You’ve purchased your tickets, planned your route, and practiced key phrases in the local language. You’re anxious to begin your adventure, but there are a few proactive steps yet to take to ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible. These tips are like the insurance policy your parents pressured you to get: you buy it with the hope of never having to use it, but if you don’t plan ahead and a crisis arises, your dream vacation could turn into a nightmare.

Make copies of all your important papers
TV travel trekker Rick Steves recommends creating two photocopied sets of critical travel documents: passport, plane tickets/rail passes, rental car agreement, hotel reservations, itinerary, etc. Leave one set at home with a trusted friend (who can email or fax them to you in an emergency) and bring the other with you.

But, as he writes under “Travel Tips—Trip Planning” on his website, “Don’t photocopy a debit or credit card — instead, keep just the number in a retrievable place. It’s easier to replace a lost or stolen passport, rail pass, or car-rental voucher if you have a photocopy that helps prove you really owned what you lost. Consider bringing a couple of passport-type pictures, which can expedite the replacement process for a lost or stolen passport.”

Make sure to treat these copies with the same care as your originals, keeping them safe and hidden; if you’d rather go paperless, save them as electronic files on a USB flash drive to carry with you, he adds.

Does this dish contain peanuts?
If you have food allergies, you know how to read menus and ask the right questions of your servers at home. But can you do that in a foreign language? You’ll need to know phrases related to your individual needs so you can use them in restaurants, cafés, and markets. You can write them down ahead of time and translate just a few words (as discussed in Part 1 of this blog).

Or, look into food allergies expert Victoria Groce’s suggestion to carry a credit card-sized allergy translation card. In her 2014 foodallergies.about.com article, she writes: “Allergy translation cards indicate your allergy needs in the language and dialect of the region you’ll be traveling in. A small cottage industry has sprung up in translation cards, with prices ranging from free to around $8 to $10. Here are some features to look for and issues to consider:

  • Cards should indicate all of your dietary needs and should mention the possibility of cross-contamination, ideally recommending that completely clean utensils, pans, and cutting boards be used for your food (since it will be difficult for you to clarify your needs with the kitchen).
  • Cover your bases. Make sure you have at least two copies of your card (in case of loss or in case you accidentally leave one in your hotel room). If you’re flying through a country in which you’re not fluent in the local language en route to your final destination, consider buying one for the language of your stopover city in case your flight is delayed, especially since these cards are inexpensive and portable.
  • If you’re ordering a card that needs to be delivered, be sure to order early enough to check for completeness. Many cards can be ordered via PayPal or credit card and printed on your computer. Consider laminating cards you print yourself for durability, or backing them with cardstock.”

Groce lists three companies that offer these kinds of cards at the following websites: SelectWisely.com, DietaryCard.com, and AllergyTranslation.com.

Plan for dental (and medical) emergencies

Yes, more copies. Make sure to record front and back of dental and medical insurance cards to keep with your other important papers, as well as any prescriptions for medications you’ll be taking while traveling.

Echoing the nagging but well-intentioned advice of your mother or grandmother, plan for “what ifs” like a toothache, lost filling, broken bone, flu, etc.

A trip.ustia.org 2010 blog reports that good dental care is available “in most European countries, (where) the standard of dental education is comparable to that in the U.S. says the Journal of the American Dental Association. Members of the American Dental Society of Europe (www.ads-eu.org) for instance, have completed a full-time course of study at a recognized dental school in the U.S. or Canada.”

Also, travel insurance or assistance policies offer a “24-hour hotline can refer you to qualified dental care when you’re away from home, as well as provide translation help, if needed. In addition, many countries have dental associations that can provide referrals. Dental referrals may also be available from the hotel concierge, the American Consulate or the American embassy in the country you are visiting.” The same information applies to your urgent medical care needs.

Speaking of consulates and embassies…

Do you know where yours is? Find it here, if you need to replace your passport or find your safety at risk please consult http://travel.state.gov.

All right, enough of the lists—the “Mom” lecture is over. You’re ready to travel!

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