1. No matter where you are traveling, be sure to take out suitable travel insurance. No one plans for things to go wrong while traveling, but unfortunately sometimes they do. Travel insurance is a great way to be prepared for such problems by providing you with security and protection whilst you are traveling domestically or internationally. Its major advantage is that it covers for hospital and medical treatments overseas. Without insurance, especially in the USA, medical bills can tally hundreds of thousands of dollars. Make sure you understand the wording of your insurance policy and what it covers.
2. Do not wait until the last minute to see if you require a visa to enter into the country you are traveling to. A visa is a means of permission in the form of a special stamp in your passport that allows non-citizens to enter, transit or remain in a particular country. You must investigate visa requirements of the country you intend to visit well in advance of travel or face being rejected entry into that county upon arrival. Your travel agent should be able to inform you if you require a visa. You can verify this by contacting the nearest consulate or embassy of the country you intend to visit. (Recent visa changes have been made for Australians entering into the USA after January 12, 2009).
3. Be sure to make multiple copies of your passport details, your travel insurance policy, credit/debit card numbers and details and any travelers’ cheques you are taking with you. This is something I am always sure to do. Leave a copy of everything at home with family and also carry a copy with you, in a separate place from the original copies. I usually carry two copies with me and leave one in my suitcase in a hidden compartment and another in my carry on luggage. If you have the unfortunate experience of being robbed while away, you will always have a spare copy of the details handy or you can make contact with your family back home that will also have your details on hand. Having copies of such information makes getting replacements or canceling accounts that little bit easier.
4. Ensure that your passport has, minimum, six months validity remaining on it. The standard requirement of countries around the world is for travelers to have at least six months validity remaining on their passport after departing the country being visit. If you are departing Australia and planning to remain in the USA until the end of March 2009, your passport must not expire any time before the beginning of October, 2009. If they allowed you to travel with a nearing expiration date and perhaps something happened to cause a delay to your return home, then your passport may possibly expire while you are still overseas. An excellent example of a recent delay was the Bangkok Airport protest late last year which left thousands of travelers stranded in Thailand.
5. Make a travel itinerary that says what city and country you will be in for every day of your travels. I have always done this for every trip I have taken. I begin with writing up the dates of my trip in one column followed by which city and country I will be in for each date. If I know who I will be with, I include this on there too. Leave a copy of this with family or friends back home and make sure you are in regular contact with them while traveling. If they have not heard from you in a while and become worried, at least they know where you have been from time frame A to time frame B and possibly who you are with.
6. Check to see if you require any vaccinations. Some countries, especially those of a third world nature, encourage you to receive a vaccination before traveling to them. This is not a legal requirement but it is highly recommended for your own safety. Before traveling to Thailand, I had a shot for Hepatitis and Typhoid one month in advance of my departure. My friends also had this particular shot and during our trip, we all remained healthy. You can often find out if you require vaccines for your desired destination via your travel agent or doctor.
7. Register your travel plans and contact details online with the Australian Government – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. All Australians traveling overseas, whether for tourism or business or for short or long stays are encouraged to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before travel. The registration information provided by you will help the Australian Government find you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family emergency. The information you provide here is strictly protected by the Privacy Act 1988
8. Familiarize yourself with the local laws in the country you are traveling to. When you are in a foreign country, you are expected to obey their laws. Just because it is legal back in your home country, does not necessarily make it legal in another. As ridiculous as it may seem, something as simple as spitting your gum out onto the pavement is illegal in Prague, Czech Republic and can incur a fine of up to 1300 €. That is a hell-of-a hefty fine for something so minimal which comes as second nature to so many people.
9. Do not leave your luggage unattended in public areas and use a TSA approved lock to lock up your luggage. Self explanatory, really. Although in few numbers, drug smugglers are known to lurk airports. That one second you take your eyes off your luggage could be a second too long. Those few seconds are all they need to plant drugs or anything suspicious inside your luggage. When I was departing Phuket Airport in Thailand, they were really enforcing this rule and offered luggage-wrapping services to ensure it was impossible to break into your luggage and plant something in it. A TSA approved lock provides security officers with universal ‘master’ keys so that if your luggage requires physical inspection, the locks may not have to be cut. These locks are available at airports and travel stores worldwide.
10. Utilize a checklist to ensure everything is in order and nothing is forgotten before you leave home. Mum got me started on this tip. She wrote out an enormous list before my first international trip to the USA. It included everything from clothing, cameras, chargers, travel adaptors and first aid accessories to reminders to pack my toothbrush the morning of my departure. It pays to build up this list gradually before you start packing in order to help you not forget anything essential to your travels. I now do this for every trip and have never forgotten anything. While on topic, if taking any electronic goods, make sure you purchase the correct travel adaptors to ensure you are still able to use your camera charges, hair straighteners, laptops etc while abroad.