This is my quotable Ben Franklin blog post, i.e., the one about the ounce of prevention. Well, Franklin’s words of wisdom were so obviously correct that the Boy Scouts reframed it and got quite a bit of mileage out of it as “Be Prepared.” And well, we should be.
As self-described “Road Warriors,” where the rubber meets the road is where spend our lives. Sometimes as business travelers that road takes us to sketchy places where other travelers wouldn’t ordinarily venture or into unexpected situations far from home.
The 20 things I do to assure I am prepared start with a preamble of five questions that I ask myself, especially when a travel nightmare looms:
* Should I cancel my trip?
* How long could I be stuck?
* When will planes be flying again?
* How do I get in touch family and business partners?
* What can I do to protect myself?
BEFORE YOU LEAVE…
(1)Make an honest assessment about whether this trip is necessary. If travel to your destination is not advisable, don’t go. Instead, conduct business via audio-, video-, or Web-conferencing.
(2)Check State Department warnings and advisories.
(3)If you must go, ensure that key documents (passport, driver’s license, identification card) are in hand, up to date, and won’t expire during your travels.
(4)Scan and email your important documents to yourself (e.g., passport, vaccination card, driver’s license). If they are lost or stolen, you can get copies sent via the Internet.
(5)Leave a photocopy of your passport and itinerary with a family member or friend at home. Therefore, if these are lost or stolen, copies can be sent to American officials overseas.
(6)Create an ID card and carry it with you at all times, including data like your age, hotel, how to contact loved ones, blood type, and other important medical data. (If possible, have the information written in the language of the country you’re visiting.)
(7)If you must travel, always carry your important numbers. In fact, print out copies or download to all your devices–smartphone, tablet, laptop–a list of airline, car rental, and hotel phone numbers, embassy phone numbers, and international dialing codes.
(8)If traveling internationally, buy or rent a global smartphone ot device in case you need to look up information or contact loved ones quickly. Many U.S. cell phones won’t work abroad.
(9)Bring back-up batteries for your cell phone, ebook, tablet, or laptop in case you are stranded.
(10)Know the location of the nearest embassy or consulate. Make sure a family member of friend at home also has immediate access to this information in case you need government assistance overseas.
(11)If you are traveling to a place where there is unrest, register with the local embassy or consulate upon arrival.
(12)“When in Rome, do as the Romans” is still good advice. Familiarize yourself with local customs and laws–and then follow them.
(13)Carry a card with the name, location, and directions to your hotel, again, in the local language. If you need to return to your hotel immediately, you can simply show the card to a taxi, bus, or hotel courtesy driver.
(14)Carry vital personal belongings with you at all times, such as prescription medication and eyeglasses–and bring extra along. If you get stranded at an airport during a weather delay, or your luggage is lost, you’ll have immediate access to your medicine. It’s also a good idea to bring a copy of your prescription or a note from your doctor when traveling with medication. Make sure your loved ones (and perhaps your employer) know of your medical requirements and have phone numbers for your physician or health care provider.
(15)In case of a travel crisis, let your loved ones know as soon as possible that you are safe. If phone service is out, try e-mail or text messaging.
(16)If traveling to a hot spot, schedule regular check-ins–a phone call, an instant message or e-mail–with your loved ones. If your loved ones don’t hear from you or cannot reach you at a scheduled check-in, it raises a red flag that you may need assistance. They can act quickly on your behalf by contacting the appropriate officials.
(17)If you are traveling with others, create a crisis plan in advance. Select a central location where you’ll meet should you get lost or separated. Talk with all group members about safety and security, and discuss any special problems in the regions you will be in. You might also want to share cell phone and hotel information, as well as contact information for a designated relative or friend.
(18)Carry an internationally accepted credit card with you in the event money becomes a problem. Naturally, you should never travel with large amounts of cash. If your personal property is lost or stolen, you are usually minimally responsible (or not responsible at all), for fraudulent use of your credit cards. Once cash is lost, however, it’s gone.
(19)Download phone numbers for your card companies and credit bureaus to your smartphone or add them to the “phone book” on your cell phone. If your wallet or credit cards get lost or stolen, you will be able to cancel them immediately.
(20)Know where safe harbors are in the country you are visiting–the embassy, an American media outlet, neutral zones, your company’s local office, homes of friends, or family members.
Hopefully, you’ll never need to put these tips into action.
And hopefully, by being prepared you’ll never be as surprised as Cusack’s Walter Gibson would be to find out that the guy who invented liquid soap never anticipated that he also needed to invent the classic 3.4-ounce size bottles that are the only size permitted by the TSA.
Road Warrior • Miami • Madrid • www.amadeus.com • Twitter: @tentofortysix