10 tips for a problem-free winter getaway

This winter’s stormy weather has many travellers thinking about warm, sunny vacations and tropical getaways. Whether you’re taking a cruise, heading to a popular resort or going “off the beaten path”, here are 10 things to consider before you go:

1. Prepare for weather-related delays: The weather may be fabulous at your destination, but a winter storm can disrupt your travel before you get there or return home. Your best bet is to stay ahead of the weather. Keep an eye on your local forecast to anticipate potential delays, and allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport. Keep your travel agent and airline’s phone number handy just in case. Hint: Some games, snacks and a good book can help pass the time if your flight is delayed.

2. Get your shots: As you may have read in a recent article on 50Plus.com, many Canadians don’t realize they need a hepatitis A and B vaccination. But that’s only part of the story — you may also need the typhoid vaccination for travel to Mexico and the Caribbean. Anti-malarial medications may also be required for travel to certain countries and areas. It’s worth a trip to a travel clinic six to eight weeks before you go. Looking for information online? Try the Center for Disease Control’s Travelers’ Health website.

3. Don’t let the bugs bite: Mosquitoes are a common problem even during the daytime hours. Worst yet, some mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue fever have no preventative medications. Prevent insect bites by using insect repellant (the CDC recommends at least 30 – 50 per cent DEET) and wearing long sleeved shirts and pants for outdoor activities.

4. Take care of your feet: You rely on your feet more than usual on vacation so keep them dry, clean and protected. A pair of flip flops or sandals can help protect you from fungal infections and parasites on the beach, in change rooms or at the pool. Talcum powder and bandages (or surgical tape) make a practical addition to any travel kit.

5. Cover up and drink up: Minimize your risk of heat stroke while acclimatizing to warmer weather. A wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, and light, loose clothing are ideal for hitting the beach. Sunscreen is also a must — make sure to pack a bottle of at least SPF 30 and reapply it at regular intervals, especially if you have been exercising or swimming. Make sure to drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids to stay hydrated.

6. Eat and drink safely: Diseases from food and water are the leading cause of illness for travellers according to the CDC. How can you avoid them? The advice is worth reviewing: Stick to well-cooked foods and pasteurized dairy products, make sure hot foods are served piping hot, and give the street vendors a miss. Bottled or boiled water and drinks in bottles or cans are a good bet, but skip the ice cubes. Keeping your hands clean is also essential. Consider taking along travel wipes or hand sanitizer just in case.

7. Be aware of your safety: While you take a break from your normal routine, the normal safety precautions you take at home – such as locking doors, not walking alone late at night and protecting your valuables – still apply. Unfortunately, tourists are often targets for crime during peak season and special events. Do a little pre-trip research about your destination to uncover any specific safety and security risks, especially if you plan to leave the resort.

8. Trust your gut in questionable situations: Strange animals at a petting zoo? Unguarded pool or beach? Taxi/hotel room/balcony railing doesn’t look safe? Health and safety standards aren’t the same in all countries, and any of these situations could lead to injury or illness. Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of injury among travellers, but unsafe accommodations and attractions also pose a risk. Check the condition of any equipment you use or vehicle you ride in, and be mindful of your surroundings. Trust your instincts and keep clear of any situation that doesn’t seem right. If you are bitten or injured in any way (no matter how minor) clean the wound and seek medical help immediately.

9. Double-check your insurance covers you: You’ve got travel insurance to cover any unexpected problems, but does it cover the things you want to do? Activities such as parasailing and scuba diving might not be covered by your policy. Read the fine print and go for an upgrade if needed. Make sure medical evacuation is covered as not all countries have adequate medical facilities. Cruise travellers may require evacuation from a local port in the event of an emergency.

10. Watch for symptoms at home: Sometimes a problem might not reveal itself until after you return. Now is the time to pay some extra attention to bank statements and credit card accounts. Unusual activity could be a sign of fraud. Feeling a little under the weather? That could also be the sign of a parasite or illness picked up while away. Both problems can be solved more easily if detected early.

As always, it is important to know whom to contact before, during and after your trip if you need help. Keep a list of phone numbers handy including your embassy’s emergency contact number, your travel service provider and insurance company. Make sure someone can contact your family doctor, embassy or next of kin on your behalf if necessary. Remember, most visits abroad are trouble-free, but a few extra precautions can save you a lot of time and hassle.

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