Traveling to a new country can be overwhelming, and common sense can fall by the wayside when travelers are overwhelmed with exciting new sights, foods, and cultures to explore. Sadly, failing to prepare for worst case scenarios can quickly backfire, making your highly anticipated trip take a dark turn. Here are a few safety concerns to consider and suggestions on how to mitigate your risks while traveling internationally.
Theft or Lost Items
Pickpocketing is a common trip-ruiner for unsuspecting travelers everywhere, especially in major international tourist hubs such as Barcelona, Paris, and Rome. With no shortage of tourists to practice the tricks of their trade on, professional thieves abroad are so slick that even seasoned travelers sometimes fall prey to being scammed or robbed. In extremely crowded, unfamiliar territory, it is necessary to take safety precautions in order to prevent your important documents, money, or expensive valuables from being swept away. While there are a multitude of anti-theft daypacks and travel bags on the market, my personal favorite is the pricey, yet highly secure Loctote Flak Sack (www.loctote.com). Loctote’s Flak Sacks are cut-resistant, lockable, and RFID protected, making them nearly impossible for pickpockets to break into. What’s great about Loctote is their bags’ abilities to be locked to stationary items such as chairs for added security while dining in restaurants or traveling on busy trains. I carried a Flak Sack Sport throughout southern Italy and was never once concerned about the personal belongings on my back while taking metros and wandering down bustling streets.
Less costly precautionary measures include never flashing expensive jewelry, accessories, and smartphones, as well as carrying money and valuables in front or internal pockets (no back pockets, please). Additionally, always pack physical photocopies of passports, IDs, insurance cards, and other important documents in case an unfortunate trip to the U.S. Embassy is necessary.
Illness and Injury
There is nothing worse than waiting months for a major trip, only to get sick the second you land in your destination. Depending on the country or city you’re traveling to, pharmacy hours and access to over-the-counter medications can vary. To be safe, stock up on cold and flu remedies, anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory medications, and first-aid items before leaving the country and carry them with you in your carry-on luggage. Be sure to pack extra doses of your prescription medications in case of unexpected delays or difficulties returning home. If you want to be ultra-prepared for health concerns abroad, shop around for travel insurance that includes emergency medical care, and check with your current U.S. health insurance provider to see what’s already covered in your current plan.
I’ve heard countless stories of travelers who unexpectedly experienced “airplane ear” or even a rupturing of their eardrums mid-flight due to air pressure changes. If you happen to be experiencing allergy or upper respiratory symptoms a week or two ahead of your trip, visit your doctor and have your ears checked out before stepping onto the plane. Purchase earplugs, take decongestants and nasal spray, or use chewing gum to help your ears adjust to air pressure changes and prevent pain or hearing loss.
Another mistake travelers often make, especially in 2022, is an over-reliance on technology. Even with an international phone and data plan (which I highly recommend), there is no guarantee that your destination or accommodation will have adequate cell service or a fast wireless internet connection. Print physical copies of your hotel reservations, train tickets, and bus tickets to prevent any technology hiccups. I also strongly advise travelers to invest in a portable power bank (Anker is an excellent brand) to charge phones, cameras, and tablets on the go. Depending on the size of the power bank, airlines might prohibit them from being included in checked luggage due to safety concerns, so pack it in your carry-on to keep it in the cabin with you throughout the flight.