“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” – Ibn Battuta
This quote has always resonated with me, although my speechless moments and stories might be slightly different than Ibn Battuta intended.
I love to travel, and this passion has taken me to some interesting locations across the world from Hong Kong, to Spain and even unintentional trips to Puerto Rico. Throughout my travels I’ve had some exceptional experiences and I’ve also dealt with some stressful situations. While some of this stress was a result of my own poor planning, the rest were purely the result of bad luck. For example: the time I lost my passport in Asia and was stranded over New Year’s; or when in Barcelona I dealt with a break-and-enter in my apartment; or the numerous times my plane didn’t make it in time for a connecting flight, preventing me from getting to my final destination. I’ve certainly learned a few things along the way and I’d like to pass along a few lessons I’ve learned to you so you can potentially avoid some mishaps.
- Ensure you have all necessary travel documents
Many countries will deny you entry if your passport expires near your planned return date, so it’s important to have at least a six month buffer. Although rare, some countries do require Canadians get a travel visa. The amount of time you’ll need to submit your visa application varies by country so it’s important to get this information well in advance to allow enough time to get your situation sorted out. I also recommend you photocopy all your travel documents in case they get lost or stolen. Have one set of copies with you while you travel (stored separately from the originals) and leave a copy with family or friends.
- Keep your eye on travel advisories for your destination
The Government of Canada provides updated information and advice on most countries and these advisories can impact your travel insurance. It’s best to check before booking the trip, before leaving, and periodically while on your trip.
- Consult with your doctor
Book an appointment with your doctor or at a travel clinic to ask about country specific vaccinations you might need. I recommend making the appointment at least four to six weeks before your departure date as some vaccines require several doses.
- Purchase travel insurance
Insurance helps protect you against the unexpected. Costs related to lost luggage, health care, trip cancellation and the like can be very expensive and may require payment before services are even provided, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re covered.
- Ensure friends or family know where you’re staying and for how long
In addition to sharing your itinerary, ask a responsible person to drop by your home regularly while you’re away to keep an eye on things. Besides collecting your mail, so your home doesn’t appear vacant, this person should ensure the home is secure and conduct checks to make sure there are no leaks in the plumbing or that other damage hasn’t occurred. This is something you should arrange to have done all year round no matter when you travel.
- Review your home insurance policy
It’s always a good idea to review your home insurance policy and contact your agent to make sure the arrangements you put in place for home check-ups are acceptable to your insurer in the event that something happens while you are away. The frequently that you’ll need someone to stop by your home can vary based on your insurer and policy, and other circumstances surrounding the state of your home.
- Register your trip with the Canadian embassy
If any emergencies happen in the country you’re visiting, the Canadian government will be better able to contact you, provide you with pertinent information to your current circumstances, and help you leave the country, if necessary. It only takes a few minutes to sign up. The Government of Canada also has emergency contact information in the event you run into a serious problem.
- Look up the contact number for emergency services
If you run into a situation where you need to contact the police, emergency medical services, or the fire department, time is of the essence. While we all know to dial 911 here, the same three digits might not be of any use where you are travelling. Look up emergency service contact information in advance, and keep it with your important paperwork.
- Become familiar with local customs and laws
Gestures and behaviours you might consider normal and friendly at home could be interpreted as rude or disrespectful in other countries; some could even land you in jail! It’s always a good idea to do a little research before you land in a new place.
Do you have any travel tips to add to the list? What about a good travel story that taught you the importance of being prepared? Let me know in the comments section below.