by: Alex Thomas Sadler
If you’re planning a trip, either alone or with a group, here are some safety tips to make sure you and your wallet are protected!
1. Have a way to stay connected
If you’re traveling abroad, or even within the United States, taking a break from your cell phone, e-mail and social media can be very nice. But if you’re going to do this, make sure you still have a way to connect with family or friends in the case of an emergency. Having an international data and calling plan is the best way to avoid unexpected charges (in case you accidentally leave an app running that eats up your data), but it will also allow you to make a phone call if you need to without paying huge fees.
It’s easier than ever before to make cheap, even free, calls from your cell phone while traveling. You just need the right kind of phone and service plan. You can also take advantage of Wi-Fi hotspots all over the world to make calls and surf the Internet for free. Here are some tips for using cell phones outside the U.S.
2. Give someone your itinerary
Going on an adventure by yourself can be a great experience, but it can also be dangerous. Let family or friends back home — or even someone at your hotel — know where you’re going and when. You can even give them your exact route (if you’re hiking or exploring a park by yourself or in a small group), as well as when to expect you to return.
Give a family member or friend back home the locations where you’ll be staying and the exact dates. This will allow them to contact you in case of an emergency and in case your phone breaks, loses service etc.
Read more: 4 scams targeting international travelers
3. Have the right documents & keep them safe
It’s important to make sure you have all of your official documents (passport, shot records, driver’s license, international driver’s license etc.), as well as copies of each one, in case something gets lost or stolen. It’s also a great idea to give someone at home a copy of your passport. And while you’re traveling, keep your original passport on you at all times and leave the copy at the hotel in a safe place. When you do have all of your documents with you, carry them separately, keeping some in a wallet or purse and others in a different wallet or pocket. Money belts or anti-theft handbags are highly advisable in many international cities.
When using credit cards internationally, always make sure you look closely at the charge slip you’re signing. It’s very common that criminals try to put in a charge far greater than what it should be, thinking it will get lost on you in translation. And you’re on the hook because you sign for it.
Click here for some suggestions of credit cards that carry no foreign currency fees.
4. Learn about the places you plan to visit
Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs in those areas. Information can be obtained from your public library, local travel agency or the U. S. State Department. It’s important to be familiar with things like local etiquette (specifically regarding how to dress), public transportation and the local phone number to call for emergencies.
5. Stay healthy
Carry an extra set of eyeglasses and any necessary medications (along with a copy of the prescription and the generic name of the drug) in your carry-on luggage. Keep all medications in their original containers. Also, research potential health risks of the locations where you plan to visit. Is the water safe to drink? Are mosquitos a health risk there? Are there any shots you should get or antibiotics you should take, outside of those that may be specifically required to enter back into the U.S.?
Read more: Handling your money overseas
6. Research your accomodations
Read online reviews about the places you plan to stay, as well as the surrounding areas and neighborhoods. Also, familiarize yourself with your surroundings when you arrive. Where is the nearest exit? Can you get a room close to the lobby or where things are happening, rather than in an isolated area?
7. Protect your family
In case something should happen to you while traveling, it’s a good idea to grant power of attorney to an immediate relative or close friend. It’s also important to complete or update your will to include naming a guardian for any minor children. You don’t want to risk leaving any important decisions up to people you may not trust.
8. Be wary of surfing the Web via Wi-Fi
We get it: You’re on vacation and all you want to do is relax by the pool and fuddle on Facebook for a bit before heading to that moonlight dinner cruise. But hackers may be lying in wait for you to enter your personal information online so that they can access it. If you can’t use your cellphone as a hotspot for your laptop, one option that is much safer is a virtual private network.
9. Leave important data at home
When you’re traveling, it’s tempting to bring the whole financial kitchen sink with you — all 10 credit cards, two debit cards, a check book, your Social Security card, your passport, your license — when in reality you likely won’t need most of those things. Don’t financially overpack, bringing important files and data that you won’t use but must leave in your room. You’re just giving potential thieves more to steal.