Two years ago, after much prodding by my 12 year old son, we decided to embark on a fishing trip to the Amazon Basin. Excited but a little uneasy about making the trip with my child, I logged on to the Center for Disease Control website. What I learned was that several outbreaks of deadly Yellow Fever had recently occurred in the Basin. I immediately contacted my brother-in-law, a board certified MD in the field of infectious diseases. He said, “There is a vaccine, but you really should wait until Birch is a little older. Why take the risk?”
We have not made the trip, yet. And I still feel good about the decision. Put safety first when traveling to an unknown destination. Research, prepare and consider the following tips:
- Your health: travel with a stash of medicine. Obtain the necessary vaccinations well in advance. Bring Benadryl for allergic reactions (don’t forget your Epi-pen if you have known serious reactions). Neosporin for cuts and scrapes. Proair for your asthma. Antibiotics to ward off more serious problems. Talk to your doctor before you go. The CDC’s Travelers’ Health Topics page offers health advisories by country, and click here for travel advice from the World Health Organization.
- Your luggage: avoid checking bags-carry on whenever possible. Never pack valuables in checked bags-always carry them on. Keep I.D. tags updated and attach a colorful marker to your bag. Never turn your back to your luggage.
- The weather: check the weather at your destination before you pack. Always weatherize your vehicle before a trip. Have an expert check your tire wear. Keep an emergency pack in your vehicle with food and water, first aid and hazard warning in case you break down. Dress warm (unless you are driving in Texas in August!) The Weather Underground can provide detailed forecasts for wherever you go, and The Federal Highway Administration’s State Transportation site offers travel advisories and road closures by state.
- Your travel documents: always make a copy of your passport and keep the two separate and safe (I secure my passport in the hotel and venture out with my copy). Ditto with your drivers license (keep a copy in your vehicle). Bring a valid copy of your proof of insurance. If your passport is lost or stolen you can find the local consulate here.
- Your money: always keep a secret stash separate from your purse or wallet. Never flash your cash when paying. If you must use the ATM, use a well lit location in a hotel lobby, bank or airport. Call your bank and set a limit on the max you can withdraw from an ATM in a single day, and tell them if you are traveling abroad.
- Your day trips: never travel alone unless it is unavoidable. Dress modestly . Avoid provocative or flashy clothes and jewelry (leave it at home). Use only taxis called by the hotel concierge or restaurant doorman. Employ a local guide recommended by your hotel. Beware of strangers.
- Flying: Always stay buckled when seated (clear air turbulence can occur without warning). Beware of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). Drink plenty of fluids. Get up and walk around. Ask your doctor. He may prescribe a diuretic. Comply with security (like it or not). The Transportation Security Administration offers tips for dealing with security headaches.
- Driving: Avoid driving fatigued. Never drink and drive. Eyes on the road-NOT on your phone. Slow down and always stay buckled up. You’ll find many numerous handy links to safe road travel at the U.S. Dept of Transportation.
- Your lodging: stay in the best hotel you can afford. Never leave luggage or valuables or electronics in your vehicle. Use the concierge for local information or to obtain a guide. Use the room safe or front desk to secure valuables. Keep your doors locked at all times inside your room.
- Research and checklist: make a checklist of important items to bring. Know your destination. Check for travel alerts and warnings about local conditions. Check out: Bureau of Consular Affairs-a must when traveling abroad, and the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office for a different view of your destination.
Do your research. Be prepared. Be safe. Have fun!