Spring is here and many travelers are headed out of the country. What are some important considerations? As a world traveler who has visited over 60 countries on all seven continents, a cross-cultural consultant, and an international protocol expert, I’d like to share key insights by answering some of the most pressing questions on travelers’ minds.
Question 1: Safety needs to be an absolute priority when gearing up for travel. What are the first steps to take for a healthy trip?
Step #1. Allow plenty of time to get a physical exam and schedule an appointment with a travel clinic to assess your need for inoculations. Resources to check include: the World Health Organization International Travel and Health Interactive Map, the CDC Travel Health Notices, and the U.S. Department of State Travel Alerts & Warnings. The world is a different place today, and travel to certain areas of the globe requires knowledge, precautions and immunization.
Step #2. Buy International Travel Health Protection Insurance for each trip. Confirm that you are covered for possible medical emergencies. Make sure that Medical Evacuation Insurance is included to the destination of your choice and be fully prepared.
Step #3. Begin your hydration by increasing your fluid intake at least one day before your flight. Remember that alcohol and caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee will dehydrate you. Drink plenty of bottled water throughout the flight.
Question 2: Going through security is an important, yet time-consuming, safety measure. Is there any way to speed up the process?
Yes! Consider applying to the Global Entry Trusted Traveler Network Program, which allows approved members the use of automated kiosks in most major international U.S. airports to speed up the arrival process. You can check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website to see if you are eligible. My parents, my husband, and I are all trusted travelers and the expedited processing is truly appreciated both before and after international travel.
Question 3: Do you have any tips regarding luggage? Are there particular functionality features I should be looking for?
YES: Invest in the best luggage that you can afford. Check whether the wheels rotate 360 degrees and roll quietly over hard flooring and tiles, not just soft carpeting. Read Consumer Reports and check online reviews written by pilots and flight attendants for recommendations. Remember domestic and international travel standards for carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment vary.
Once you have purchased your new luggage, place a current business card inside each bag and attach an external luggage tag with your contact details. Photograph your checked bags and keep a copy in your phone and at home. Describing a lost bag in an international airport, in a second or third language is challenging. Try taking a photograph of your checked bags, in addition to holding on to your baggage claim. Having a neon colored bag handle or a small “I sailed Antarctica” sticker plastered on the luggage is helpful too.
Question 4: What about travel funds?
Today, most banks provide foreign currency if you request it in advance. Be sure to bring local currency and pack it in different places in your bags. Alert your bank and your credit card company of your travel destination prior to departure. Nothing brings your business trip or vacation to a stand-still faster than frozen accounts. Advise your financial institutions of the destination and length of your stay to avoid a lock-down on your funds. The U.S. has caught up with global chip technology used worldwide making it easier to keep a watchful eye on your credit card. Keep in mind that some destinations such as Cuba and Myanmar do not accept credit cards and do not have ATMs yet.
Question 5: What should I do with my Travel Documents & Passport?
Important Travel Document Practices: Make copies of these important travel documents: front & VISA page of passport, driver’s license, ATM/debit card, credit cards, birth certificate, travel & medical evacuation insurance cards. Be sure to leave a copy with a trusted business partner or family member, for use in an emergency. Tuck copies safely away in your carry-on baggage.
Question 6: How do I handle the Local Language?
There’s an APP for THAT! Learn a few words of the local language and practice your pronunciation skills using an app like Duolingo or by downloading an e-book like Access to Asia that is jam-packed with greetings and indispensable phrases including: “Good morning,” “Good afternoon,” “Good evening,” ”Good-bye,” “Excuse me,” “My name is Sharon,” “Please,” and “Thank you.”
Question 7: One of the most dreaded factors when it comes to global travel has to be jet lag. Any tips on how to handle it appropriately?
YES: Hydrate with water and electrolytes. Plan to arrive a day in advance if possible. Prepare to acclimate to your destination by setting your watch to the destination time zone in advance. Bring noise-reducing headphones on board to get sleep on the plane. Upon arrival, plan to spend time exercising or sitting in sunlight. Download soothing music, sounds of nature or “white noise” to your iPod to facilitate sleep in your hotel. Pack melatonin or natural sleep aids, if helpful. If possible, schedule a massage to ease those stiff joints.
No matter where your travels may take you, careful forethought and proper preparation are certainly worth their weight in gold.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. Schweitzer is accredited in intercultural management, is a regular on-air contributor and has been quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, Inc., The New York Times, The Vancouver Sun, The Bangkok Post and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, which was named to the Best Books of 2015 by Kirkus Reviews. For more of Sharon’s insight, follow her on The Huffington Post, www.twitter.com/austinprotocol and www.facebook.com/protocolww.
Photo Credit: U.S. Army, Spc. Michael Camacho