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The ultimate travel survival guide

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Falling ill while you are overseas can be stressful and sometimes spoil a holiday or trip. Though unfortunately nobody has control over when and how they become ill, there are things that can ensure a quick recovery, minimising stress for you and your travel companions:

What to do if you fall ill overseas
Seek medical help. If an illness is minor, a quick trip to a local chemist or pharmacy may be enough. Many overseas chemists are very good at diagnosing and treating minor illnesses caused by local factors. In many countries pharmacists also often speak some English. Remember however that in other countries, medicines may be provided in different doses to the UK. Always take note of the pharmacist’s directions, and the instructions for taking medicines.
Seek help from your insurer. If a medical issue appears to be more serious, contact your travel insurance company and ask for advice as soon as possible. Your travel insurer will know the best hospitals and doctors in the area, and will be able to advise you on the best course of action. This way, as long as you have adequate medical cover, you won’t be stuck with any medical charges, and you will be sure to receive the best care possible.
Seek help from your hotel. If you are staying in a hotel or resort you hotel will likely have a doctor on call that speaks English. Ask reception if you need help, and they will advise you or provide assistance.
Be prepared. If you are travelling in Europe you should always carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which gives you access to state medical care at a free or reduced cost. Check this is still in date, or renew it before you travel. In addition to and EHIC, you will also need to take out adequate travel insurance. An EHIC will not cover you if you need to return home.
Have a Doctor’s note. If you suffer with a chronic illness then it is advisable to carry you medication with you, kept it in its original packaging, and with a copy of your prescription and Doctor’s note. This way, if you do need to visit a doctor or hospital they will know exactly what you are taking, and how to help your condition. You should also check ahead of travelling, that the medication you plan to bring with you is allowed into your destination.
Tell your Doctor on your return home. If you have been ill while overseas it is wise to mention this to your doctor upon you return. They may have further advice or feel it necessary to continue treatment.
To best prepare for a trip and to stay illness free, you can take a few pre-travel preventative steps:

Make sure you get the right jabs. Visit your local doctor or nurse at least six weeks in advance to discuss the relevant inoculations and medications you will need.
Bring an adequate medical kit. Having the basics: painkillers, rehydration powders, plasters, bandages and anti-bacterial wipes, could make all the difference.
Avoid ‘traveller’s tummy’ by steering clear of drinking tap water, drinks with ice in, salad or fruit that may have been washed in tap water, or food that may have been left uncovered or badly cooked.

Essential Medical Kit for Families
Take a moment in your holiday planning to think about keeping the family healthy by packing a few useful medical items so that you will have things on hand if someone isn’t well – saving you valuable time (which we all know is precious on holiday) and money.

Here are a few suggestions of what to include in your family toiletry kit – you can purchase travel size toiletries from chemists which don’t take up much room, keep them in a small plastic cosmetic bag or invest in a travellers First Aid Kit.

Cleansing/baby wipes
Pocket tissues
Hand sanitizers (use as often as possible)
Cream for baby nappy rash
Forehead Thermometer
Pain Killers
Antihistamines – for allergies and insect bites
Insect repellent
Plasters
Antiseptic cream and wipes – for minor cuts
Diarrhoea tablets
Rehydration sachets
Arnica cream to treat bruises
Sun cream – high factor for kids, and cover up
After sun cream
Take enough prescription medicine with you and keep in your hand luggage
Keep a few items in your hand luggage too, in case you need a few things before you get to your destination, obviously in small packages if your travel involves a flight.

Top Tips for the family to stay healthy
Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat in the sun to avoid sunstroke
Avoid drinking tap water but drink plenty of bottled water to keep hydrated
Try and avoid undercooked meat, shellfish and salads – these might not have been washed in safe water – to avoid upset tummy bugs
If health problems are a bit more serious
Local Chemists always have a lot of knowledge on minor ailments which is free and they can prescribe medication for minor problems
When you are out and about, check where the nearest Pharmacy or hospital is located
If you do need to seek professional emergency assistance
Take your EHIC card (European Health Insurance Card) if you are in Europe to the clinic / hospital.
Keep a copy of your Travel Insurance Policy Schedule with you which has the emergency assistance telephone number for serious medical emergencies
Hopefully your holiday will go completely smoothly but in the event of any minor ailments occurring you will be fully prepared.
Keep well and of course, enjoy your important family time together.

Driving in Europe can be a daunting prospect. However, it doesn’t have to be. The key is to be well prepared and to take extra care so that you don’t have to sort out issues when you hit the road.

Tips for Driving Overseas
Much of the information that we offer is common sense. However note that rules and regulations vary from country to country and this guide is simply a general checklist of things to consider before you set off. It is always worth researching your destination thoroughly to make sure that driving in Europe doesn’t drive you round the bend!

Your Vehicle
First of all you need to make sure that your vehicle is in good order for your own safety and for that of other road users. Make sure that you check your tires, oil and water levels, that the bulbs in your lights are working and that you have a few spares, and that the battery is fully charged. You wouldn’t set off for a long journey at home without checking these things, so ensure you do the same before setting off on your holiday. If your car’s not been serviced recently it is worth booking one ahead of your trip – it’s worth the extra piece of mind alone.

Documents
You wouldn’t go to the airport without your passport or tickets. Likewise, make sure you have everything you need when driving in Europe in advance of your trip. Essentials include: both parts of your driving licence, your vehicle registration document (Vc5), motor insurance certificate and passport.

Breakdown Cover
This should go without saying, but make sure you have adequate breakdown cover. If your cover does not extend to Europe then you can probably top-up your policy to make sure that it is does. The last thing you want is to break down on a foreign motorway with no contingency in place!

Insurance
Many car insurance policies already include cover short periods of time abroad; but this is normally only at a third party level. Make sure you check with your provider before you go. It is essential to make sure that the countries you intend to visit are covered. Driving in Europe can be a great adventure, and often you have the freedom to move from country to country – so don’t let a limited insurance policy stop you. You may consider insuring extra drivers for your trip, as having a break every couple of hours is a good idea, especially if you are driving in unfamiliar conditions.

Essential Kit
There are many items that you are legally required to carry whilst driving in Europe that you are not required to carry at home. Fines for non-compliance can be hefty, so we recommend purchasing or borrowing all of the items to take with you; breathalysers, GB stickers, high visibility jackets for each passenger, warning triangles, headlamp converts and spare bulb kits. These items will cover you for the majority of countries in Europe however we recommend that you research each of your destinations thoroughly.

Maps & Navigation
Obviously you need to know where you are going when driving in Europe. If you use a sat nav then don’t wait until the night before you leave to check if it covers your destination! If the maps you need are not included, you should be able to download these for a small fee. For those who do not have a sat nav, good old paper maps are still a great option. We recommend that you purchase these well in advance so that you can study them and plot your route accordingly.

Tolls
Some readers will be familiar with the congestion charge in London, or the M6 toll around Birmingham. However, toll roads are few and far between in the UK, and many of us do not have to worry about them. This is not the case when driving in Europe, where toll roads are much more common, especially on the main motorway networks. These charges can add up, so doing some research before you go will pay off.

Car Hire
Book your vehicle in advance – this way you will get a much better deal that if you simply turn up at a rental desk when you arrive at your destination. Furthermore, you will have plenty of time to read through the terms of the agreement and consider the value of additional costs. This simplifies the decision-making process and makes it easier to decide which product is right for you. Make a note of the fuel level before leaving, and if you start off with a full tank, return the car with a full tank – this will help you to avoid exorbitant charges should you return with than less fuel that you started with. Take photos of the car before you set off too, and make a note of any damages. This way you can’t get blamed for any existing damage.

Local Rules of the Road
It is useful to have a reasonable grasp of the local road rules wherever you are driving in Europe. Check speed limits and factor in different and any specific conditions for the countries in which you will be travelling. Remember that your need to measure your speed in kilometres per hour and in most countries, make sure you drive on the right side of the road!

No hot, sunny holiday is complete without a cooling dip in a crystal clear pool. A holiday staple, a good pool is a feature many holidaymakers base their break around, whether they’re after a morning swim, midday cool down, or all-day play.

Staying safe around swimming pools
However, while swimming is the perfect family activity, great for teaching kids their first lessons in water fun and safety, it can be a very dangerous activity. There are many considerations that travellers old and young should always be aware of around swimming pools and large bodies of water.

How common are accidents?
Sadly, figures collected over the past six years and published by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) have shown that an average of five children drown every year in swimming pools abroad, and that incidents are far from uncommon.

Most accidents happened in hotel pools, though a third are in holiday villas. Toddlers were identified by the report as being most at risk – and often accidents occurred during the first or last day of trips, as their parents were distracted by packing. In holiday villas incidents were most likely to happen in the morning as children went out for an unsupervised swim while their parents were still asleep.

Staying safe when swimming
Secure fencing around a pool is the most obvious solution to reduce a tragic holiday incident in the swimming pool.

When booking your accommodation check the safety provisions of the hotel, villa or campsite you are booking to see if it will be suitable for your children. If it’s a public pool see if there are qualified lifeguards on duty – often poolside staff at hotels have no safety training or knowledge of rescue or resuscitation.

If you have access to a private pool then find out if it is secured by a fence or gate. Also if you are planning on putting your children into any activity clubs then find out the level of training of the staff taking care of them, particularly if they are going to be taking part in water activities.

It is also a good idea to make your children aware of any potential poolside risks, explaining the importance of staying away from the edge and not running around the side of the swimming pool. Making children aware of the dangers can help them to understand why they shouldn’t do certain things or go exploring near the pool alone.

A very sensible idea would be to learn some basic life-saving skills of your own so that you feel in control with some basic knowledge should an incident occur. St John Ambulance run a number of different courses, some of which are geared specifically to caring for children or families, which cover resuscitation as well as general advice

Holidays abroad can be an expensive business; having saved up to afford a relaxing break, the last thing you want is to come home and find you spent more than you thought.

There are several ways in which these so-called ‘hidden’ charges can catch holiday-makers out – here are some of the worst, to keep an eye out for:

1. Some credit, and even debit, cards will add a charge for use abroad. Ensuring you have enough local currency to cover your trip is one way to avoid this; or, if you don’t like the idea of travelling with that much cash, traveller’s cheques or prepaid cards are an alternative option, with the added security that you can invalidate them if they are stolen.

2. Another culprit of charging extra for use abroad is the mobile phone industry. Keeping in touch with your loved ones back home could be a costly mistake, due to increased rates on calls and texts whilst overseas. The EU has imposed regulations restricting this now, so arrangements can be made with your service provider, and it’s not as much as a problem as it had been, however…

3. Mobile internet fees. As of yet, there are no such regulations on mobile providers’ charges for internet use, allowing travellers to rack up huge bills without realising. Your provider may offer the option of organising a ‘holiday bundle’, or a ‘data cap’ on your connection before you travel, both of which allow you to limit the extra charges that could otherwise pile up.

4. Unexpected additional costs on your holiday are never nice, so on top of being wary of hidden charges overseas, you should always make sure you have valid travel insurance, so you’re not caught out should any unforeseen incident disturb your time away.

Being stranded in a foreign country with just a few notes in your wallet because your card has just been eaten by the ATM is the ultimate travel nightmare. You still have to pay your hotel bill, and you needed to be up and on a train to your next destination before the bank opens the next day.

How to deal with finances abroad
In these situations it’s always best to have backup plan and to have thought through your options before you leave for your trip. Here are a few tips on how to deal with finances abroad.

usdollars

Cash
The most important thing to remember when you are travelling is not to keep all your money in one place. If you do have you bag, wallet or purse stolen or if you misplace your belongings you will lose everything. Take out a day’s amount of cash for whatever you’ll need and keep it somewhere discrete but accessible, then make sure you leave the rest of your cash and cards in a secure and secret spot. A hotel safe is the best option if you have one available or alternatively many travellers have little tricks for hiding their cash: in a secret pocket in their bag, in the lining of their suitcase or in an old camera film canister in their washbag.

US dollars, British pounds and Euros are the easiest currencies to carry and to change across the world. It’s a good idea to keep enough to tide you over for several days should you run into problems. Always change money with a recognised trader such as a bank or exchange bureau as changing money on the street is an almost certain way to get ripped off. Planning where you exchange your currency before you travel is also a great way to ensure you get the best rates.

Some parts of Asia and Africa still reply on cash as the only means of payment and don’t yet have ATMs. Ensure you check up on where you are travelling, and if you do need to bring large amounts of cash with you check up on any limits for foreign currency.

Credit and Debit Cards
Credit and debit cards have a lot of benefits for travellers. It’s a good idea to have a few different cards as back ups in case your main card gets lost or stolen. Credit cards are great for larger payments, hotel reservations and in case of emergencies. Debit cards are a great way to access your money on the road without the fear of the credit card bill when you return. Many banks also include emergency cash or replacement card services so make a note of how to contact your bank should such a problem arise.

Before you travel ensure that you check that your card will be accepted in the countries you are visiting, and that you let your bank know so they do not block your card.

Many companies now also offer prepaid cash card services which can be used like a debit card at ATMs across the world but enable you to top up as you go controlling our travel budget or keeping them in a safe place as a backup card. Many also have good exchange rates and allow you to top up online, by phone or by text.

Travellers cheques
With ATMs now being available across the world, travellers cheques have become a much less popular and common option than 10 years ago and are no longer as widely accepted. They do have some advantages though as they are accepted by many worldwide banks and are easy to replace if lost or stolen, as long as you have the receipts and phone number. Thomas Cook and American Express are the most widely accepted but check before you leave to find out what currency they should be drawn in and how widely they are accepted. As the US dollar is the unofficial second currency in most of the world if you are in doubt it’s always a good idea to carry cheques in dollars.

Wiring Money
If all your other backup plans fail then the last point of call is to ask a kind relative or friend to wire you money. Western Union and Moneygram are the most commonly found worldwide services where you can receive a wire transfer, but you do pay a premium for the service, sometimes up to 30% of the transfer amount, with this being higher the faster you need the money.

As long as you budget well and use common sense, these different methods should ensure you avoid a financial crisis during your trip.

Holidays abroad can be an expensive business; having saved up to afford a relaxing break, the last thing you want is to come home and find you spent more than you thought.

There are several ways in which these so-called ‘hidden’ charges can catch holiday-makers out – here are some of the worst, to keep an eye out for:

1. Some credit, and even debit, cards will add a charge for use abroad. Ensuring you have enough local currency to cover your trip is one way to avoid this; or, if you don’t like the idea of travelling with that much cash, traveller’s cheques or prepaid cards are an alternative option, with the added security that you can invalidate them if they are stolen.

2. Another culprit of charging extra for use abroad is the mobile phone industry. Keeping in touch with your loved ones back home could be a costly mistake, due to increased rates on calls and texts whilst overseas. The EU has imposed regulations restricting this now, so arrangements can be made with your service provider, and it’s not as much as a problem as it had been, however…

3. Mobile internet fees. As of yet, there are no such regulations on mobile providers’ charges for internet use, allowing travellers to rack up huge bills without realising. Your provider may offer the option of organising a ‘holiday bundle’, or a ‘data cap’ on your connection before you travel, both of which allow you to limit the extra charges that could otherwise pile up.

4. Unexpected additional costs on your holiday are never nice, so on top of being wary of hidden charges overseas, you should always make sure you have valid travel insurance, so you’re not caught out should any unforeseen incident disturb your time away.

Auther
Andy Cresco

Andy Cresco

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