“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
– Mark Twain
What if…What if…What if !?!?!
Oh, the scenarios we can conjure up! Our imaginations run wild! Every potential mishap becomes something else to worry about. We can worry ourselves into a tizzy! What if…this?! What if …that?!
I hear this a lot and although it’s definitely wise and advised to consider possibilities and to be prepared “just in case”, try as we may, it’s unrealistic and, frankly, impossible to prepare for every potential problem that could arise. Despite our efforts, life happens. The key is to be as ready as you can be if and when “it” happens and to not let it spoil your vacation.
And by the way, the odds are on your side. Millions of people travel without a glitch every day. So, let’s put your mind at ease! Travel planning should be fun and after all…
“It ain’t no use putting up your umbrella till it rains.”
– Alice Caldwell Rice
What If I …
1. Miss a flight or a connection, or what if my flight is canceled? If it’s the airline’s fault, they will get you on another flight. If it’s your fault, you will have to work with the airlines to get another flight and be responsible for any additional fees and fares.
Remember that even if the airline cancels or goes on strike you’re probably on your own until flights resume. Read your airline’s policies carefully and have a “Plan B”. The same applies if you’re going on a cruise or tour; you will be responsible for any additional travel expenses and arrangements if you miss your connection and you don’t have travel insurance.
2. Lose my passport, tickets, credit cards, etc.? Copies copies COPIES! Bring copies and toll-free customer service numbers with you and leave copies at home with a trusted relative or friend. If you have a smartphone or iPad you can scan and send them to yourself (and that trusted friend or relative back home) and keep in a folder as well. Traveling with a friend? Exchange copies for safekeeping.
3. Get sick? Carry your medications on-board with you. Bring extra medications and prescriptions, including eyeglasses. Check to be sure there are pharmacies at your destinations and be sure to check your health insurance policy (including Medicare). Don’t assume you are covered or that the U.S. or local government is going to take care of you if you get sick or injured. Definitely consider travel insurance (including medical evacuation).
“Worry is interest paid on trouble before it’s due.”
-William Ralph Inge
Do you know any “worry warts”? Ohmygosh, some people can always find something to worry about! They can conjure up every possible worst case scenario. And, they’re often more than willing to share them with you. They’re often so busy worrying that they can hardly enjoy themselves. My response (if I can’t escape)? I smile and say “thank you for sharing”, then excuse myself at the earliest opportunity. I suggest you do the same!
So, let’s look at the what ifs and worries I hear a lot and just get those out of the way now.
4. Will It Be Too…Crowded? Touristy?
If you’re going to a big city or major tourist destination, depending on the time of year, yes it could be crowded. Popular places are…well, popular! So, naturally, there will be other tourists. You are a tourist, too, right? Plan on it, accept it, work around it as much as you can and know that it is tourism that is probably driving the economy there. If you want to avoid other tourists, don’t go where popular guide books suggest. Wherever you do go, enjoy yourself!
5. Will It Be…(fill in any type of weather) ?
Too hot? Too cold? Will it rain? No crystal ball can predict this one. You can plan according to the seasons, past weather and weather predictions but, you just never know. After all, wasn’t it just a few years ago that there was a volcano that threw thousands of travel plans into chaos? Natural events are, well, natural and unpredictable. Pack for the extremes you may encounter, be prepared and make the best of it. If an unforeseen natural disaster (e.g., volcano, earthquake, etc.) could disrupt your plans, definitely consider travel insurance.
6. Will they speak English?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “everybody speaks English” as their rationale for not even attempting to learn a few words in another language. OK, I have a news flash…everybody does NOT speak English and often those who do speak very little. Of course, it depends on where you go. In big cosmopolitan cities, yes more English, but smaller towns/villages, family run shops and restaurants, not so much.
So, why not make the effort? After all, you are a guest in their country so don’t you think it would be polite, not to mention useful to learn a few words or phrases in their language? At the least, you can get a little cheat sheet or phrase book and try to speak or point. There is also a wide selection of free language/translation Apps for smartphones and iPads.
7. What should I wear in (fill in the blank)?
It’s so easy to do a little research. You can go online and look at the news as well as magazines, newspapers, etc. Ask someone who has visited recently. Personally, I always try to blend in.
Leave the “billboard” t-shirts and hats at home. Be appropriate, be respectful, be aware of the culture, traditions and the socio-economic status of your destination. Need I even discuss the “ugly American” stereotype?
For example: Tennies and jeans are usually fine but not everywhere and certainly not the ones you wear in the garden. Larger cities can be more cosmopolitan and formal than out in the country. Observe dress codes when visiting places of worship. Leave the bling at home if you’re visiting a third world country (actually, I would leave it at home anyway).
When you get there, look around, notice how locals and local tourists dress and adapt accordingly. Also, remember, when you blend in you don’t have an “I’m a tourist” target on your back.
8. How much $$ should I bring?
When traveling abroad, as far as I’m concerned, arriving with local currency is a must. Currency exchange in airports is notoriously expensive and ATM’s aren’t always immediately accessible. And if you arrive at some ungodly hour currency exchanges, much less banks, won’t even be open.
Have small denominations of local currency for taxis, tips, snacks, etc. I don’t know about you but after traveling, my first thought is to get settled, not to traipse around looking for an ATM. And how embarrassing to get a taxi or shuttle and then not be able to pay or tip them in local currency? Plus, if you have enough for several days, you won’t have to spend time looking for ATM’s right away.
Travelers checks are totally passé. Forget it. ATM cards, credit cards and cash are today’s way to pay. The majority of hotels, restaurants, etc. accept credit cards and ATM machines are fairly common. Be sure to check with your credit card companies and bank re: policies and fees before you leave.
9. Is it safe there?
You’ve probably read or heard about local petty thieves, con men (and women), pick pockets, purse snatchers, gypsies, beggars…all kinds of unscrupulous types lurking out there. Sure, there is stuff out there – unpleasant stuff, there’s no denying it. That said…
Sensational headlines about cities or countries can be exaggerated. Be sure that your information is from more than one reliable and recent source and know that everyone isn’t out to get you. Of course, there are places that are riskier and more dangerous to visit. (I, personally, wouldn’t book a trip to Somalia right now or ever.) However, there are many places I would feel perfectly fine on my own and some I wouldn’t even consider, but I am always careful no matter where I go.
Check the government’s sites and read and heed the warnings (what places to avoid, etc.). Consider, too, are you traveling solo or with children or elders? Will you be traveling independently or with a group? Ultimately, it’s about your comfort level; it’s your trip, your time, your money, do what works for you. Remember that any country/city/location that relies heavily on tourism is going to work very hard to ensure the safety of tourists.
A lot of mishaps and misadventures are from lack of planning or preparation or people ignoring warnings and/or behaving foolishly– okay, doing just plain stupid stuff. Take appropriate precautions and advice. Practice good “safety” habits now, before you’re in unfamiliar surroundings and, for heaven’s sake, use common sense! Be savvy, be safe!
10. What if I’m on my own? Is it safe to travel alone?
Absolutely! Thousands of travelers go it solo every year. For ideas on how to dip your toe in solo waters and 25 Ways to Be Solo and Safe:
Now, don’t you feel better? I hope this helps to make your travel planning snag-free!
Send Me a Postcard! Just comment below.
What do you worry about? Let’s talk about it!
Photo credits: freedigitalphotography.net