Whether you’re traveling internationally for business or leisure, here are 29 practical tips and advice that will help your next trip to be more successful, trouble-free and safe.
- Enroll in STEP. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
- Your passport. Keep color copies and email a copy to yourself and/or store in a secure cloud-based storage. Hide copies in your luggage.
- Copy important credit cards and IDs – Front and Back. If lost or stolen, you have the numbers to call the respective companies. Check with your credit card company and bank to ensure that your credit cards / ATM will work in the countries you’ll visit.
- Enter your destination country on the right visa. Each country has its specific visa entry requirements. If you are traveling for business purposes (or actually working), you may think it is less hassle to enter on a visitor’s visa. With global business mobility increasing, government officials around the world are attuned and checking for fraud. You and your company will not be treated favorably if you are caught upon entry, while in-country or at departure if you’ve entered on the incorrect visa.
- Avoid cell phone bill shock. Add an international calling plan for the time you’re traveling abroad, acquire a prepaid phone, have additional options available like Skype or a local mobile phone.
- Devices, computers, and adapters. Decide in advance what phone, laptop or tablet you need overseas. If the device stores confidential business or personal information that you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands, think about how to protect it before you take off – locking, cleaned devices, etc. Electrical outlets around the world are not the same. Universal adapters are available for purchase. Sometimes hotels will provide adapters or have built-in outlets for different geographies but don’t rely on this.
- RFID blocking. Carry your credit and ATM cards or anything with a magnetic strip or chip in an RFID-blocking wallet or case that cannot be RFID scanned for your personal ID, account numbers and PINs.
- No uninvited visitors. Post about your trip on social media AFTER you return from your trip. Don’t alert unwanted visitors your home is unoccupied. Have the post office hold your mail and a trusted neighbor or friend check on your place periodically.
- Be medically prepared. Get the proper inoculations, check with your insurance company to see if you have medical travel coverage or buy medical travel insurance.
- Toll-free numbers (800 / 888) will not work to dial into the U.S from overseas. Make sure you have your direct dial numbers for providers you may need to contact (bank, insurance, airline, etc.)
- Use covered luggage tags on your bags. It’s too easy to obtain your personal information if you have an open luggage tag. It’s also a good idea to take pictures of all your luggage.
- Carry-on bags. Store your carry-on bag as close to you as possible. Ideally, store in your line of sight, diagonally, a few rows ahead of you. Store in the overhead bin with the zipper side down or at a minimum with zipper side not up.
- Keep your medication (prescription or OTC) in the original container. If questioned, medication in original bottles with labels will be easier to explain. Also, if you have a medical condition that may need attention, carry the appropriate medical records.
- Elude “airplane germs”. Traveling in confined airplane cabins with recirculated air may make you cringe and wonder if we’re going to get sick afterward. Dan Pink, the famous author/world traveler, has shared two practical tips. The first tip is to travel with antiseptic wipes. On the plane, wipe down the pull-down table, armrests, and chairs. Best advice ever, rub the inside of your nose with an antibiotic ointment (e.g., Neosporin) to help combat the germs that you may inhale when breathing airplane cabin air. Although not medically validated, I haven’t gotten sick after any of my trips since doing these two things.
- Back home should know where you are. Text, connect or call your at-home family members and/or business contacts each time you arrive at your destination.
- Money. Know in advance the currency exchange rate and the in-country tipping protocols. There are apps available this. Always keep a little local cash on hand and easily reachable. It’s called “mugger’s money.” Just in case, it may be the little amount that you hand over to a thief and he/she will immediately go away.
- Driver pick-up or taxis. The driver’s placard/sign should contain the logo of the transit company or a hotel logo as well as your name. Be wary of anyone who has a sign that only has your name on it. Also, if you’re taking a taxi from an unfamiliar airport, make a quick visit to the taxi company’s desk and ask the distance and much it will cost to get to your destination.
- Be culturally sensitive. Whether your trip is for business or leisure, increasing your cultural intelligence (CQ) will make your trip more successful or enjoyable.
- Language. If you don’t know the host-country language, learn a few important phrases or get a translation app.
- Dress culturally appropriate and do not attract attention to yourself. Don’t stand out a tourist as much as possible. Tone down the “bling”, loud clothing and apparel with logos. Go without the designer purses and clothes, jewelry, expensive shoes. They will make you stand out and may draw undesirable attention from people with criminal intent. In some countries, wearing sneakers will make you stand out or may be frowned upon. Dress appropriately in religious regions. This may mean no shorts, short sleeves or short skirts. It’s advisable for women to carry a pashmina or large scarf.
- Food. A threat while you’re traveling is getting sick and that can happen by contaminated food. Enjoy the local cuisine but be careful what and where you eat. Ice cubes, tap water and raw food should be avoided.
- Know and follow local law. It’s starts with being honest (not deceptive) with immigration and border personnel on entry and departure. While in the country, penalties for breaking
IN-COUNTRY AND AT YOUR HOTEL
- Street Scams. As you travel around, be aware of potential travel or street scams. Here are 11 Common Travel Scams and How to Deal With Them. The best way to avoid a scam is to be hyper-vigilant to avoid being put in a compromising situation from the start. Trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, be confident and stand your ground and don’t worry about offending anyone.
- Request a room from the 2nd to 7th floor. The first floor is accessible to the public. Fire is one of the biggest dangers to hotel guests. You want to be able to quickly exit by through a stairwell so it’s better to be closer to the ground floor. If you’re trapped by fire in your room, fire ladders generally only reach to the 7th floor.
- Fire exits. Check where your fire exits are and count number of doors to exit. If the building fills with smoke, you will know quickly how to escape.
- Hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door handle at all times – even when you’re not in the room. You can also keep the television or lights on. Occasionally, a hotel will mistakenly double book a room. This will alert the mistakenly, double-booked guest (who has a key card) that there is a problem with the room before they open the door.
- Adjoining rooms. Even if there’s a lock on the adjacent door, do not accept an adjoining room suite. Ask for a different room.
- Ordering in food from outside your hotel. Ask the delivery service to deliver food to the front desk or meet the delivery person in the lobby. Never give your room number to a stranger. If a hotel clerk says your room number aloud while others are present, ask for a different room.
- Returning to your hotel. Vary your route. Do not take the same route every time you return to your hotel.
Note: The list is far from all-encompassing. If you have more tips or advice you’d like to share, please feel free to add your comments.