Even for seasoned travellers there’s a little bit of magic involved in hopping on a plane in Australia today and disembarking in a far-off destination like Istanbul or London tomorrow. For most people their travels will be a safe and wonderful experience, but things can go wrong. While you can’t control everything, a little bit of preparation can help to create cheerful memories.
Let’s start with something most people don’t associate with an overseas holiday - make sure your Will and powers of attorney are up to date and your executor and/or attorney know where to find important information. If there isn’t anyone that holds your power of attorney, consider appointing one before you leave. This can either be an enduring or a limited power of attorney.
Prepare a list of your accommodation details including addresses, phone numbers and dates. Place a hard copy in each of your bags and give copies to your travelling partners, including any accompanying children. It may help to reunite you with lost bags or lost companions, but is perhaps most useful when giving directions to taxi drivers. Showing them the written address avoids the inconvenience and expense that occurs when mispronunciation or a misunderstood accent delivers you to the wrong hotel.
Most of us rely on our phones to look after our contacts, so who could you get hold of if you lost your phone? Take hard copies of your key contacts list, including family members, travel insurer, credit card and travel card providers, banks, airline, and travel agent. Give a copy to your attorney or executor. It’s also a good idea to back up your phone to your home computer before you leave. If you do lose your phone you can upload everything back onto a new one upon your return.
Split cash, credit cards and travel money cards with your travelling companions. If travelling alone, consider taking two wallets (in separate bags or keep one in the hotel safe), so you have backup cash and cards if a wallet is lost or stolen.
Security screening, which now can include full body screening, can be intimidating and seem intrusive, but it’s there to make our travels safer. Follow your airline’s instructions on what can be taken in hand luggage otherwise certain items will be confiscated. Remove even the smallest items from your pockets, and if you want to keep your water bottle, you may have to empty it before screening. Be prepared to put your phone, wallet, watch, small change, belt and, in some cases, your shoes into the tray for x-ray scanning. You also have to remove your camera, laptop or tablet from hand luggage before it is scanned. This all takes time so allow for it before boarding.
Attracted by the beauty of Venice or Dubrovnik? So are several million other people. Crowds provide an ideal operating environment for pickpockets. So does public transport. In such situations stay alert to what’s going on around you. If you’re carrying a backpack, maybe wear it on your front. You don’t need to lock all the zips, perhaps tie them together with twist ties to slow down entry. This also can deter the unscrupulous from adding stuff without your knowledge. Wear shoulder bags diagonally across the body so they can’t simply be slipped off your shoulder. And choose bags with slash-resistant straps.
While credit cards are widely accepted, smaller restaurants may only take cash. If you’re relying on plastic to pay for a meal, check that cards are accepted before you sit down.
Do not use internet cafes or public Wifi to access your bank accounts. If you use these services to access social media, don’t save your login or password or any other personal information on the computer. These connections are never 100% secure.
Of course the aim is to travel with confidence and wonder, not fear. The purpose of these tips is to help build that confidence because when you’re fully prepared it’s easier to sit back, let your adventure unfold, and allow yourself to be touched by the magic of exotic destinations.