By Don Vaughan
love to travel. Whether it's a weekend trip to visit family or a
monthlong world tour, we're on the move more than ever before. But not
everyone considers safety when planning a trip.
mistake travelers make is ignorance,” says Kathy Buckmaster, RN, a
travel nurse specialist with Passport Health in Raleigh, N.C. “You need
to take the time to become educated regarding your destination because
what you don't know can hurt you.”
When traveling abroad, your
first consideration should be the need for vaccinations, because many
nations experience outbreaks not commonly seen in the U.S. As part of
its online safe travel program, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention offers a comprehensive list of international destinations that includes required vaccinations and other information.
travel professional also should be able to tell you what vaccinations
are required for your destination, adds Darcy Grimes, manager of Travel
Marketing and Training with AAA in Charlotte, N.C. Another great
resource is the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
planning your trip, it is helpful to know your vaccination history and
whether you are in need of boosters, adds Buckmaster. Your primary
health care provider might have this information, and servicemembers
should consult their military vaccine record, if available.
An additional especially useful resource is the Bureau of Consular Affairs' Smart Traveler Enrollment Program,
which allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll
their trip free of charge with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
That way, the embassy can assist you more efficiently should you lose
your passport, fall ill, or encounter other problems during your trip.
Additional considerations when planning your trip include:
sure your passport is up-to-date. If you need to renew it, give
yourself at least two months, just to be safe. Keep in mind that many
nations require your passport be active at least six months after your
travel dates. When sightseeing, carry with you at all times a copy of
your passport and driver's license.
- Notify your bank and credit card companies about your travel plans to prevent unnecessary holds on your accounts and help keep your accounts safe.
your health care provider regarding any health issues that might impact
your trip and what you can do to alleviate potential problems. Common
difficulties include mobility issues, chronic illnesses, and the need
for oxygen - all of which might require special arrangements in advance.
sure you have a sufficient supply of prescription medications. Keep
them in their original containers, and place them in your carry-on bag -
not your checked luggage. It's also a good idea to bring a
photocopy of your prescriptions with you, along with a list of the brand
and generic names of your medications.
- Familiarize yourself
with the climate of all of your destinations and how it might affect
you. For example, sensitivity to hot or cold conditions could have a
serious impact on your travel enjoyment.
insurance is strongly recommended when traveling abroad, says Sharon
Brangman, M.D., past president of the American Geriatric Society and
professor of medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse,
N.Y. “Older travelers should be aware that Medicare does not cover you
outside the U.S.” Brangman explains. “If you get sick and don't have
supplementary insurance, a lot of your care costs will be out of pocket,
and that can be very expensive.”
Travel itself also can impact
your health and safety, experts note. For example, traveling in cramped
quarters for an extended period of time might place you at risk of deep
vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot in the legs that can travel
through the bloodstream to other parts of the body. To reduce your risk,
Brangman suggests getting up and stretching your legs every hour or
two, if you can do so safely. Pressure stockings, which aid circulation,
are another effective option.
Usually less serious but still
troublesome is illness contracted from your fellow travelers, such as a
cold or flu. “You should assume that everything you touch on a plane is
contaminated with something,” warns Buckmaster. “To avoid illness, wash
your hands often, use antiseptic gel, and never touch a bathroom door
handle with your bare hands.”
Lastly, take steps to ensure your safety over the course of your trip. For example:
- Pack as lightly as you can so your suitcases are easy to transport.
- Leave valuables such as expensive jewelry at home to avoid theft.
a miniature flashlight so you can safely move about your hotel room at
night. This is especially important for older travelers, who are at
greater risk of falls, notes Brangman.
- Familiarize yourself with your hotel's evacuation routes, in case of emergency.
with a group for safety, and walk away from strangers who approach you.
If you feel unsafe for any reason, seek shelter in a nearby store or
government building and contact the local police.