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The following are suggestions to make your travel smooth and memorable for all the right reasons.

Language/Culture
Before traveling to a new destination, try to get as much information as possible about the destination. If you are not able to speak the language spoken there, learning a few key phrases will also make a big difference. Do try to learn about the local customs and traditions, it will make you better appreciate the people and the place.
Hotels

Stay in hotels on well-traveled streets and in safer areas of any city. The more expensive hotels usually have better security. Stay on lower level floors in case of fire or other need to evacuate quickly. When returning to your hotel at night, use the main entrance. Be observant before entering parking lots.

Do not answer your hotel room door without verifying who it is. If someone claims to be a hotel employee, call the front desk to verify. Never invite strangers into your room. Close and lock your hotel room door at all times. Check sliding glass doors, windows and connecting room doors. Acquaint yourself with the location of stairways, fire escapes, exits and alarms.

Inform the authority immediately if you see any suspicious activity or object.

Transportation

Try to get your travel to and from the airport organized before hand. Most airports, ports and train stations have areas clearly marked for taxis and car service pick-up. Do not enter any vehicle that does not have a proper license or does not pick you up from the designated area.

If you will be renting a car, get maps in advance and clearly write out the directions from the airport to your hotel. If you need to stop for directions, go to well-lit public areas. Keep the phone numbers of your destinations with you.

Lock your car doors while driving. Do not pick up strangers or stop for people you don’t know. Police cars will have blue and red lights; do not stop for cars flashing their high-beams.

General demeanor

Do not discuss your travel plans or itinerary publicly. Vary your schedule, if possible. Vary travel routes when possible.

Maintain a low profile. Dress down, if possible, and leave the expensive jewelry and watches at home. Do not display large amounts of cash or travelers checks. Look like a person of modest means. Do not leave your itinerary or other sensitive business information in your hotel room.

Blend in with the locals as best you can so you do not want to stand out. Cultural and racial differences may make this impossible, but you can still make yourself look like a person of modest means.

Be alert for surveillance, especially in high-risk countries. Kidnappers and extortionists identify their targets and then watch their potential victims to determine daily patterns.

Avoid disturbances and civil demonstrations, as they may become violent. Seek safe shelter away from the disturbance as quickly as possible.

Valuables/Credit cards

Keep your valuables, including passports, etc., in a money belt concealed under your clothes. Or, use the hotel safe to store valuables. Keep a copy of your passport with you at all times, but separate from where you are carrying your passport. In high-risk countries, it is a good idea to check in with the Embassy and provide them with a copy of your passport in case you need to have it replaced. Pickpockets and thieves operate widely in many cities around the world, but especially near tourist attractions.

Whenever you use your credit card, keep an eye on it until it is returned to you. Always verify that it is your credit card before storing it again. Check credit cards when they are returned.

If you are unfamiliar with the local language, carry a card or matchbook with the hotel’s name and address. You can show the card to the taxi driver or police officer if you get lost.

Be careful when out on the town at night. Watch your drinks being poured and never accept a drink from a stranger. Get advice from your hotel concierge or other trusted source about reputable restaurants and other entertainment. Avoid being out on the streets late at night. Have your hotel arrange for car service or taxi service and know the addresses and directions before getting in the car.

Photocopy important documents

Remember, your passport is your most valuable travel document when you are in a foreign country. Keep a copy of your passport number in a safe, separate place and immediately report the loss or theft of your passport or visa to the U.S. embassy or consulate and the local police authorities.

Make several copies of your passport, traveler’s checks, credit cards, itinerary, airline tickets and other travel documents. Leave one copy with a relative or friend back home and carry one copy with you.

Take most of your money in traveler’s checks and record the serial numbers, denominations and date and location of the issuing agency. Remove all unnecessary credit cards from your wallet. Be sure to carry your credit card company’s telephone number in case your card is lost or stolen. Always report losses immediately.

Safety kit

If you’re charting unknown territory, you’re going to want to take extra precautions to avoid putting yourself in harm’s way. Plan for the worst. Pack a survival kit that includes your first aid kit, a map, compass, flashlight, knife, waterproof firestarter, personal shelter, whistle, warm clothing, sturdy hiking boots, rain wear, high-energy food and water. Ask your doctor about necessary immunizations. Take a first aid course before you leave and learn the basics of treating emergencies. Learn to recognize medical emergencies and respond to them immediately and appropriately, comforting the victim until help arrives. As common sense would dictate, avoid areas of natural hazards such as avalanche, rock fall, floods, and hazardous plants and animals, and check for potential hazards of terrain, sanitation (including infectious disease) and climate.

Travel Insurance

Finally, the best thing you can do for yourself to keep healthy and happy while on vacation is to purchase travel insurance. Neither Medicare nor Medicaid pays for care outside the United States, and most health insurance plans don’t, either. Travel insurance is advisable, especially since the odds are you or someone in your family will need to seek some type of medical assistance while away. Be sure to examine different policies, make careful inquiries and always read the fine print. www.nriol.net provides a comparison tool which allows you to compare several policies.

Although you can’t anticipate every contingency, these are steps you can take to ensure a healthy vacation. For travelers with special needs, your travel agent can assist you with any personalized services.