Plan Your Escape

This is the time of year when many of us “northerners” plan our annual pilgrimage to somewhere sunny and warm, to bask on the beach and wade in the water. Winter has its charms, and for many of us that includes a much anticipated vacation down South.

To make the trip less stressful and perhaps even more enjoyable, Downhome asked travellers on staff and our friends at LeGrow’s Travel for tips they’ve picked up along the way – either from their research or through hard-earned lessons by experience.

Before You Go

  • Make sure you have adequate travel insurance, and that it covers all of your activities (for instance, if you will be doing something “high-risk”, like skydiving, you will need to make sure your insurance covers the activity).
  • Make a copy of your passport for your own records. Either take a picture of it and keep it secured on cloud storage, or make a copy and leave it with a trusted friend or family member back home. That way if your passport is lost or stolen, you’ll have information to bring to the local embassy and start the replacement process.
  • Make sure you have enough of your prescriptions filled to cover you if your trip gets delayed by several days.
  • Many people take donations to their destination, especially if it’s in a poorer country – clothes, school supplies and small toys are some ideas.

 When You Pack

  • Roll your clothes. It saves space and reduces wrinkling.
  • Save space by tucking socks and underwear into any extra shoes you’re packing.
  • Put a sheet of paper with your name and home address clearly printed on it on top of your clothes inside your checked luggage. If the airline loses your suitcase and your luggage tag comes off, staff will know where to send your luggage when (if) it’s found.
  • Put all your liquids (including lip gloss, creams etc.) that you need in your carry on in one resealable baggie and keep it in an outside pouch so it’s easy to retrieve and show when going through security (saves digging time).
  • Carry any medication in your carry-on so that if your luggage is lost, even temporarily, you will not miss a dose.
  • Make sure you pack sun protection – hat, sunglasses and high SPF sunscreen.
  • Consider packing over-the-counter medications for aches, nausea, infections, cold and flu etc. that you are familiar with taking and that you may not be able to find where you are going. A small first-aid kit with a few bandages and antiseptic solution or wipes can also come in handy.
  • Ladies, pack your swimsuit and your one “fancy” outfit in your carry-on. Most casual clothes can easily be replaced if luggage gets lost, but not having your most flattering dress or swimsuit could impact a good time.
  • Leave your sealskin purse, boots, jewelry etc. at home if you are travelling to or through the United States or any country where those products are banned.

While on Vacation

  • Be prepared to encounter armed guards at resorts, airports and seaports at many destinations these days. They are there for your safety.
  • Always drink bottled water. Don’t consume drinks with ice, or mixed drinks made with water. Some areas have less-than-clean water, and it can make you sick.
  • Avoid eating pre-cut fruit. This has been handled more than whole fruit, and can be contaminated by unclean hands, cutting boards or utensils.
  • Make sure all activities or tours are booked through your resort or a travel agent. There are scammers around that target tourists for robbery or other crimes by taking them away from their resort.
  • Do not wander into areas you do not know. Stay on the resort or within the city limits, unless you have booked an excursion with a reputable company.
  • Be careful what you purchase as souvenirs. Some items may not be allowed through customs. If you purchase any organic products, such as food or coffee, make sure it is sealed, and it is not advisable to purchase anything made of bamboo. These products can sometimes contain creepy crawlies that are not native to Canada, and they risk introducing new species that could become invasive.
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