Pacsafe wallet because it uses RFID blocking technology. In today’s digital age, you don’t have to lose your credit cards to have your information stolen. RFID skimming is becoming more common.
What is RFID skimming? It is a form of theft using wireless transmitters to gain information to your credit and debit card identification chips. They can decode personal information like your name, address, phone number, and private social insurance and security numbers. Once somebody has that information, they can do anything from the gain access to your accounts to stealing your identity.
Now that’s scary. I now use RFID wallets and bags even when at home.
The best way to avoid sticky situations is to walk down the street looking confident. If you look confused with you head in your map or phone you’ll stand and make for an easy target. If you are lost, duck into a coffee shop and get your bearings. Don’t stand on the street corner looking like a tourist.
Dress for Success
We made the mistake in our early years of travel of wearing flip flops and board shorts wherever we went. Did we look like a tourist or what? If you are visiting a city, dress how others would dress in a city. Blend in and don’t be an easy target for scam artists and criminals.
- Check out these Lessons Learned from Being Mugged Abroad
Nothing wrecks a vacation more than getting scammed. The guilt of knowing that you’ve just been “had” is the worst. We know, we’ve been there. Staying safe while traveling is your number one priority – after having fun of course, and arming yourself with information about travel scams around the world will help you to travel safely on your vacation.
We’ve been the victim of a bunch of travel scams over the years. We had a camera stolen in Namibia when a group of guys distracted us. We fell for the distractions tactic again in Myanmar when we lost half our money at a shady money exchange in Myanmar. We’ve even fallen for a scheme where we bought into a vacation club while traveling in Mexico. Every situation ruined our trip after the fact.
Before we start our vacation, we take a look to see what the main travel scams are in the area. We have an article about travel scams around the world here. When we are aware of the common scams out there, we notice while they are happening and are prepared. For us, it has been a lesson learned the hard way, we fell for many scams early in our travels.
The best way to stay safe is to keep an eye on your belongings and be aware of your surroundings when in a crowd.
Foods to Avoid When Traveling
When thinking about travel safety, food is a very important item to consider. We encountered some dangerous moments on our travels from becoming seriously ill.
Dave is notorious for ignoring his own food rules and has been violently ill for several days on end. Don’t be like Dave, illness can ruin your vacation, but it is very easy to avoid.
- We only eat foods that have been cooked or that we can peel. We also avoid foods like lettuce and cut raw fruit.
- If we are at a resort, we ask if we can drink the water. If not we drink bottled water. But if most of the time we don’t like to contribute to plastic pollution, so we use a Steripen to purify our own tap water. It works great!
- We also tend to avoid soups and any food that is prepared. If there are sandwiches that have been sitting out for a while, it’s best not to eat them. We only order freshly cooked food.
All that said, we are still adventurous when eating and traveling. There is nothing wrong with eating from street vendors if the food is cooked. Usually, the food stalls have very fresh food because it sells fast and is constantly being restocked. If it is cooked over a flame or deep-fried we eat it. Street food can be an excellent choice if it is freshly barbecued.
Water can cause a lot of illness, so it is important to do your research before you go to find out if you can drink the water or not. A lot of countries don’t have potable water, but the resorts may have a filter.
We love renting cars when traveling. It gives us the freedom to go off the beaten track and explore on our own. But when renting a car, it’s important to be savvy and to follow these safety tips.
- We usually book in advance. Booking a car rental with our flight in a bundle has saved us big time.
Purchasing insurance is always a difficult decision. Car rentals are usually quite reasonable, but once you add on their insurance, it can add up quickly.
We use our American Express platinum for our car rentals and they have complete insurance, so we never get extra car insurance. We also have full insurance on our car at home and that includes car rental insurance as well. But we always call them before we depart to double-check that we are covered.
But we do sometimes buy extra insurance if it is reasonable. Sometimes having peace of mind can be easier than saving some money. When in New Brunswick last winter, we backed into a pole and dented the bumper. It didn’t matter because we had full coverage with the rental company so we just returned the car and went on our merry own way. Had we not had coverage, we could have had a huge hassle of going through our insurance to get the damage covered.
- When in doubt, we always call our insurance provider or credit card company to ask about all the stipulations.
Rentals – Scooters, Jet Skis
When it comes to travel safety, a lot of people get into trouble when renting scooters. But if you don’t have experience driving one, or don’t have the appropriate international permit or local license, we don’t do it.
We were in a motorcycle accident in Thailand years ago when renting a scooter. We thought we could handle it, but we crashed. When we first arrived, we noticed a lot of tourists covered in bandages. We thought there must be a coral reef break or something on the island, but we soon learned that everyone rents a scooter, and most people crash.
The same thing can happen when renting speed boats, or wave runners on vacation. When we’ve driven jet skis or speed boats we do it on a tour with a professional leading the way who gave us a lesson on how to drive it properly. But we have seen a lot of people lose control behind the wheel. Just because you are on vacation, it doesn’t mean we are invincible, so we take the same precautions we do at home.
Learn from Our Mistakes
It was years of trial and error that helped us finally learn our lesson to have safe and healthy travels. So hopefully you will be able to travel safely right from the start!
Now that we follow these travel safety tips, we usually have a safe and healthy trip. Or at least we are prepared when emergencies do happen.
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