6th Apr, 2009 | Source : newsweekshowcase.com
It's a small, small world, so that annoyingly catchy song from the Disneyland ride of the same name goes. But if you're stuck halfway around it and aren't fully prepared then it certainly doesn't seem it. In fact unless you have the right products, services and help then the world can seem much, much too big.
The list of products and travel aids that you need will of course depend on where you are travelling to and how you are getting there. However, one important thing to consider though, is not 'what should I take?', but rather 'what should I do?' That means rather than filling an entire suitcase full of insect repellent, bandages, neck-braces or whatever other medical items 'may come in handy', it is more sensible to thoroughly research the facilities at your destination and only take those items, which after careful reflection you think you are most likely to actually need.
The most important of these, is without any doubt, health insurance. There are a wide range of policies available. You can rest assured that there will be several perfectly tailored to your trip. Check them out online, but it is also usually a good idea to contact your insurer directly to confirm any last-minute details. This also gives you the chance to check out their customer service skills. Better then than if you're several thousand miles away in a country where you are not confident of the language.
In terms of gear, the best place to start is your luggage. Going to a fortnight in a 5-star hotel or a month-long backpacking adventure? The same rules apply. There are literally hundreds of excellent bags available, but it pays to go for a brand you recognise and trust. By and large you get what you pay for, but certain lines may be discontinued and being cleared with some big reductions. This can be a great opportunity for a bargain, but do your research first to find out why they're being discontinued.
Both luggage and backpacks are available with smaller matching companions either to wheel for 'carry-on' or use as 'day-packs'. Remember to investigate these as thoroughly as you would their 'bigger brothers'. If they are unsuitable for your needs then don't compromise for the sake of the bigger version. In fact, more often than not, you'll be using the smaller bag more often and need more frequent access of it.
Going back to your medical supplies, it is in fact very unlikely that anywhere you go will not be able to cater to any medical situation that occurs, be it critical or otherwise. However, things to make sure you include in your small medical bag are plasters (even if you don't think you'll be walking much, you can still get blisters from pool shoes), insect repellent and paracetemol. Plus, and this is potentially the most needed (and often forgotten item), cream to apply both before and after exposure to the sun.
Before you even leave, though, you'll need to know you're in safe hands. Your travel agent or consultant - a trusted name that gives personal and knowledgeable services - should be able to provide the answers to any questions you may have and probably dozens more you didn't even think of. They'll also be able to advise on the likelihood of getting upgraded (top tip: turn up early and dress nicely, but not too nicely in case you're unsuccessful and stuck in economy wearing a posh dress or smart suit and uncomfortable shoes) on a flight or cruise and the logistics (timings, transfers, connections) of your travel. They'll also be able to recommend any tours that make the difference in ensuring you maximise your travel experience.
Another important part of their role is communications. Before you go you should have built up a relationship with your agent/consultant and this is often maintained whilst away, for any problems or queries that may occur. From the response to your initial enquiries to the delay between booking and confirmation, you'll get a sense of how good a travel consultant you are using. There are rarely any good excuses for delay in communications and the last thing you want when you're holiday is in their hands. Thankfully all accredited agents and consultants put the customer first so as long as you check to make sure the agent you are using has accreditation then you should be very well looked after.
The final thing to make sure you consider before departing is your friends and family back at home. Lets face it who doesn't want to send an SMS message to neighbours from the top of the Eiffel Tower or an email from The Pyramids in Egypt saying 'wish you were here'? Just a decade ago these were both impossible and even a few years ago the cost was prohibitive. However, many network providers allow international roaming and with a variety of calling cards/networks you're bound to find a cheap one to allow you to check in with home. You can also find Internet cafes in the most unlikely places. I went to Penang, Malaysia last month and at the end of a rickety, wooden jetty, crumbling into the sea, there was a sign offering broadband access to the internet from one of the single-room huts! This also means if any important decisions are going on at work you can stay in the loop...if you want to!
In many ways it is sad that around pools at top resorts and on the back of tour buses you are seeing more and more people logging onto their lap-top or talking on their cellular phones to friends and family, even if they are continents away. However at least you can let the people that care about you know you're safe and enjoying yourself. Maybe Disney was right after all...It is a small, small world.