Preparing to Travel

Know Before You Go...

I always check two sites when thinking about prospective trips:

First the U.S. State Department is a one-stop shop for government-level information, such as passport and visa  requirements, crime and personal safety, military activity, and condition of infrastructure such as roads and hospitals in individual countries. The United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) offers a similar site with excellent coverage of both entry and health issues organized by country of interest.

Second, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has an excellent site detailing current disease outbreaks, presence of endemic disease, and recommendations for travelers about vaccinations and traveler's precautions to avoid parasites and disease. is also a good source for country-specific vaccination needs and health precautions for travelers.

General information about the cost of staying in particular cities can be estimated using the U.S. Government Services Administration (GSA) per diem rates for domestic (within the U.S.) and international (outside the U.S.) travel. These are the maximum rates that U.S. government employees are reimbursed for lodging and meal expenses while traveling on official business. A savvy traveler can often stay for less. However, GSA rates do provide a useful standard for comparing costs of different cities and for preparing business budgets.

Planning Tips...
Allow adequate time for processing passport or visa applications. United States passport applications are currently taking about one month to process, so, please allow at least 6 weeks to give yourself a safety margin. Some countries do not require a visa for entry. When a visitor's visa is required, it can sometimes be obtained either by Internet application or at the point of entry (airport). Placing a stamped visa in your passport can easily take several weeks if you must mail the passport in to a embassy. Use the Internet to check requirements by Goggling the country's embassy well in advance (at least one month) of your proposed departure date.

Notify your credit card issuer about your planned itinerary within a week before departure. They should put a note in your file saying where you will be and when you will be there. Most credit card companies use pattern analysis to identify fraud. If you suddenly start making charges in unusual (for you) places, your line of credit may be suspended. I had my Mastercharge card canceled while I was in a remote part of Inner Mongolia...which was a big inconvenience...! 

Begin to check the weather reports and forecasts for your destination cities several days before departure. This is very helpful in anticipating what clothes to take and what outdoor activities might be pleasant. Any city with an airport will have weather data.

Most "Bad Luck" is really bad planning....