Top 10 basic travel tips
- Take a photo of everything in your wallet, and keep those copies secure behind passwords. If your wallet is ever lost or stolen, then you have a copy with all the contact numbers to cancel and replace the items. Try this with your cellphone's camera.
- Purchase small amounts of foreign currency prior to your departure to use for tips, taxis or bus transportation upon your arrival. Foreign currency is available at the AMA Travel centre nearest you.
- Choose between credit cards, traveller's cheques, cash and debit cards.
Some credit cards can be used worldwide, even for cash advances (check fees prior to leaving). Notify your credit card company of your travels in advance to avoid a possible fraud alert being placed on your account. To learn more about the new VTM (Visa TravelMoney) Cash Passport, watch this video.
- Buy cellphone/international calling cards. Check with your cellular phone company to see if they offer international cell phone use, and if so what the fees are. It may end up being less expensive to purchase an international calling card to use while abroad.
- Keep in contact with people back home. Visit an Internet cafe to communicate with loved ones while travelling. This will increase your security overseas by keeping people aware of your whereabouts. It will also cut down on international charges to your phone or calling card.
- Learn as much as you can about your destination. Informing yourself of a nation’s history and culture will make your journey more meaningful and will help you decide which sights you would like to see. It will also help you avoid getting into trouble or dangerous or unhealthy areas while touring.
- Get your travel documents in order. Find out what travel visas, health insurance, passport and other requirements will be demanded of you before are faced with hefty fines at the border - or worse, chance being sent back home.
- Take a clue from Santa; make a list and check it twice. Print a copy of AMA's traveller checklists and AMA packing list. Make sure that you are prepared with everything you need to enjoy your destination. Don't forget to include medication, emergency contacts, doctor contact information and a list of any allergies or diseases you might have.
- Pick your destination package based on your needs first - not budget first. Packages are often designed around common groups (ex. families, couples, seniors, students, singles, etc.). It might make more sense to wait a few months to visit your dream spot, if it means being able to have a tour, hotel, or package that fits you and your family's wants and needs rather than just your current bottom line. For more on travelling with kids, check out our road-trip planning Travelling with kids tips.
- Get in touch with the locals. Don't be afraid to be a tourist, but also don't alienate the locals you are visiting. Make a point to be sensitive to local customs and beliefs, be friendly, and open to new foods and activities. You are travelling to get an authentic experience after all.
Top 10 tips for land travellers
- Decide whether the destination is your goal, or the route to the destination is your goal. This is the time when the journey to your destination really can be the point of your travel. Do you want to just get to your relaxing vacation spot, or do you want to experience people/places on the way there?
- Map your route. CAA's TripTik, Google Maps, and other trip-planning websites will help you gauge the distance and the time it will take to make it to your destination.
- Mesh old-school with modern-day technology. AMA offers free hard-copy maps for members,
but why not use it in conjunction with GPS or your smart-phone's map app? If you rely only on modern technology, you might regret it when you go through satellite dead zones like mountain passes or tunnels.
- Budget for more than just the trip you planned out. Road trips are best known for the off-the-beaten path and unplanned adventures that happen spur of the moment along the way. A well-placed billboard, or an intriguing road sign, can detour your well-laid plans, so you will need to budget extra money for food, gas, hotels, museums, or other extraneous fees (like toll booths) along the new route. Also, keeping money set aside for a breakdown or a quick trip to the mechanics mid-trip is advised.
- Find savings along the way. CAA's TripTik website and smart phone apps (CAA TripTik mobile and CAA Savings mobile) help you find all the AMA deals on your route or at your destination. The apps are perfect for when you stop somewhere unexpected.
- Pick the right ride. If you rent a vehicle, make sure they know you are planning a long trip, and that your vehicle will be suitable for the type of weather or terrain you may encounter.
- Perform your pretrip vehicle maintenance. Bring your vehicle in for an oil change, filter change, engine check-up, tire check-up, and general seasonal maintenance. Check your tires for appropriate air, which will really help lower gas consumption.
- Plan for a breakdown. Even though you may have done all the necessary car care, a breakdown on the side of the road is incredibly common. Make sure you have sufficient emergency packs, extra food and water, appropriate clothing for the weather, and the skills to do minor vehicle fixes on your own. An AMA or other driver membership (complete with road-side assistance) is a necessary tool to have in your arsenal. To see what you need in your emergency pack, see Road-trip emergency preparation.
- Pack your vehicle smartly and safely. Make sure you even out the weight of all luggage, passengers, and anything you add to your vehicle (ex. roof rack material, bike rack and bikes, trailer, etc.). If you are off-balance, a sharp turn or stop could cause your vehicle to roll or the brakes to not work properly. For more information, see Loading up safely.
- Pack your travel documents, including emergency contracts, passports, travel insurance, car insurance, itinerary, attraction and hotel confirmations, and more. If you are hitting up another country's border, or even just staying at a picky hotel, you will probably be requested to show yours and your passenger's passports, so make sure even your children have the proper identifications.
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Top 10 tips for first-time cruisers
- Decide on your destination first, then choose the appropriate cruiseline. This will help you narrow down the choices.
- Pick your cruiseline based on the amenities, vibe, theme and priorities. Don't just go for the best price, and try to make it work for you.
- Do your research. Find out if your trip is all-inclusive, and if that "all-inclusive" includes all foods and beverages, activities and tours.
- Dress according to the dress code. Cruise ships take this matter seriously, so bring the required type of clothing, and err on the side of overdressing versus underdressing for the occasion.
- Reduce your chance of motion-sickness. Choosing an interior stateroom may help since it reduces the amount of movement. A balcony that overlooks the sea is a great idea if you feel the fresh air will reduce your chance of losing sea legs. Note: Asking your steward to bring you fresh green apples can help reduce your motion-sickness naturally!
- Take your own coffee mug. Provided cups are small and are restricted to specific areas around the ship, so bring your own to keep your morning coffee hot and your afternoon poolside drink cold.
- Photocopy your passports (and keep them in a separate safe location) because you may have to hand over your passport to ship authorities.
- Research your destination ports for required entry visas, local laws and regulations, excursion and tour bookings before you get on the ship.
- Check your ship's departure time before going ashore - they won't hold the ship for you, if you're running late.
- Be safe and enjoy your trip. Buy travel health insurance, bring your required medications, participate in lifeboat drills, wash your hands to protect from viruses, wear sunscreen, and be careful what you eat and drink in order to make the trip and your return home a healthy and happy one.
Top 5 tips for experienced cruisers
- Buy the package deals. You will save on beverage carts, spa activities and internet deals if you book in packages instead of individually.
- Book with the boat's shore excursions offers. If you book locally, then you run the chance of not returning to the port on time and missing your ship's departure.
- Pre-purchase travel medical insurance. Ship doctors are notoriously expensive, so make sure you are covered before you board.
- Purchase a roaming plan for your cellphone. Avoid using the ship phones, which can charge up to $19/minute!
- Discuss your dietary, medical or special requests pre-trip with your agent. You can receive a nightly menu tailored to your needs (celiac, vegetarian, low carb, etc.). If you have any medical requirements, such as needing an insulin container in your stateroom, please insure you notify your agent. Special celebratory requests (such as a birthday, honeymoon or anniversary) can be a wonderful surprise and can be pre-arranged.
Bonus Tip: In order to save yourself the post-trip headache of sorting out charges later, check your statement mid-trip and make sure you're not being charged for items/events purchased by other passengers.
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Top 10 tips for flight safety and health
- Check for updates. Before leaving home, check the status of your flight directly with your airline. The airport website is the best place to look for updates on security, wait times and other policies specific to your flight.
- Arrive early. Recommended check-in times may increase, so arrive early to avoid delays at security.
- Be aware of checked bag policies. Carry-on and checked baggage policies may change or limit the amount of carry-on you are permitted to take. The price of checked bags might also increase, so make sure you have enough money to cover any additional fees.
- Stretch and move around often. Blood clots are a serious issue for any traveller, so make sure you can move around as much as possible in the safety guidelines allowed in-flight. If pregnant and travelling by air, get an aisle seat and make sure to stretch and walk around regularly to avoid blood clots. Most airlines do not allow travel after the 35th week of pregnancy, so make sure to check regulations and check with your doctor before travelling.
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer regularly. Planes are small, full of people, and often not cleaned very well between flights, so make sure that before you eat, drink, or touch your eyes, ears or mouth, you wash or clean your hands thoroughly.
- Drink water. Though alcohol and sugary drinks might be tempting ways to pass the time, drinking water is the best bet for your travel health. If you do choose to drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages, make sure to match each cup size with an equal amount of water.
- Avoid jetlag. Drink lots of water, wear loose clothing, get plenty of rest, and avoid airline food to avoid the bulk of jetlag symptoms.Oddly enough, flying east to west decreases your chances of jetlag too, so if you are flying in reverse direction, be prepared to fight the lag.
- Avoid the "ear popping" discomfort and pain. Pack chewing gum, candies, and other treats to create the swallowing action. If you have sensitive ears, holding a warm, moist cloth (or a cup with a bit of steaming water in the bottom) to your ears can help ease the pressure.
- Sleep like a king in the clouds. Learning to sleep on a flight can be an art. Start by cocooning yourself in your chair, including providing neck support with a good pillow, wrapping a blanket around yourself to keep you in place, and doning an eye mask and ear plugs.
- Keep yourself occupied. Finally, while many airlines will offer movies, internet access or on-board magazines as a perk of booking with them, make sure to bring your own entertainment. The movie screens or TV channels may not work and the magazines may not be interesting to you. Pack a novel, playing cards, portable dvd player and movies, ipod/mp3 player, headphones, and other entertainment items to help pass the time.
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Top 5 travel documentation tips
- Ensure you have an updated passport several months before you depart. A valid passport is the only proof of your nationality and identity that is acceptable in all countries. Certain countries will not allow you to enter, or will not grant you a visa, if your passport is due to expire less than six months beyond your travel date.
Get proper passport and permission to travel documentation for your children. To protect Canadian children against child abduction and to further enhance the security of the Canadian passport program, Passport Canada will require travel document applications for children under 16 years of age be accompanied by proof of parentage documentation. Remember that when travelling with children (without both parents), you need to bring documentation. Check out the two forms to the right.
- Apply for entry visas. Entrance visas are different for travellers, students, and foreign workers. They all vary by price and restrictions depending on which country is involved. Verify in advance if this is necessary for your destination, through the Government of Canada's Travel Documentation for Canadians website.
- Pack your travel insurance documentation. Many countries are refusing entry to visitors if they do not have the required travel and health insurance documentation. Check with your travel counsellor for current requirements or check the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) website to determine medical insurance requirements, if any.
- Pack your emergency information and documentation. Take 2-3 copies of all your documents, including passport, visas, vaccination records, travel/health insurance, flights, itinerary, hotel and event confirmations, emergency contacts, family doctor contact information, allergy and medication information, and anything related to medications and drug
Top 10 tips for healthy travel
- Buy travel health insurance. If there is an emergency, then you will be secure in the knowledge that your health, finances, and well-being will be a first consideration to your agency back home.
- Always travel with the following information:
- a list of your medications (dosages, administration notes, and your reason for the drugs)
any allergies you may have
- your blood type
- your family doctor's contact information
- an in-case-of-emergency contact information
- Pack your luggage yourself and never leave it unattended. This includes your children's bags or toys, which could be used to smuggle drugs.
- Make sure your prescriptions are legal in your destination country. All your needed prescriptions should be in their original labelled containers, with a doctor's note, packed securely in your bags.
- Never travel with people you don't know. Stranger danger is real, and you might be put in an unsafe situation.
- Research your destination and get any necessary immunizations before you leave. Carry copies of your immunization records when you travel, as some countries now require this proof before you are allowed entry.
- If pregnant and travelling by air, get an aisle seat and make sure to stretch and walk around regularly to avoid blood clots. Most airlines do not allow travel after the 35th week of pregnancy, so make sure to check regulations and check with your doctor before travelling.
- Be careful what you eat and drink. If you drink only water and ice that is purified, eat only well-cooked vegetables and meats, and peel your fruit or veggies before eating, you decrease your chances of getting travel sicknesses like diarrhea and vomiting or catching diseases like hepatitis A and typhoid fever.
- Wash your hands regularly. This works at home to avoid the flu, and it definitely works abroad where you want to avoid local diseases, viruses and bacteria that you don't have immunity against.
- Take care of your mental health. Culture shock, acclimatizing, and stress induced from travel are all very real mental health issues that you should be aware of. If you are having problems with any of these, seek out a mental health professional in your destination country.
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Top 10 tips for safe international travel
- Carry medical and travel health insurance information with you. Lists of medications, medical conditions, health insurance information and contact information for your doctors at home should be with you at all times.
- Know your destination. Visit the Foreign Affairs Canada website for a Travel Report on your destination, which offers information on safety, security, entry requirements, and more.
Register before you go. Foreign Affairs Canada offers a registration service for all Canadians travelling or living abroad. This service is provided so that they can contact and assist Canadians in an emergency in a foreign country, such as a natural disaster or civil unrest, or inform you of a family emergency at home.
- Copy documents. Make copies of passports, credit cards, itineraries, emergency contact information and important phone numbers and carry them in a separate bag from the originals.
- Keep in touch. Tell your family and friends back home where you are going and for how long. Leave a copy of your passport, travel itinerary and any other important documents with a reliable person at home who can be contacted in the event that your documents are lost or stolen. Get an international telephone calling card to use in case of emergency or just to keep in touch, but make sure it can be used from your overseas location(s). These cards can often be purchased at your destination as well.
- Stay informed. Read the news or watch TV on a regular basis. If you find yourself in a country where unexpected events begin to unfold, then stay informed by tuning into local media.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of what is going on around you at all times. If something feels suspicious, then listen to your gut and make the appropriate change or contact authorities.
- Be prepared for emergencies. Fill out the Emergency Information page in your passport, so that authorities are better able to help you in the event that something happens.
- Never leave your bags unattended.
- Be smart with your money. Avoid carrying a purse or keeping your wallet in your back pocket. If you need to carry extra money or a passport/ID, then use a money belt or an under-shirt pouch. Keep your money, credit cards and valuables in separate places.
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Top 5 tips for safe national travel
Theft happens in Canada, as it does everywhere else. Use caution and common sense at all times, even if you have never had a problem before.
- Avoid carrying a purse or keeping your wallet in your back pocket.
- Only carry enough money to get you through the day. If you need to carry extra money or a passport/ID, then use a money belt or an under-shirt pouch.
- Keep your money, credit cards and valuables in separate places.
- Never leave cameras or bags unattended.
Note: Some airlines may have limited in-flight services due to security changes. For current information, check out the following websites:
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Top 10 travel insurance and international medical insurance tips
Travel insurance usually covers losses for cancellation or interruption of your trip, some medical care, lost or stolen luggage, natural disasters that impede travel services and financial default of a vendor.
- Don't gamble on your health and safety. Purchase the appropriate insurance for you and your family prior to travelling.
- Check your current coverage, and determine any additional travel insurance needs.
This includes checking your regular medical plan to see if it provides adequate coverage outside of Canada, well in advance of your trip.
- Raise your deductible. If you can afford to pay a higher deductible, then it makes sense to reduce your insurance costs now for the chance of having to pay more if the worst should occur.
- Package your products for a better deal. Bundling your insurance policies is a great way to save on insurance overall. Consider bundling your trip cancellation, baggage, and health travel insurance policies in order to save on all of them.
- Choose your insurance based on the frequency of your travel. If you don't travel often, consider daily insurance plans, or if you travel constantly, then consider yearly/annual plans.
- Check for top-up options for your insurance plans. Instead of having to purchase another costly plan if you add additional travel dates, ask your insurer if they offer top-up fees.
- Avoid at-risk travel destinations, including areas with civil unrest, disease or extreme weather.
- Avoid high-risk travel activities, including extreme sports, eating uncooked or undercooked foods, or tours that don't follow proper safety rules or policies.
- Carry copies of all your documentation with you on your trip, and leave copies with a trusted emergency contact back home. Some countries will not allow entrance without proof of medical insurance.
- Practice how to contact your insurance provider in case of emergency. Once you know how to contact them, make sure that you carry with you your provider's international phone number, your policy number, the agent in charge of your file, and an international calling card to ensure you can afford the conversation since it might take a while to hash out all the details.
AMA Travel offers travel insurance to fit the needs of your trip, and for more information find the nearest AMA centre to you or read more online.