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Are you planning a trip?

Rae Lee Cooper is a registered nurse. She and her husband, Lowell, have two adult married children and three adorable grandchildren. She spent most of her childhood in the Far East and then worked as a missionary with her husband in India for 16 years. She enjoys music, creative arts, cooking, and reading.

Are you planning a trip? Will you be going far? Is it a local or international trip? Is it for business or for a special event such as a convention? Perhaps it’s a dream-come-true, wonderful vacation or maybe an exciting, exotic ad­venture. Maybe it’s an opportunity to visit family and friends who live in another part of the world. Could you be planning to go on a mission trip or maybe hoping to study abroad?

Whatever the reasons, according to the World Tourism Organization, global rates of international travel have sky-rocketed over the past few years. Not only are people traveling more, but many are more eager to seek out areas which were previously rarely visited. Making travel arrangements to anywhere is so convenient and easy now. All you need to do is go to the Internet to pick a location, arrange transporta­tion, find accommodations, and even book special tours. Then, just pack some clothes, say good-bye to friends and family, and take off. Right?

It’s tempting for those who have very little or no experience in travel to regard international excur­sions as very similar to visiting different areas with­in their home country. Seasoned travelers realize, however—often through experience—that when it comes to visiting other countries of the world, there are many significant differences. Without taking some important steps in research and preparation beforehand, an international trip has the potential for unpleasant surprises, potentially expensive delays, problems, and even disasters. For instance, it would only take one nasty parasite, one poorly prepared meal, or one careless accident to devastate a great trip.

Dig a well before you are thirsty. Chinese Proverb

This proverb applies very well to the concept of preparing carefully before an important journey to be ready for as many situations as possible. Here are some travel tips to consider as you get ready for the big trip:

1. Passport, Visas, etc.: Make sure you have a valid passport and a proper entry visa for any and all countries where you plan to stop. Without a pass­port (and, in most countries, an entry visa too), you will be denied entry. Carry your passport on your person everywhere you go when you travel abroad. When you pass through immigration in the host country, you will fill out an entry card. Keep this card carefully, since you will have to give it back when you exit the country. Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data, and visas with family or friends, so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.

2. Vaccinations, Immunizations, and Health Issues: Websites can inform you about potential disease risks and any vaccinations needed for the countries you plan to visit. one of these is www. Just enter the name of the country and request vaccination information. It is much better to be sure you are protected than to become ill on your trip and run into problems trying to find adequate medical care or endure a medical evacuation in the event of a severe disease crisis. Don’t rely too heavily on advice given to you from friends or relatives within the country you may be visiting. often local residents build up immunity to the local diseases that you, coming from outside that environment, will not have. Be especially vigi­lant when visiting a malaria-infected area. Take along anti-malaria medication and wear insect repellant. A mosquito net may be good for added protection at night. Educate yourself about other potential health hazards such as swimming in local lakes or hiking through the brush. It may also be helpful to take along some first-aid supplies such as Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, pain or fever medication, throat and cough lozenges, etc.

3. Prescription Medications: Do you take medications daily? Be sure to take a good supply of your prescription medications with you. Medications can vary significantly in foreign countries, and your particular prescription may not be available.

4. Insurance: Medical treatment and hospital care abroad can be expensive. Medical evacuation can cost more than $50,000. You may need to pur­chase a short-term medical policy if your current insurance policy does not cover you abroad. Most travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover healthcare expenses while trav­eling abroad.

5. Language, Customs, and Laws:

a. While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. Countries can vary significant­ly in what is considered legal and illegal, even on what can and cannot be brought in through ports of entry. Being at least a little bit familiar with the laws of the land can help you avoid problems.

b. Familiarize yourself somewhat with the language. It isn’t necessary to take a complete course, but knowing a few basic words may go a long way in assisting you, such as in ordering food, asking for help, or getting directions. A pocket dictionary can be helpful as well.

c. Being familiar with some of the local cus­toms may prevent offending someone and causing embarrassment, or worse.

6. Currency and Credit Cards: Understand the currency and exchange rate in your host coun­try. Some hotels, restaurants, shops, or vendors will gladly accept various currencies. others will not. Understanding the exchange rate will reduce your risk of being ripped off. Credit cards can be useful in other countries. You don’t have to worry about the exchange rate, but there may be a significant service charge. Check with your credit card company about their foreign service policy. It’s also good to inform your credit card company of your plans to travel abroad if you plan to use the credit card on your trip. Most foreign countries do have ATM access, which may be a cheaper way to obtain local currency. only take the credit cards you plan to use.

7. Electrical appliances: Will you be taking a curling iron? Hair dryer? Hot rollers? An iron? Know what voltage will be available in the host country, as well as the style of electrical outlet.

8. Weather: Will it be hot or cold where you’re going? Humid? Rainy? Dry? Is the altitude elevated or sea level? Knowing these answers will help with your clothing selection and inform your choice of comfort aids.

9. Food and Drink: Research traditional foods that are part of the host country’s daily diet. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, make sure you understand the local ingredients. Remember to carry an anti-diarrheal with you, even on day trips. Different localities have different types of bacteria which the gastrointestinal tract may have difficulty processing. The result? Travelers’ diarrhea. on the opposite extreme, you may have difficulty with con­stipation because you are off your normal routine due to long airline flights (which are dehydrating) as well as a change in diet. A stool softener or gentle laxative may be a good addition to your medication kit. Remember to drink only bottled water, brush your teeth with bottled water, and refuse to have ice added to your drinks in restaurants.

10. Calling Card: To keep in touch with family or friends, take along an international calling card. or if you are traveling with a computer or iPad, you may be able to access the Internet in your hotel or in airports and make phone calls online or chat through apps like Skype. Plan for the unexpected. Take along some extra funds just in case.

11. Be Safe: Use extra caution in tourist sites, market places, elevators, crowded subways, train stations, and festivals. Be constantly attentive to your surroundings and wary of strangers who en­gage you in conversation or touch you even if it appears accidental. Avoid being conspicuous in your clothing and never flash excessive amounts of money. Wear your handbag across your chest to prevent it from being snatched. If you are con­fronted, give up your valuables. Money and pass­ports can be replaced; your life cannot. Keep your hotel door locked at all times, and keep valuables in a safe in your room or hotel. Country-specific information, travel warnings, and travel alerts are up­dated regularly and are accessible through the In­ternet. For U.S. citizens, the information website is

12. Be Kind to Yourself: Factor in time to ad­just to jet lag. Additional physical activity and long plane or road trips can be quite strenuous and tir­ing. Changes in diet and climate can have serious health consequences for the unprepared traveler. Beware of over-programming. Allow yourself some leisure time.

There is much more which could be discussed regarding travel preparation. Pre-trip research to ensure a good travel experience is truly time well spent.

Four steps to achievement: 

Plan purposefully. 

Prepare prayerfully. 

Proceed positively. 

Pursue persistently.

—William Arthur Ward 


Rae Lee Cooper is a registered nurse. She and her husband, Lowell, have two adult married children and three adorable grandchildren. She spent most of her childhood in the Far East and then worked as a missionary with her husband in India for 16 years. She enjoys music, creative arts, cooking, and reading.