Nobody wants to think about bad things happening, but proactively planning for what you would do if something does go wrong, is the adult thing to do. I know, I know…not fun but true.
When I was nineteen, my family was living in Madrid. My father was stationed at the American Embassy there and he kindly secured me a summer job working in the Passport & Visa Services Department. It was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. I saw all sorts of things that could happen to American travelers, and I vowed then and there never to make the same mistakes if I could help it.
Here are 5 things that should be taken care of before you head out the door to travel. I believe they will bring your peace of mind before, during, and after traveling to the far corners of the world, I know they have for me.
Running out of money overseas can have devastating effects. It can mean the difference between sleeping in a hotel or sleeping on a bench. Before you go anywhere, you really do need to have an emergency fund built up. Open a travel savings account just for this purpose and start tucking away money week by week.
If something happens on your trip, like getting in an accident or getting your wallet, laptop or passport stolen, you will have the funds to cover your expenses. In today’s ecological and political environment, you may need to leave where you are very quickly, so my rule of thumb for the amount of savings you should have in your emergency fund is at least a plane ticket home. A little more, if you can make it happen.
Also, you may consider reserving a credit card with a decent credit limit on it to take care of emergencies as well. Not the wisest financial advice, but works for an emergency situation. Just please, pay it off as soon as you get home!
Living Will & Medical Power of Attorney
Documenting your medical choices about which kinds of treatment you do or don’t want and naming someone you trust to oversee your care decisions is an easy item to take care, and you should have these documents whether you travel or not. Should you have a medical emergency and return home unconscious, having these papers in place will make things far easier for your loved ones.
These two legal documents (often combined into something called an advance directive in some states) will do just that. There are lots of free templates out there (here is a good one) to create the documents but you will likely have to pay a small fee to have it/them notarized.
In 2015, Mr. Misadventures and I had an epic trip to Svalbard and the North Pole planned for June. It was an expensive trip so in 2014 when we planned and booked it, we decided to get trip insurance. A few months before we were due to leave, Mr. Misadventures got laid off, and even though we had the money in savings to pay for the trip, we decided it wouldn’t be financially prudent to use it. Because we had trip cancellation insurance, we got all our money back.
Even once you are on the trip, travel insurance will help you in many situations such as is you lose all your possessions in a fire or if you are involved in a motorbike accident. They will also cover lost luggage!
Get Your Personal Belonging in Order
During that summer working at the embassy in Madrid, it was my job to provide information to those who had been victims of crime. I didn’t do this once a day, I did it dozens of times. I’ve been a travel blogger for close to nine years and I can’t tell you how many accounts of muggings or thefts I’ve read from travel bloggers around the world.
You may not be able to avoid it, despite your best efforts (always be aware of your surroundings!) but you can prepare yourself should you become the victim of a crime. Here is a list of things that would make the situation better.
- Split up your cash and credit cards in multiple places. Put some in your bag, in the hotel safe, and in your pocket.
- Have two password-protected backup scans of any identification papers like your passport or visa. Keep one on a USB drive that you secure in your hotel safe and one in an online vault like DropBox (always have two-factor authentification set-up).
- Make sure you have spare medication. Either keep a separate stash in a different location or leave a portion in your hotel safe.
- If you are in a country where theft is common, have a decoy wallet with a few dollars and expired cards. That way if someone holds you up, they aren’t getting much!
A lot of the tips above have you relying on a hotel safe, if you feel the hotel or its staff are on the sketchy side, use a personal locker, put it inside your suitcase and use a cable lock to attach the suitcase to something significant, like a bed or dresser. Some hotels also offer safe services from the front desk for a small fee, consider that as an option as well.
Travel Protection Membership
In 2003, I transferred from California to Switzerland for work. It was the first time living internationally on my own. During my first week in the office, my new Swiss boss told me I needed “helicopter insurance.” This was right after she had just told me that I had to have mandatory weasel insurance for my car. So yes, I was confused.
Turns out, she was recommending a travel protection membership, something a lot of Swiss nationals partake in because of their penchant for skiing in the Alps. If you get hurt skiing in a remote location, the travel protection services assist with transportation.
Well, you don’t have to be a Swiss citizen to enjoy this type of protection. In fact, when we planned that trip to the North Pole, we purchased travel protection services. As I’ve mentioned many times, when my husband is in photography mode he doesn’t pay attention to his environment, hence the broken ankle from stepping between two rocks while scouting wild flowers two years ago…you know, things like that.
I could envision Mr. Misadventures stepping off the small boat in the North Pole to take some must-have photo and getting injured only to find ourselves in the middle of nowhere with a significant injury. If something like that were to happen, a travel protection service will arrange medical transport.
Benjamin Franklin’s “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” is an often-shared quote for a reason! I can tell you that a little bit of planning or preparation would have saved a lot of heartache for those travelers who I helped that long hot summer in Madrid. It was a lesson that I learned at the cost of others, and I hope that by sharing these tips you can avoid any travel drama and give yourself peace of mind while traveling!
How about you? Do you have a tip or trick to share to create travel peace of mind? Do you have a story to share? Do tell!