When traveling internationally for business or pleasure, there are many things you need to know to make your journey safer and more comfortable, as well as more economical. Here are five tips to consider before you take off.
1. General Airline Security
For security, check the Travel Security Administration (TSA) guidelines before you pack so you do not waste time and frustration during security check-in. This especially relates to liquids (including some cosmetics) and other “potentially dangerous” items you can carry on a plane. When using foreign carriers, read their guidelines carefully.
2. Know Baggage Limitations
Many airlines are now making money from baggage. Study their limitations! How many bags are you allowed, what size can you carry on, and how much weight per bag? If you travel by air overseas, there are many small, economical airlines that can be extremely cheap — if you follow their limitations. One time, we took Ryan Air from France to England, and their charges for overweight or oversized bags were much more than the airfare. We decided that if we wanted to take a lot of souvenirs with us back to England (yes, many bottles of wine!), we were better off paying the higher fare to ride on Eurostar than Ryan Air. If you are a “heavy” traveler, you may be better off paying the fare on a more expensive airline that has much lower restrictions.
3. Prepare for Lost Luggage
It’s still not uncommon for an airline to lose luggage. In your carry-on bag, you may want to include one change of underwear, shirt or blouse, and any necessary items just in case. If you’re traveling with children, in addition to some clothing, include toys, snacks, and anything else they may require, such as medicines.
4. Booking Accommodations in Advance
It can be really convenient to book a hotel in advance, especially for your first night in a new destination. But what if your flight is delayed or canceled? Make sure of late check-in arrangements or policy on cancellation. Some cheap hotels in Europe do not have a night staff, so you cannot get in if you arrive after hours; others will charge you full rate if you cancel a certain time (hours or days) before your booking. In some countries, cheap hotels may not be in the safest of areas.
5. Renting a Car
Renting a car can cut down on travel expenses if you are going to stay for two weeks or longer in one or more countries and want to move around to see the sights. However, there are potential problems you should be aware of, including lost bookings. Then, you have to start over.
A month before you leave, make sure you get an international driving permit and that you feel comfortable with the driving conditions (side of the road, narrow lanes, cliff roads, etc.) in the countries you plan to visit. Make sure you have identification and available cash in case of emergency.
If you book with a foreign company, make sure they’re large enough to trust. You want the car to be there when you arrive, the size you booked, and in good condition with a full tank of gas. Be very careful if they say: “It’s half-full, but you can return it like that.” Either get it in writing or get them to fill it before you drive off. Look it over VERY carefully for any dents, scratches, etc. Have them note any imperfections on the contract, and then take a photo of it (carry a camera or camera phone) while it’s in their shop. Know where you will drop it off and if there are extra charges for different sites.
Get all insurance questions answered in advance. That’s where you generally get socked for extra charges. Decide if you want full coverage, third-party liability, etc., and what it will cost. This is generally safer with a domestic company that has foreign offices. If you do get into an accident, carry a very small notebook for names, addresses, and insurance info, as well as that camera. In certain countries where parking is tight, it may be safer to pay for parking than take a chance on someone dinging your car while it’s parked, which happens often! Stay in hotels that have adequate parking included.
Unless you rent a car with GPS included, it will probably cost around 10 Euro (or equivalent) per day to rent one. If you own a GPS, you may consider buying the software (map) for the country or area if you’ll stay for a long visit or perhaps return.
Whether you travel for business or pleasure, it is best to think safety first. There are many other aspects of international travel you should consider, and, if you’re new at it, consult with a good travel agent first. No matter where or why you travel, you want to come back happy and safe!