We all look forward to an adventure far from home with postcard locations and memories to last a lifetime.
But the trials of getting there often tarnish a trip before it begins. Travelers find themselves dealing with over-crowded flights, long security lines and draconian baggage allowances.
Navigating a destination's government rules, local resources and regulations can be daunting. Geographic challenges, along with climate and weather, can all turn a dream vacation into a logistical nightmare.
Preparation is key and hopefully some of these tips will help you head off common problems before they start.
Generally, if traveling on a U.S, passport, it must be valid for six months AFTER the last day of your vacation.
Always check entry and visa requirements of your destination with your travel agent or find out from your destination country's immigration department.
Do not wait until the last minute to get your passport renewed as there is a backlog.
Take a photo of your passport and keep it in your phone. Email a copy to yourself and a trusted family member or friend.
Purchase trip insurance to protect you in the event of illness, injury or other covered event. If scuba diving, make sure to obtain dive insurance that includes evacuation.
Pack proof of medical insurance and make sure you know how to contact your insurance company in the event of an emergency.
Determine how much cash you will need for your trip. Prepare your cash in nothing larger than a $20 bill and make sure bills have no marks, folds , creases or tears. (Many countries and currency exchanges will not accept damaged bills. )
Make sure you have soft and hard copies of all travel documents - itineraries, tickets, trip vouchers, transfers and hotel confirmations.
Find out if any electrical transformers or adaptors will be required at your destination. (A great thing to ask your travel agent!)
Designate a trusted family member or friend to be your liaison here at home, should you run into trouble or delays on your trip. Consider giving them a key to your home in case they need access.
Alert your credit card company that you will be traveling and to authorize foreign transactions.
Contact mobile carriers to activate international service and avoid high data and phone charges.
Install your airline's app on your mobile device. Make sure it works before leaving home.
Install your airline's personal device entertainment app.
Use 24-hour advance check-in on your mobile device.
Find out baggage allowances and costs ahead of time. Pay for baggage at online check-in and save money.
Pack and WEIGH your bags before leaving for the airport. Invest in a small, hand luggage scale to avoid the dreaded "shuffle of shame," redistributing all of your personal items and the baggage counter.
Bring something to do and have it in your carry on. Delays can be long and boring.
Make sure to have your mobile device charger handy and use it whenever you can. There's no telling where your next charge will come from and not all planes are equipped with outlets.
Bring or buy snacks and keep them with you. Delays often extend past when airport stores and restaurants are closed. Delays waiting for takeoff can exhaust on-board food supplies.
Make sure to have earbuds or headphones for on-board entertainment. Earplugs and maybe a sleep mask if you want to catch some zzzzzzzs.
Carry a refillable water bottle. Refill whenever you can from a safe source. Being thirsty on a plane to waiting to take off, and then even longer for service in the air, is miserable and risks dehydration.
Carry a light jacket or sweater for cold planes. (Most planes use hepa filters that scrub the air of microbes so keep those vents open.)
Carry sanitizing wipes and use them. Wipe down seat arms, tray tables and entertainment system. Use them on bathroom surfaces and touch as little as possible.
Carry hand sanitizer and use it. If you are a Monk fan, now is your time to shine.
Do get up and walk around. Flex your legs and feet. Wear compression stockings to help with circulation.
Don't walk around in your socks and don't wear them in the bathroom. Yuk. Just don't.
Sunscreen, of course. But make sure it is reef safe, which also means human safe, too.
Apply and reapply. Then apply again.
Bring something to cover your head, and not just a sun hat for the beach.
Make certain to have something to protect your head in the water while swimming or snorkeling. When hair gets wet, it exposes the scalp and sunscreen washes off. This is a really painful burn, so protect your head.
It is the tropics. There are bugs. I am sorry.
In many locations, simple items like this are not readily available. Hopefully, you won't need any of these, but if you do, you will be REALLY glad you have them.
Make sure to have comfortable shoes that are appropriate for your adventure.
Bring a water bottle and plan for adequate hydration.
Carry rain gear, warm clothes and/or clothes for hot weather.
Consider carrying a GPS locator/satellite communicator, such as a Garmin In Reach, if you will be in remote areas with limited access to emergency services.
Check with your doctor to see if any specific vaccinations are required for your destination.
Talk to your travel agent about local customs, attire and cultural expectations. Being respectful of your destination and being a good visitor is always appreciated by your hosts.