Get Travel Tips about what to bring with you to your next destination. We have travel tips on travel visas, insurance, medical advice, flight planning and more:
Travel Tips – Visas
Cruise companies make travel visa arrangements on behalf of their passengers to enter countries where cruise ship excursions are running. If you are traveling on your own, visas are your own personal responsibility. You can frequently pay for visas at the airport as you enter a country. US cash for Visas at the airport seems to resolve issues reasonably quickly, but this never works in countries such as Brazil and Russia. A visa for Brazil and for Russia is absolutely required in advance. Visiting the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls and hoping to arrange a visa to the Brazilian side at the border crossing? It’s not going to happen! In order to guarantee your ability to enter a country, purchasing a visa in advance can reduce stress and simplify your travel.
Travel Visas – References
Here are some sources for travel tips on visa requirements and processing:
Visitors to Europe should be aware of the requirement for a visa for stays longer than 3 months in a six month period. This applies to countries which are members of the Schengen Zone. An excellent source of information on Schengen Zone visas is the web site of Schengen Visa Info.
Travel Tips – Do I Need Travel Insurance?
Our travel tips – get travel insurance for several reasons:
- Trip Cancellation can save you the cost of your entire vacation if you get sick, a family member becomes ill and you can’t travel or something like a natural disaster prevents you from reaching your destination.
- Trip Interruption can save you the expense of flight delays, illness during travel or returning from your vacation early due to an emergency.
- Extended Medical Benefits cover the additional costs of medical treatment and hospitalization. Physician costs can be extremely costly in foreign countries and aren’t typically covered by regular medical insurance plans.
Travel Insurance – Cruise Lines
Cruise Lines and online travel companies provide their own insurance, but their insurance is restricted to trip cancellation and interruption. Some cruise lines are also beginning to offer Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) insurance which is more flexible than commercial policies. Under CFAR you could cancel simply because you don’t feel like going any more.
Employer or Private Travel Insurance
Many employers have insurance plans where employees can purchase travel insurance. The American Automobile Association is a reputable source for those who don’t have easy access through an existing plan.
Travel Tips – Medical Advice
The following travel tips medical advice is presented as an overview and not as an official guide. Make sure you consult a physician or specialist for requirements. Carry your medicines with you on the plane, so that lost luggage won’t separate you from your prescriptions.
Medical Travel Advice – The Basics
Inoculations aren’t required for travel in many locations, such as Europe or North America. However, it’s good medical travel advice for everyone to inoculate against:
- Tetanus – Inoculation is good for 10 years, but a booster at 5 years is recommended if you’ve had a dirty wound or cut exposed to animal waste. Tetanus is a bacteria carried in dirt and waste.
- Polio – If you had a polio vaccination more than 10 years ago, the booster is good for life. It just makes good sense to cover this one off.
Travel Tips – Treating Traveler’s Diarrhea
Your doctor might prescribe cipro (ciprofloaxacin) as a medication to bring along as a travel tip. Cipro is good for quickly combatting diarrhea. Consider taking Dukoral by Sanofi Pasteur before your trip, if you are heading to an area where local foods typically cause traveler’s diarrhea. Doctors frequently recommend it and use it themselves when traveling. It’s a raspberry flavored vaccine that you drink before your trip. Dukoral provides protection from E coli for 3 months and from cholera for 2 years. It does not prevent all types of traveler’s diarrhea, so it’s important to take steps to avoid contaminated food and drink.
Travel Tips – Avoiding Traveller’s Diarrhea
- Don’t drink unsealed bottled water or take ice in your drinks.
- Avoid salads, since these may have been washed in unsafe water.
- Wash your hands or use sanitizer before touching any food.
- Eat cooked foods immediately and avoid reheated food.
- Don’t eat raw seafood.
- Avoid tap water for brushing your teeth.
- Consider using ElectroLyte Gastro, a non prescription powder added to water and used to balance electrolytes and keep you healthy. It comes in small travel packets.
If you still get sick, fluid intake and Imodium for those over 12 is recommended. If you are still having trouble, a good multi-spectrum drug such as a cipro prescription can provide rapid relief.
Your doctor might prescribe amoxicillin as a medication to bring along for use in combatting bacterial infections.
Required Inoculation for Specific Countries:
- Yellow fever – Yellow fever is a virus transmitted by the bite of female yellow fever mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) in tropical South America and tropical Africa. These mosquitoes bite during the day. Many countries in or near the tropics require an International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever. Some countries require the certificate based on the country you have come from. For example, you do not need a yellow fever certificate to enter Tanzania from Amsterdam, but you will need one on your return trip if your flight stops in Kenya. Sometimes it’s easier to get the injection than it is to confirm that you will need it. The immunization is effective 10 days after injection and is valid for 10 years.
- Meningococcal disease – This is transmitted by bacteria and affects a narrow band of countries in tropical Africa where inoculation is required.
Vaccinations – Hepatitis
- Hepatitis A – Given in 3 doses with the second dose at 1 month and the third at 6 months. The efficacy 2 – 4 weeks after the inoculation is 94% for one does, 99% for two doses and 100% for 3 doses of Twinrix. Twinrix also covers Hep B in the same inoculation. An inoculation for Hep A is good for about 20 years. Hep A is found in the feces of people with Hepatitis A and is usually spread by close personal contact (including sex or sharing a household). It can also be spread by eating food or drinking water contaminated with Hepatitis A.
- Hepatitis B – Given in 3 doses with the second dose at 1 month and the third at 6 months. The efficacy 2 – 4 weeks after the inoculation is 31%, 78% and 98% for Twinrix, which also covers Hep A in the same inoculation. The inoculation can also be done in an accelerated method at 0, 7 and 21 days, plus a fourth inoculation at 12 months. The accelerated method isn’t frequently recommended, but it can be useful protection for Hep B when you don’t have much time in advance of your travel. An inoculation for Hep B is good for about 15 years. Hepatisis B is found in blood and certain body fluids. Exposure to infected blood in any situation can be a risk for transmission.
Travel Tips – Fever and Cholera
- Malaria fever – carried by female anopheles mosquitoes in tropical countries such as Africa. These mosquitoes are very large and transmission only occurs within 20 minutes of the mosquito biting someone who already has malaria. The prevention includes the drug Malarone, staying inside at dusk and dawn, wearing protective clothing, sleeping under a treated insect net and using a DEET repellent.
- Typhoid fever – Typhoid fever or typhoid is transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the feces from an infected person. It is only transmitted between people and does not affect animals. The two recommended vaccines for typhoid are the live, oral Ty21a vaccine (Vivotif Berna) and injected Typhoid polysaccharide vaccine (Typhim Vi by Sanofi Pasteur or Typherix). Both the oral and the injected version are roughly 50% to 80% effective. Typhoid immunization is good for about 2 years by injection and 5 years if taken orally. The oral method is a bit more challenging as it’s taken in 4 doses taken every other day and you can’t eat two hours before or one hour after it’s ingested. You also have to keep the serum refrigerated..
- Cholera – an intestinal infection brought on by fecal matter contaminating food and water due to poor sanitation. It primarily occurs in refuge camps. Dukoral provides oral protection against cholera for a couple of years.
General Advice on Protection from Mosquitoes
- Use mosquito nets while sleeping.
- Outside use insect repellants and light colored clothing that covers as much of your skin surface as possible.
- Use 30% DEET on exposed skin surfaces and apply this after your sun screen has been applied. Allow 10 – 30 minutes to absorb and dry.
- Don’t use scents and perfumes.
- For malaria, take pills like Malarone as well.
Medical Advice – References
The best site for medical travel advice is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Want to go over your vaccination needs with a professional and obtain an International Vaccination Certificate? We recommend looking locally for a travel medicine and vaccination center in your area. The most common example of an inoculation requiring an International Certificate is yellow fever. These professional centers will provide a proper document, signed by the administrator of the vaccine and stamped with an internationally approved seal. The certificate can then be carried with your passport. Many other vaccinations such as Hep A, Hep B and tetanus can also be arranged through a medical travel center, through your family doctor or by a walk in clinic.
Travel Tips – Air Travel Planning
Here are some sites that I really like for air travel planning:
- Google Flights – I use Google Flights to find cities where I can layover after an intercontinental flight. Start in reverse by entering your destination as your starting point and choose a destination a few hours away. The Explore function will give you possible airports for your layover. Then start over from your starting destination with the layover you are interested in. Google finds the best rates and also suggests other start and end dates to consider in order to save money. Their service includes notification on price changes for flights that you decide to track. The only downside I’ve found it that sometimes when you are ready to book, the Google site sends you off to a couple different airlines to do the booking yourself.
- Expedia – Many people use flight comparison sites like Kayak, but I find these more annoying than useful. When I’m done searching Google Flights, more often then not, I end up booking with Expedia.
- Seat Guru – When you’ve decided on a flight, Seat Guru let’s you view the seating plan for the airplane that you will be flying on. Use it to find out whether you are over the wings, near an emergency exit or too close to a bathroom. There are even ratings and explanations as to why some seats are worse than others. For example, service carts and passengers might bump into some seats more often than others.
Travel Tips – The Schengen Zone
The integration of the European Economic Union has made travel in Europe much easier, but it’s actually the Schengen Agreement that is directly responsible. A total of 26 countries have joined the Schengen Area, but not all of them are members of the European Economic Union and not all of them have accepted the Euro as their currency. Border controls between member countries have been removed, however, hotels must register all foreign visitors and airlines with internal flights between these countries may continue to require passports for their own security requirements.
Schengen Restrictions on Length of Visit
Visitors can only travel in the Schengen Zone for up to 3 months in any 6 month period, which sometimes surprises North Americans. Those who stay longer need a visa. Ignoring these rules can result in fines and deportation. Typical authorities discover the need for a visa when they review passports on exiting the Schengen Zone.
Schengen Visa – Introduction
The Schengen Visa is required to enter the Schengen Zone under conditions required by the European Union’s Common Visa Policy. More than 40 countries are exempt from the requirement for a Schengen Visa, including Australia, Canada, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, the USA and the United Kingdom. See Wikipedia for the list of countries exempt from a Schengen Visa.
Schengen Visa Confusion
Four countries are members of the Schengen Zone, but not members of the European Union: Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden. Two members of the European Union have opted out of the Schengen Zone: Ireland and the United Kingdom. Four countries are members of the European Union, have not joined the Schengen Zone, but apply the European Union’s Common Visa Policy: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. Confused? So are lots of people.
Members of the Schegen Zone and Schengen Visa are:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark (excluding Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands (excluding Caribbean Islands), Norway (excluding Svalbard), Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
Countries using the Euro as their currency:
Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Vatican City
Countries that are members of the European Union:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (voted to withdraw in 2016)
Travel Tips – Eurail Pass
Read our blog for information about buying and using a Eurail Pass. Also find information about the Swiss Travel Pass too!
What to Bring – Chargers and Electrical Adapters
There are inexpensive adapters available for countries around the globe, so it’s easy to use your portable devices wherever you go. You can also purchase inexpensive, yet reliable camera batteries and battery chargers from places such as eBay and Amazon. Try to ensure you’ve got backup power with the least amount of wiring to transport. Want to know which electrical adapter to bring with you? Check out our WorldStandards database.
Travel Tips – Money
US Cash is often a good idea to bring. It’s a popular currency that is widely accepted throughout the service industry of the travel world. It’s great for cabs, for tipping and even for some restaurant bills. You can also convert US$ to local currencies at airports and exchanges during your trip, but we recommend keeping US$ for direct use.
Bring a charge card or bank card and draw funds in local currency when you arrive or replenish funds along the way. Set up notifications of international transactions with your charge card company. Bring a spare charge card for emergencies.
Check whether your banks wants to know where you will be traveling. Some banks block international transactions unless they know you are abroad.
Change the PIN on your bank card to 4 digits for travel in Europe, as many banking systems throughout the world do not accept more than 4 digits.
Ensure the account you will withdraw from is under “Checking”, as many machines don’t recognize “Savings”.
Safeguarding Your Possessions
- Use a day pack for your most valued possessions and carry it with you on planes, trains, buses and automobiles.
- During travel in congested areas, carry your day pack on your chest. Turn the pack so the zippers are against your chest. Don’t feel awkward – it sends a clear message to pick pockets that they won’t be successful in approaching you. They will pick an easier target instead.
- Don’t hang your bag over the back of a chair. Secure the strap under your chair leg when sitting.
- When touring a city, leave most of your valuables in a hotel safe each day. Tuck a little cash and a charge card in a secure zippered inner pant pocket. This adds safety and is easy to access when you need to use it. If you think you need a money belt during sightseeing, you are carrying too much with you. Plan to lose everything that day and you will be surprised how much more enjoyable your day will actually be.
- When touring, don’t bring jewelry. Thieves will rip a necklace off you while you are wearing it and spoil your whole vacation.
- Remember that the higher the concentration of people, the better it is for pick pockets.
- Carry a pocket camera that slides deep in a pocket or store it in a Velcro pocket. Thieves are targeting the person who has their hands full.
What to Bring – Smartphones
For international travel, smartphones can be problematic. You must obtain an expensive plan from your provider or buy a new SIM card for the country you are in, which may be difficult. Also, not all SIM cards work in all cell phones. However, a cell phone is still a great way to keep in touch over free Wifi. If you have a phone that isn’t locked, services like KnowRoaming are a great option.
What to Bring – Tablets
iPads and Tablets – Free wireless is becoming more and more common at coffee shops, B&Bs and even major hotels. In addition to its email and internet access, you can install internet calling applications and buy minutes to your home country. Even without the internet, you can still have access to books, music, games, contacts and a calendar. A Camera Adapter allows you to back up your photos from an SD card onto the tablet. Leave the bulky laptop at home.
What to Bring – Clothing
The secret to easy travel is packing lightly. You will be amazed at how many weeks you can travel with nothing more than a 20 inch suit case and a small back pack. Make sure the suit case has rollers. Put your liquids and small metallic souvenirs in a clear plastic bag and stow this in the back pack, so you have easy access at airport security. Carry your luggage with you on and off airplanes, trains, hotels and cruise ships. You’ll wonder why you ever used to check your bags.
Travel Tips – Space Saving Ideas:
- Small bottles of shampoo, sun tan lotion and tooth paste take up less space and don’t cause problems at airport security either.
- Pack the toiletries on top where you don’t have to dig them out each night. A separate see through container is easy to hang in a bathroom and makes it easy to access the contents.
- Buy quick dry clothing such as socks, undergarments, pants and shirts from travel or sporting stores. Wash these in the evening with hand soap and warm water. In the morning they will be dry and ready to wear or pack. You can reduce the amount of clothing you bring by more than 50%.
- For cruise ship formal nights, a man can get by with one dress shirt, one tie and a good pair of casual pants. Leave the suit at home. For women, mix and match tops and skirts to reduce your number of outfits.
- Make your clothing multi purpose. Pajamas, a long sleeved T shirt and a light gortex shell can help you survive freezing temperatures in Chamonix and downpours in Rome. Mix and match layers of clothing to the weather conditions and leave your heavy coat at home.
- Get a good quality walking shoe that will also work for the formal night on a cruise for men. Avoiding the need for extra shoes saves a tremendous amount of space, but is a major challenge for women trying to pack light.
Locking Your Luggage
Don’t lock bags at the airport check in. Security staff do random inspections of bags after check in and will open locks with lock cutters or tear into the bag if necessary to gain entry. If its too valuable to lose, carry it on the plane. Visit the Transportation Security Administration for packing tips and suggestions on how to secure your baggage during your next trip.
Ever end up calling home from another country only to hear a message saying your call can’t be completed? Often it’s because you don’t have the right setup in your phone contacts. If you don’t have the “+” sign in front on the “1” when calling North America, your call might fail. Here’s a web site to use to get International Dialing Codes correct.
Technology has changed photograph quality for travelers forever at a remarkable pace, but the changes aren’t over yet. Pixel size, image stabilization and memory card size used to all be important, however these aren’t even topics to consider any more. Smartphones now take excellent quality photos and they keep getting even better. Smart phones also offer the convenience of editing pics on the phone and sharing them easily. There are 3 types of camera that still offer some advantages over a smart phone: underwater cameras, digital pocket zooms and an SLR.
My Lumix DMC-TS3 is one of my favorite travel cameras. The 12 mega pixel camera is compact, has excellent quality HD video and a 4.6x optical zoom. It’s shock proof and water proof 40 feet. It’s not the stats that are impressive. It gets excellent color in the day, stable pictures in low light means it has quality image stabilization, plus it has smooth video. The adjustable wrist strap keeps it safely with you while you swim. I got great pics of reef sharks when I snorkeled in Moorea.
Digital Pocket Zooms
I love these new cameras. For my trip to Argentina, Chile and Brazil, I took two of these and recharged the batteries daily. They are 20x zoom, high pixels and take good movies too. What we like best is the way they slip so easily into a pocket when not in use. You instantly become a less attractive option to those targeting tourists. The colored ones also make it easier to find the camera itself, especially when its buried in a back pack.
Digital SLR cameras are a little bulky and it’s inconvenient to switch lenses, but they do have features that exceed those of the Extended Zoom. The features I like best about them are the ease with which you can quickly zoom/ frame a shot and the rapid fire pictures it can take. For my trip to the Serengeti, I used a Canon Rebel with a 250mm zoom lens. This was an excellent camera. I can’t say the quality of the pics exceed a pocket zoom, but I got excellent photos of birds in flight that you simply can’t get with other types of camera. With the digital SLR, you will have many more pictures to choose from and will end up with better wildlife pics.
When you are traveling, ensure that you always spare camera batteries. In countries like Tanzania, they often turn off electricity during the night, so you might need to leave one battery charging in the hotel while you are out on safari. You can buy spare batteries and chargers inexpensively at Amazon. Make sure you also have adapters for all the countries that you will visit. Europe uses a two pin adapter while Britain and its colonies use a three prong. Having both available is important. If you layover in the Netherlands before your African safari, you don’t want to end up with dead batteries on the first day of your safari.