By D. Levi Harrison, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon, Author & Veteran Traveler
Traveling is one of the greatest forms of education. It gives us an opportunity to learn and explore different cultures, cuisines, and people. Travelling brings geography to life in a truly 3-dimensial way. I enjoy learning about life by visiting places throughout the United States as well as abroad.
As a physician and seasoned traveler, I have so many interesting travel tips to share with you based on both my medical and personal experience, which will increase the safety of your trip physically and emotionally.
General Travel Tips
1) Have a set budget for your trip and daily expenses. I recommend having at least 25% more available just in case you need it.
2) Keep a journal of your daily travel; this can also be recorded via social media. Be careful if you post your travel plans on social media because this will let everyone know that you are not at home which can be dangerous, this can give thieves insight about when you are home and when you are coming back. I would recommend having a friend or family check your residence every few days.
3) Read about the place where you are going to visit so that you are aware of the weather pattern, temperature, language and any cultural inflections.
4) Travel with a partner if possible! Traveling with a partner will not only increase your safety, but will also allow you to share your traveling experience with others!
5) If you have any pets, remember to plan for their wellbeing!
See if you can arrange for a family member or friend to regularly feed, walk and spend time with your pets. Animals can get depressed and sad when their owners/family change routines. Our pets cannot be forgotten. Have the indoor and outdoor plants watered also by a friend or family member.
6) Residence safety:
Have a friend or family member check your residence daily. Consider placing nanny cams throughout your home. Consider having timers on light switches to illuminate your residence at different rotating time schedules, this will give the appearance that someone is home. I would also consider installing an alarm system before prolonged travelling and give the code to a trusted family member. Change the code when you return.
7) See if you can arrange for a friend or family member to collect your mail on your behalf or you can simply have the postal service hold your mail until you return also. Never let the mail stack up over several days because this informs people that nobody is home. Have neighbors retrieve any boxes or package (UPS/FedEx) delivery slips left on doors.
8) Power down and disconnect all unnecessary appliances and electronics, then set the thermostat higher on the refrigerator, which will not be opened for a long period of time. Turn off the air or heating system for your residence. This saves some energy, which is both an environmental and financial perk. Check all appliances to be sure all gas and electric switches are “off”. Check that locks are secured on all doors.
9) Cars should be placed in a garage if possible. If you park on the street and take a shuttle or car service to the airport, be sure to have a friend /family member move the car periodically. This is important if there are designated street cleaning days where by the car must be moved to avoid a ticket or tow. Moving the car is also important to show that someone may be home also.
Health Travel Tips
1) I recommend updating your tetanus vaccination and getting the hepatitis panel of vaccinations before travelling.
2) If you are travelling internationally be sure to have all the vaccinations needed for that area of the world. Consult with an internist, infections disease doctor or tropical medical doctor. Also websites such as WebMD, CDC or NIH can also be very helpful. Start this process 3-6 months before you travel.
3) Travel with a smart first aid kit and add 2oz vials of the following items:
- Hydrogen peroxide
4) Bring a bottle of bed-bug spray also. Use this on the bed in any hotel or hostel. I even use this when I stay over at the homes of friends and relatives… Just kidding, sort of!
5) Medications that I have found to be helpful when travelling include the following:
- Benadryl tablets
The ibuprofen or naproxen can be used for general headaches or joint pain. The Benadryl can be used if you have an allergic reaction. Remember, you must consult with your health care provider before taking any medication.
Many patients want ciprofloxacin and z-pak to be prescribed when travelling. They want to use the ciprofloxacin for gastritis or food poisoning and the z-pak for upper respiratory problems, however I do not prescribe them. This is not necessary when travelling if you take the proper health precautions. This leads to the overuse of antibiotic therapy.
6) Sun block and sunscreen are essential to prevent skin damage. Use an SPF 30 (or higher) and reapply when outside for extended periods of time.
7) Bring small and large sandwich baggies to place the remote control in hotels which can harbor loads of bacteria and dirt. They can also be used as a glove to not touch light switches, faucets shower doors/ curtains or toilet handles.
8) Bring a pair of flip-flop sandals so that your feet NEVER touch the floor of the hotel, hostel or shower. This is imperative for adults and kids.
9) Wipe down and disinfect all light switches, faucet handles or toilet handles if you have to touch them. Consider using a napkin or paper towel to avoid direct contact with them. If you do touch these items be sure to wash your hands with soap and water and not simply use a hand sanitizer.
10) Do not sleep on the top of a hotel bed spread or duvet. These can harbor loads of bacteria because they are often not changed or cleaned well.
11) Avoid touching toilet seats. Use toilet seat covers or line the seat with tissue if you have to sit.
12) Bring a small travel set of disposable hand wipes, which can double as toilet tissue if you are traveling on a train or bus.
13) I recommend that menstruating women travel with several tampons, yet these can be usually bought while traveling.
14) Continue to exercise while traveling and to eat a fairly balanced diet. This can be a challenge when exploring the world; however, exercise keeps the body healthy.
15) Continue to maintain your spiritual practice if you have one while traveling. Take time to meditate or pray if this is a part of your life.
International Travel Tips
1) Make sure your passport and visas are current and will not expire while travelling. Make copies of your passport and store the copies in secure places while traveling.
2) Read up well about the country that you are planning to visit. Be clear about the political and economic environment. This can impact your safety tremendously.
3) Be aware of any social or religious customs that should be adhered to out of respect such as a head or hair covering.
4) I would recommend exchanging currency prior to your arrival. The banks may be closed on your arrival and exchange rates at the airport are never very good.
5) Bring a digital translator and know basic polite words before you arrive at your destination.
6) Try to arrive in any new country during the daytime, especially if you do not speak the language.
7) Bring electric chargers and converters that adhere to the current or wattage of that country. They are easy to store and will ultimately allow us to charge phones and other devices safely.
8) I recommend using the old style money belt that you can wear inside your clothes, which can also hold your passport, money allowance for the day and credit cards.
9) Use travel apps to get the opening and closing times of historic landmarks, museums, parks and anywhere else you plan on visiting. You may need reservations months in advance for some national landmarks.
10) Have access to a digital or paper map of the country where you are.
These basic travel tips will assist you in having a great and safe time as you explore new and wonderful places nationally and internationally. Travel opens our eyes to the beauty and boldness of the world. We see the world and its inhabitants as more alike than dissimilar when we embrace the uniqueness of the people, cultures and lands.
Levi Harrison, MD