Holiday Travel Trouble-shooting

Planning to take to the roads, trains and airplanes this holiday season? Here, four common safety risks and strategies to avoid them

Weather warnings

Severe weather can affect your plans regardless of how you travel, causing power outages, dangerous road conditions and flight delays or cancellations.

Avoid it:

– Most governments offer a national weather service which provides the latest information online. If you’re not sure where to look, the World Meteorological Organization’s World Weather Information Service offers both international forecasts and points you to the local meteorological service.

– Take advantage of online distribution. Many weather websites offer free services such as RSS feeds, email and desktop alerts.

Road dangers

Most travellers will be on a major highway sometime this season, and weather isn’t their only concern. Increased traffic volume, exhaustion and alcohol consumption all contribute to the risk of a road accident over the holidays.

Avoid it:

– If your schedule allows, avoid traveling on the busiest days (usually the day before and the day after a major holiday) to avoid traffic congestion.

– Check road and highway conditions before you head out. You can find this information from a local weather service or through a provincial/state government website.

– Watch for changing weather conditions while you are driving and pull over to a safe place, such as a parking lot or rest stop, to wait out bad storms.

–  If you’re driving in a foreign country, find out what road hazards and rules you might not be familiar with. Many countries such as Slovenia, Finland and Switzerland require carrying seasonal and emergency equipment by law. Some countries have different procedures for handling and reporting accidents.

Health risks

Many people neglect their health over the holidays, but an illness or emergency can put a damper on your holiday plans.

Avoid it:

– Learn about health issues for your destination and how to prevent them. Many travellers neglect to take appropriate precautions when visiting loved ones abroad. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) have country-specific information about vaccinations and other preventative measures.

– Wash your hands. It’s still the best way to prevent spreading illnesses. Travel wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer should be part of your travel pack.

– Stick to your daily regime. If you are on a restricted diet (e.g. for a heart condition or diabetes) allow yourself a treat but overindulging can lead health complications.

– Eat right. Food poisoning is common problem both home and away. Avoid lukewarm foods if they should be hot or kept cool. Stick to beverages that come in sealed bottles or cans (and skip the ice cubes) if you have concerns about water quality.

– Don’t hesitate to get help. A recent article on ABC News on avoiding holiday injuries notes that many people put off a visit to the hospital so they won’t disrupt a family gathering, and risk getting worse.

– Get medical insurance if you’re travelling out of the province or country (even if it’s just for the day). A case of food poisoning or a car accident could net thousands in medical bills.


Petty crime

Major holidays and festivals are usually accompanied by a rise in petty crime, such as theft from vehicles and pick pocketing. Some criminals take advantage of empty homes while others target travellers at their destinations.

Avoid it:

– Take necessary precautions to protect your home while you are away, such as an alarm system, house-sitter or security service.

– Be extra careful with your valuables, cash and travel documents. Make a photocopy of important documentation, and make use of hotel safes. Leave unnecessary items at home. – Pay attention to your surroundings. Crowded events and places frequented by travellers attract criminals.

– Blend into the crowd. Flashy jewelry and obvious designer labels attract unwanted attention.

– Pack valuables and other important items (such as medication and electronic equipment) in your carry-on luggage, and consider luggage locks for your checked items.

– Make a list of what you have packed in case you need to file a claim for lost or stolen luggage.

– Keep your wits about you. People who appear intoxicated, disoriented and exhausted are easier to target.

Overall, the best thing you can do to protect your health and safety is to exercise common sense and stay aware. Regardless of where you go crowds, delays and inclement weather are likely to be a concern. Be patient with your fellow travellers (they’re in the same boat, after all) and with service providers. Being informed and prepared will help you dodge unnecessary hassles.


Photo © Bill Grove

Avoid holiday travel hassles
A traveller’s guide to dodging bed bugs
6 hidden travel costs