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Travel planning is one of the most overlooked aspects of the travel process. No matter what level of travel you are doing this seems to be the area that goes unchecked and can cause the most problems for the traveler.
When traveling on temporary duty within the Continental United States (CONUS) your planning can be less extensive compared to the necessary planning for traveling Outside Continental United States (OCONUS). There are basics that do apply to both types of travel, which will now be discussed.
In order to make your home more secure, it is important to suspend any newspaper delivery as a large number of papers on your porch alerts people that you are not home. It is also a good idea to have the post office hold your mail. If you have lawn care to consider, make sure you have automatic sprinklers or ask a friend to come over and water for you. It is a good idea to have timers for your house lights as well, so the house does not sit dark for long periods of time. These precautions help decrease the vulnerability of your home, as well as protecting your identity. Travelers should create a list of everything that is needed for the trip especially legal documents, such as passports. Make sure to apply for a passport early to be certain it arrives in time for travel. If you are traveling OCONUS, it is critical to learn a little about where you are going, and any alerts that may prevent problems. The U.S. Department of State offers assistance with both of these on their website ( http://travel.state.gov/). In order to stay healthy while traveling abroad, immunizations should be current. The World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/en/) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/) websites are good resources to access in order to get up to date health information on places you are visiting. Include a first aid kit in your luggage for minor injuries and illnesses that do not require medical attention. A few basic items that are necessary are: calamine lotion, antiseptic cream, insect repellent, headache medications, and antidiarrhea tablets.
In addition to preventing serious illness with immunizations, packing a sufficient supply of prescription medication will help to keep travelers healthy. Prescription medications should be stored in their original packaging and stored in carry on luggage.
Check your health insurance policy and confirm the extent of coverage it provides for travel. Investigate a travel health insurance policy, including coverage for changes to the itinerary, emergency repatriation for health reasons, hospitalization, and medical care in case of illness or accident.
Below are some companies who specialize in travel health insurance:
- International SOS Membership (http://www.internationalsos.com/buymembership/index.cfm?dcsCode=travelmed20)
- Passport Health (http://www.passporthealthusa.com/)
- Travel Insurance Center (http://www.worldtravelcenter.com/eng/index.cfm)
- HTH Travel Insurance (http://www.hthtravelinsurance.com/index.cfm)
It is a good idea to research the place you are traveling to prior to going. The CIA World Fact book (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/) can assist in your research. It is best to do research and gather information on the layout of the airport where you will be arriving. The World Airport guide (http://www.worldairportguide.com/airport/) is a useful website.
Look at a few guide books prior to arrival, in order to find activities, restaurants, and recommended places to visits. A few popular guides that can assist in this planning are: Frommer’s (http://www.frommers.com/), Lonely Planet (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/), and Rough Guides (http://www.roughguides.com/).
It is best to arrive during daylight hours. When using public transportation to go from the airport to the hotel, look at the respective transportation websites. If you are going to use the taxi as your means of transportation, never take a taxi that seem to be hanging around offering its services, instead use the taxi queue. If you are traveling by rental car prior to leaving with the rental car complete the following checks:
Start the car and let it idle with the AC on while you are checking it over.
- Current registration — Will it remain valid throughout rental?
- License plates — must have 2 in most countries.
- Burglar alarm, crook lock, or other anti-theft device — how does it work? What is the code?
- Seat belts
- Tires — Check the pressures and tread on all tires including the spare. A patch at the edge of the tread is dangerous and unlikely to last.
- Jack — make sure it works.
- Lug nut wrench & key for lug nut locks
- Headlights, taillights and turn signals
- Brake lights and backup lights
- Air conditioning — Does it cool adequately?
- Heater (cold climates)
- Power steering — If it makes a noise at full lock, check the fluid level.
- Shift linkage
- Brake pedal travel
- Brake fluid level
- Exhaust & muffler — Noisy? Is the rear hanger missing?
- Locking front wheel hubs (4X4) — Engage for 4WD, disengage for 2WD.
- Speedometer & odometer — Do they work?
- Doors and locks — Can all doors be locked?
- Windows — Do they work?
- Trunk lock – Disconnect remote trunk release.
- Glove compartment lock
- Wiper blades
- Wiper action
- Add water to windshield washer reservoir.
- Side-view mirrors — Are they present? Do they have original glass that can be adjusted?
- Oil level
- Coolant level — any obvious leaks?
- Temperature gauge — Where is the needle after the car warms up?
- Idle — rough, surging?
- Check Engine light — should not come on.
- ABS light — should not come on.
Was the car wrecked? Totaled cars from the US are shipped to Latin America, where they are rebuilt (sort of) and put back on the road in unsafe condition. Check for panel alignment, cheap replacement glass and panels, mismatched paint, overspray, and bondo. Missing airbags might be difficult to detect.
- Dents, scratches, chips, and missing trim — make sure they are noted on the delivery survey form.
- Missing anti-roll bars or other suspension parts — should be noted on survey form.
- Cracks and chips in windshield and windows — should be noted on survey form.
- Interior light
- Lighter socket (for 12-volt spot light)
- Radio. If it has a removable face plate, remove the face plate and place in glove compartment.
- Seat adjustment — Do the seats recline? (Essential for sleeping in the car.)
- Transmission or differential leaks?
- Engine oil leaks? You may see smoke after the car warms up if oil is dripping onto the exhaust manifold.
- Gas gauge — does it work?
- Gas tank cap — does it fit?
- Ask if a duplicate set of keys is available.
- Check clearance and location of the lowest spots.
- Sniff interior for durian odor (SE Asia).
Brazil only: Don’t accept an alcohol-fueled car. It may be impossible to start on a cool morning and may stall frequently.
These are just a few tips that most travelers should follow no matter what the length of their trip or destination. If you are conscientious in your planning then your trip will go smoothly.
By: G.W. McCurtis