With spring just around the corner, the American Safety Council wants to make sure everyone has the safest spring break possible. Today is the first of a weekly installment of Spring Break Safety Tips so you can be prepared and have fun without worry on your break.
Spring Break Safety Series Part One: Foreign Travel Safety Tips
Many spring breakers choose to travel abroad to destinations such as Mexico or the Caribbean. Experiencing a new culture can be fun, but before you go there are some safety measures to take to make sure your trip is nothing but fun.
You may be susceptible to diseases that your immune system isn’t prepared for in a foreign country so make sure you get any recommended vaccinations prior to your trip. The Center for Disease Control has a list of what vaccines are recommended for all travelers, most travelers, or some travelers depending on the country and your specific health concerns. Of course, since you will have to visit the doctor to receive vaccinations anyway, you will want to be sure to discuss with him or her any health concerns you have and where you will be traveling.
Some of the most recommended vaccinations for travelers are the flu shot, hepatitis A, typhoid, and malaria. The more you will be going off the beaten path away from tourist areas, the more important it is to get vaccines, especially if you like to eat adventurously.
Another tip to avoid getting sick while on vacation abroad is to avoid touching wildlife or stray animals. Many countries have large populations of stray dogs and cats. While the urge to feed or pet a cute, homeless animal may be overwhelming, it is not a good idea to come in contact with these animals. They could be carrying a host of diseases your immune system is not prepared for, not the least of which is rabies. If you are bitten by a stray dog or cat, you will need to get to a hospital immediately for a rabies shot and that is not a fun vacation activity. So while it may be difficult, ignore strays for your own safety.
A passport can take up to six weeks to arrive from the time you submit your application, so apply well before your trip. Some countries allow you enter with only a birth certificate, but the United States does not allow people to reenter the country from foreign countries without a passport. If you are traveling internationally, you will need a passport. Some countries will not let you enter if your passport expires within 6 months of your arrival, so this is something to keep in mind as well. You can contact the foreign embassy of the country where you are traveling to find out their exact requirements.
When traveling, it is advisable to keep the passport on you. There are passport holders that you wear under your shirt. Some of these holders also have pockets for money, plane tickets, and any other important documents you might have. It is also a good idea to make photocopies of your passport in the event that you do lose it or it is stolen. This way you can prove that you did have one, and any pertinent information needed from it will still be available, which makes replacing it much easier. You will need to visit a US Embassy or Consulate in the country where you are to get a new one.
The State Department has a way for travelers to stay informed on any travel warnings or alerts through their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP. When you sign up, you can enter any travel plans you have and you will receive updates and notifications if any issues should arise in the country where you plan to travel. It is also easier to get assistance from the State Department in the case of a lost or stolen passport when you are enrolled in STEP.
Tell People Your Travel Plans
No matter how many people you are traveling with, and especially if you travel alone, be sure to give your travel itinerary to at least one person who will still be in the country, such as your parents. This way if something happens, someone here will know where you were supposed to be or can get in touch with you in case of an emergency. With the ability to stay connected through smart phones, it is a good idea to post updates or send emails to notify of any changes in travel plans. Most cell phone service providers have an option to add international calling and roaming for just the period you will need it.
You should also notify your bank that you are traveling internationally so there is not a hold placed on your account. A bank may look at activity on your card in a foreign country as suspicious, and freeze the card. If this is your primary method of paying for food on lodging on the trip, this can leave you in a bind. A quick phone call to your bank can prevent this.
When traveling in general, whether abroad or just to a neighboring city, your best bet is to always be aware of your surroundings, avoid going places you don’t know well alone, and stay in well-lit and populated areas. Using these foreign travel tips, as well as your own judgment and common sense, you can come home with only fun memories of your trip abroad.
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