12 March 2004


Jim Rink (313) 336-1513

Whether it’s spring break in Cancun or a family ski trip to the Alps, a little homework done now can mean an A-plus vacation later for international travelers.

AAA offers 10 travel tips to keep a long-awaited getaway worry-free.

As you travel:

  • Start early. Order your passport at least three months before your departure date. If you’’ve reached the age 18, consider obtaining an International Drivers Permit (IDP). Whether or not you intend to drive, IDP photo identification and translation make it easier to communicate with foreign authorities.
  • Investigate health care coverage. Will your insurance plan cover you overseas? Consider trip insurance and a personal protection policy. If you cancel your trip, lose your luggage or need medical assistance, supplemental coverage could be invaluable.
  • Do your homework. Consult the U.S. Department of State and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention for health and travel advisories. Familiarize yourself with the language and local currency. Study the customs of the places you plan to visit -- particularly those involving interaction with the opposite sex.
  • See your doctor. Request a letter detailing pertinent medical information, including medications and copies of your prescriptions. For medicines containing narcotics, include written justification for the prescription. Ask that the list include the names of generic equivalents. Carry an extra pair of glasses, and copies of eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions.
  • Duplicate travel documents. Photocopy your passport, airline ticket, travelers checks, medical information, itinerary, and emergency contact addresses and phone numbers with country codes. Carry one copy in a suitcase and leave a duplicate with a tour guide and family member. Carry two extra passport photos.
  • Leave valuables at home. Replace expensive jewelry and equipment with a disposable camera and inexpensive watch. Avoid gold and gold-tone jewelry. Use a money-belt or necklace purse instead of a fanny pack. Be cautious when dealing with street vendors and crowds.
  • Stay alert. Whenever possible, travel with a group. Don’’t talk to or accept drinks or rides from strangers. Keep information about your hotel and room number private. Inquire about safety concerns as you leave your hotel. Alert fellow travelers to your destination and return time.
  • Know where you’’re going. Carry a piece of stationery with the hotel name and address. Buy a pocket-sized map and consult it discreetly should you get lost. Find a quiet corner or a busy, well-lit store to choose your route. In any building, note the location of exit doors.
  • Be informed. Register with the U.S. Embassy. Listen to local news for information about criminal activity or unfriendly political developments. Avoid clothing or places that mark you as an American. Arrange for an international phone card and practice overseas dialing. In the face of trouble, quickly leave the area.
  • Say "no" to drugs. The rights we have in the United States do not apply when you leave the country. Most countries do not differentiate between those who use and traffic in drugs. The punishments for violating drug laws can be severe. For additional travel tips, consult the U.S. Department of State Web site at www.state.gov.