Did you know? Every single year, about three million people are injured in car accidents in the United States alone.
Hearing about that kind of statistic can be frightening, but it shouldn’t discourage you from exploring the world. Usually accidents happen because the people involved weren’t being careful enough, or were simply unprepared for the situation. Having the right travel preparation tips can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.
Travel preparation tips aren’t just for keeping you safe. Knowing how to plan and what to expect ahead of time can make your trip a lot more enjoyable, whether you’re traveling on vacation or for business.
To help you get the most out of your next trip, we’ve compiled some of the best travel preparation tips we could find. Many of these tips involve ways to maintain your health and wellness during your next trip. However, it should be noted that these are general travel preparation tips, not necessarily advice for traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic. While these travel preparation tips still apply during the pandemic, other precautions — such as carrying extra masks and remembering to wash your hands often — will also apply.
From buying traveler’s insurance to visiting the dentist before leaving, read on to discover the top 8 travel preparation tips.
Get Your Finances in Order
You’ve probably already been thinking about the financial aspect of traveling. In fact, you’ve probably been saving money for a while, or maybe you got a pay raise or credit increase. While that’s some fairly common sense advice, here we’re going to point out two often-overlooked ways to give yourself a financial boost: using travel rewards cards and no-fee ATM cards.
If you don’t already collect travel rewards points with your credit cards, you should consider opening up one or two cards with this feature. Many credit cards have welcome offers that give you extra points when you meet minimum spending requirements within a month or two of opening the account. While this isn’t a good reason to go buying things you don’t need, if you haven’t yet purchased the reservations, flights, or travel gear you need, getting a new rewards card to buy it with could be a great idea.
Next, if you have to pay a fee to withdraw money at ATMs with your debit card, you should look into switching to a no-fee card. You may have to set up a checking account with another bank to do that, but you should be able to find a free one without too much trouble. You can then transfer some cash to this account so you’ll have money to withdraw from ATMs whenever you need it, anywhere in the world, without paying hefty fees.
Get an Eye Exam
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that your sense of sight is one of your most important assets, especially when you’re traveling. From seeing clearly to drive to noticing warning signs while abroad, knowing your eyes are strong and functioning normally is important to enjoying an uneventful trip.
For starters, you should make sure to take good care of your eyes while you’re traveling. Bring extra pairs of sunglasses to protect them from the harsh sun (as well as to ensure you can still see clearly in bright light). If you wear glasses with corrective lenses or contacts, you should bring an extra set of those too, just to be safe. Don’t forget to pack some artificial tears or rewetting drops — cabin pressure and low humidity on airplanes can cause your eyes to become dry and irritated, and you never know when some eye drops will come in handy anyway.
You should strongly consider scheduling an eye exam with your local optometrist before heading out. This is especially relevant if you require vision correction, or if it’s been almost a year since your last eye exam. If you have an exam coming up in a few months, you’d better go ahead and get it done before your trip. After all, if you do have any unexpected vision issues, you’ll want to know about them before traveling, not afterwards.
Make Any Necessary Medical Preparations
If you’re taking medications, coping with a chronic health condition, or dealing with allergies, you already know that traveling can be more complicated for you than for most people. If any of these apply to you, you can simplify your travel preparation tips by planning for your health first thing.
This step will be different for each person, and only you know what’s important for you to prepare. If you take medications, make sure you have enough on hand to last throughout your trip. If you’re prone to experiencing unexpected allergic reactions or asthma attacks, make sure you have what you need to deal with them, just in case.
If you suffer from hearing loss or use hearing aids, you should visit your audiologist or hearing healthcare practitioner before you leave. Make sure your hearing hasn’t changed since your last appointment and that your hearing aids are in good working order. You should consider bringing an extra set, or at least remember to pack extra batteries for them. You might also ask your audiologist about additional assistive listening devices that might help you, such as a vibrating alarm, FM system, or Bluetooth connectivity to TV and phones, which can make your trip much more enjoyable.
Make Sure You Have the Insurance You Need
For some trips, your ordinary auto and health insurance is all you need to feel safe and avoid financial setbacks. This is probably the case if you’re taking a short weekend trip by car without making any expensive reservations or purchases. But for trips that involve a significant investment up-front, you should probably purchase travel insurance to make sure you don’t lose significant money along the way, especially if you don’t have a lot of money to spare for unforeseen setbacks. When it comes to traveling overseas, some countries even deny entry to anyone without qualifying travel insurance.
Travel insurance is usually there to offset the cost of having a flight, hotel room, or other reservation canceled. If the company you purchased the reservation from won’t reimburse you, your insurance company should. Some insurance plans even cover the cost of reservations if you decide to cancel your trip yourself, which can be important for people with demanding jobs. Travel insurance can also cover healthcare that isn’t covered by your health insurance, such as care required in a foreign country.
With benefits like these, you can see why having the right insurance is one of our top travel preparation tips. To learn about other ways travel insurance can make your life abroad easier, talk to your primary insurance provider, or do some research to find a reputable agent near you.
Watch Out for Aches and Pains
You only have to go on one long flight or extended drive to realize that traveling can be really hard on your body. It’s not that traveling isn’t healthy, but when you’re sitting in one place for that long, you begin to experience aches and pains. You don’t want something like that to spoil your trip, so our next travel preparation tips will involve steps to stay comfortable while abroad.
First of all, if you’re prone to experience backaches or joint pain in general, you should consider having this looked into before you leave. A back pain specialist can help you figure out what you need to do to alleviate and avoid back pain, whether you’re at home or on the road.
Once you’re ready to embark on your journey, make a point of warming up your body before you leave, much like you would before running or working out. Getting your body warm and limber before a long drive or flight can help keep you comfortable for at least the first few hours.
Finally, the best advice for staying comfortable during trips is to adjust your seat to be as comfortable as possible and to get up and stretch your legs as often as you can. Of course, in a plane your walking will be limited to occasional bathroom breaks, but if you’re traveling by car, you should take advantage of this by taking breaks often. If you simply won’t be able to get up or move around much during your trip, find some simple stretching or yoga exercises you can perform in limited space while sitting. Besides helping you stay comfortable, these can also keep your mind engaged during long, boring trips.
Catch Up on Dental Care
If there’s anything more frustrating and uncomfortable than aches and pains from traveling, it’s getting a sudden toothache while abroad. Good oral care is important no matter where you are, but in the days leading up to and during a trip, it’s even more important to care for your teeth, gums, and mouth.
For this tip, the same advice you get everywhere applies: brush your teeth properly at least twice per day, floss properly once per day, and use a gentle mouthwash to help kill unfriendly bacteria and avoid cavities. You may want to start brushing your teeth after every meal while you prepare for your trip, especially if you’re prone to tooth pain in general. Traveling puts additional stress on your body, which means your immune system isn’t always prepared for attacks from illnesses. Taking better care of your health leading up to and during travel can give your immune system the extra boost it needs to keep you feeling great.
As a precaution, you should consider getting a dental checkup before you leave. If you have a regular checkup or cleaning scheduled after your trip, you ought to get it done now instead, since you’ll want to know about any new problems before you head out. However, if you have a cosmetic dental care appointment planned, this might actually be better saved for after you get back, since you’ll want plenty of time to rest and recover after your treatment.
Plan Your Route and Activities Ahead of Time, But Keep it Loose
Some people like to go out the door without looking back or planning ahead, letting the road lead them. Others are meticulous planners, who dislike doing anything if they haven’t first thought it through and weighed all the pros and cons. While neither approach is necessarily better than the other, you might find it works better to plan your route and activities before leaving, then play it by ear as you go along, changing your plans whenever you like. This gives you the advantage of having things organized, while still allowing for in-the-moment fun and exploration.
A significant reason to outline your trip ahead of time is that, by deciding where you will go and what you will do, you’ll be able to determine how much money your trip will cost. You can choose activities and attractions to visit based on how much money you’re comfortable spending. This way you’ll avoid any unpleasant financial surprises, such as arriving in a new city only to realize you can’t afford any of the top attractions.
Another advantage of planning some things ahead is that you can better ensure that there will be seats or room available for you when you arrive. If you’re attending an event of some kind, or if you want a nice hotel room at a busy time of year, buying reservations well in advance can save you from being turned away at the door.
At this point in our discussion, it might start to look like planning everything out is simply the best way to go, but don’t overlook the value of keeping a loose schedule. Many people find that having too much planning makes things rigid and uninspired, and may even make them feel stressed out. Planning a few major things with lots of marginal room between them can get you the best of both worlds.
Pack a First Aid Kit
It goes without saying, but of all the travel preparation tips you should remember, bringing a first aid kit is pretty close to the top. Whether you’re hiking in the wilderness or staying in city areas, you never know when a slip, trip, or unexpected sharp edge will interrupt your plans.
Your first aid kit should have pain killers for relieving headaches, fevers, and mild sprains; antinausea or motion sickness medicine; antibacterial hand wipes or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; bandaids, bandages, and deep skin cut treatment products (like antibiotic ointment), especially if you’re traveling outdoors; gauze and adhesive tape; tweezers and scissors (note that scissors may not be allowed in carry-on bags on flights); disposable rubber gloves; and cough and cold medicines.
If you’re going to be outside, such as on the beach or in the woods, you should bring insect repellent, sunscreen, aloe gel for sunburns, and maybe calamine lotion for poison ivy and insect bites. And don’t forget your sunglasses — in fact, consider picking up an extra pair to keep in your suitcase in case you lose the ones you have.
There are a lot of things that go into planning and preparing for a trip. With these travel preparation tips, you should be well prepared for anything that happens to you during your adventure. Happy traveling!