In this series of monthly tips, you'll find some terrific ideas to help you get the most out of every trip. This time around, I share some insight about taking care of yourself while on the road.
Check your insurance before leaving home.
Find out what medical services your health insurance covers. To protect yourself, consider buying medical travel insurance. Very few health insurance plans pay for medical evacuation back to the U.S. (which can cost $10,000 and up). Consider purchasing medical travel insurance if you're going to a country where the medical facilities are poor. A number of companies offer medical evacuation services anywhere in the world. If you're ever hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, MedjetAssist (tel. 800/527-7478; www.medjetassistance.com) will pick you up and fly you to the hospital of your choice. Annual memberships are $225 individual, $350 family; you can also purchase short-term memberships.
Find a doctor.
Any foreign consulate can provide a list of area doctors who speak English. Consider asking your hotel concierge to recommend a local doctor -- even his or her own. For travel abroad, you may have to pay all medical costs up front and be reimbursed later. Medicare and Medicaid do not provide coverage for medical costs outside the U.S. Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage. Carry them in their original containers with pharmacy labels -- or they won't get through airport security. Know the generic name of your prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name.
Deal with jet lag.
Jet lag is a pitfall of traveling across time zones. If you're flying north-south and you feel sluggish when you touch down, your symptoms will be the result of dehydration and the general stress of air travel. When you travel eastÂ?west or vice versa, however, your body becomes thoroughly confused about what time it is, and everything from your digestive system to your brain is knocked for a loop because most peoples' bodies are more inclined to stay up late than fall asleep early. Here are some tips for combating jet lag:
- Reset your watch to your destination time before you board the plane.
- Drink lots of water before, during, and after your flight. Avoid alcohol.
- Exercise and sleep well for a few days before your trip.
- If you have trouble sleeping on planes, fly eastward on morning flights.
- Daylight is the key to resetting your body clock. At the website for Outside In (www.bodyclock.com), you can get a customized plan of when to seek and avoid light.
Tip: Avoiding Digestive Ailments
Traveler's diarrhea is an all-too-common vacation spoiler. According to the Centers for Disease Control between 20 and 50 percent of those who travel internationally, some 10 million people each year, suffer from it. To prevent getting sick yourself, avoid food sold by street vendors in exotic locales, as it may have been prepared under unsanitary conditions. In those countries where the water isn't potable, remember to also avoid salads and unpeeled fruits, as they will have likely been "cleaned" in the same water (and brush your teeth with bottled water). If you're in a situation where hundreds of people are isolated together in close conditions -- as on a cruise ship -- wash your hands often and thoroughly, in warm soapy water. Carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer is another smart strategy.
Find out more about the Pauline Frommer Travel Guide series, read articles by Pauline, and listen to Podcasts at Pauline's page on Frommers.com.