Planning your vacation can be half the fun of the actual traveling experience. Between perusing sites like Trip Advisor or the Travel Channel, researching local activities and eateries, and asking friends and family for their recommendations, it can almost be as enjoyable as the trip itself. But while you're making hotel reservations and buying airline tickets, there are a few more steps you may want to consider taking during the researching and planning stage. Although they may not be as fun, taking some extra measures before you embark could end up saving you a lot of time, money and stress in the long run.
Check for Travel Alerts & Warnings
Before you book your airline tickets, check out The State Department's current lists of Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts. This is an especially important step if you're thinking about going somewhere exotic or off the beaten path. Travel Warnings are issued when The State Department recommends you "consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all," for example, if there's an unstable government, civil war, or ongoing crime or violence in a country. Travel Alerts are issued for short-term events, like demonstrations or a health alert like an outbreak of H1N1. You can review travel warnings and alerts by visiting the U.S. Department of State's website at travel.state.gov.
Find U.S. Embassy or Consulate Contact Information
U.S. Embassy and Consulate officers are available for emergency assistance 24/7. If you loose your passport while overseas, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate of the country you're visiting. (Reminder, it's always a good idea to bring a photocopy of your passport, travel documents - like airline tickets - and itinerary with you when you travel, just make sure you leave it locked in a safe at the hotel or in a separate, secure location while you're out touring. You should make additional copies and provide them to your family or a relative back home.) If your family back home needs to reach you because of an emergency, they'll work through the consulate office for that.
Research the Local Currency
Before you leave for your trip, put together a plan as to how you're planning on paying for items. For more mainstream countries that receive a lot of tourists, credit or debit card payment will probably work just fine. You should look at the international charges that are assessed with each card however. These can vary greatly between banks and credit cards providers and can really add up. For less-visited countries or rural areas, make sure you obtain enough of their currency before you leave or know where you can obtain it when you arrive. Lastly, before you leave, notify your bank or credit card company about your international trip as they will likely need to remove international block on your card.
Health & Vaccines
Vaccinations are required for entry to some countries. The U.S. Department of State offers information as to which vaccines are required for visiting certain countries. (Be sure to do your research early on this topic! Some medicines require multiple doses or need to be taken a certain amount of time before your trip.)
Lock Up Your Home
While you're working to stay safe overseas, it's important to make sure your home is secure back in the States. Let your (trusted) neighbors know the dates you'll be out of town and provide them with your contact information and the info of a local family member. In today's electronic, always-connected world, many criminals turn to cyberspace during vacation season to find out when those in their area may be out of town. Try not the specific dates as to when you're out of town online.
By taking a few extra steps before you take off, you can help ensure that your trip is more fun-filled and relaxing. Happy travels!