Business travelers need to be prepared for the most likely -- and even unlikely -- scenarios. From how to dress to efficiently pass through security checkpoints to how to quickly get in touch with your family if you're stranded, here are tips that work.
I ask myself five questions when a travel nightmare looms:
- Should I cancel my trip?
- How long would I be stuck?
- When will planes be flying again?
- How do I get in touch family and business partners?
- What can I do to protect myself?
BEFORE YOU LEAVE...
(1) Make an honest assessment about whether this trip is necessary. If travel to your destination is not advisable, don't go. Instead, conduct business via audio-, video-, or Web-conferencing.
(2) Check State Department warnings and advisories at: http://www.travel.state.gov.
(3) If you must go, ensure that key documents (passport, driver's license, identification card) are up to date and won't expire during your travels.
(4) Scan and email your important documents to yourself (e.g., passport, vaccination card, driver's license). If they are lost or stolen, you can get copies via the Internet.
(5) Leave a photocopy of your passport and itinerary with a family member or friend at home. Thus if these are lost or stolen, copies can be sent to American officials overseas.
(6) Create an ID card and carry it with you at all times, including data like your age, hotel, how to contact loved ones, blood type, and other important medical data. If possible, have the information written in the language of the country you're visiting.
(7) If you must travel, always carry your important numbers. In fact, print out copies or download to your PDA a list of airline, car rental, and hotel phone numbers, embassy phone numbers, and international dialing codes.
(8) If traveling internationally, buy or rent a global cel lphone and/or PDA in case you need to look up information or contact loved ones quickly. Many U.S. cell phones won't work abroad.
(9) Bring back-up batteries for your cell phone and PDA in case you are stranded.
(10) Know the location of the nearest American embassy or consulate. Make sure a family member of friend at home also has immediate access to this information in case you need U.S. government assistance overseas.
(11) If you are traveling to a place where there is unrest, register with the local embassy or consulate upon arrival.
(12) "When in Rome, do as the Romans" is still good advice. Familiarize yourself with local customs and laws - and then follow them!
(13) Carry a card with the name, location, and directions to your hotel, in the local language. If you need to return to your hotel immediately, you can simply show the card to a taxi, bus, or hotel courtesy driver.
(14) Carry vital personal belongings with you at all times, such as prescription medication and eyeglasses - and bring extra along. If you get stranded at an airport during a weather delay, or your luggage is lost, you'll have immediate access to your medicine. It's also a good idea to bring a copy of your prescription or a note from your doctor when traveling with medication, especially if you must carry items such as syringes or painkillers. Make sure your loved ones (and perhaps your employer) know of your medical requirements and have phone numbers for your physician or health care provider.
(15) In case of a travel crisis, let your loved ones know as soon as possible that you are safe. If phones are out, try e-mail or text messaging.
(16) If traveling to a hot spot, schedule regular check-ins - a phone call, an instant message or e-mail - with your loved ones. If your loved ones don't hear from you or cannot reach you at a scheduled check-in, it raises a red flag that you may be in a pickle. They can act quickly on your behalf by contacting the appropriate officials.
(17) If you are traveling with others, create a crisis plan in advance. Select a central location where you'll meet should you get lost or separated. Talk with all group members about safety and security, and discuss any special problems in the regions you will be in. You might also want to share cellphone and hotel information, as well as contact information for each other's next of kin.
(18) Carry an internationally accepted credit card and/or travelers checks with you in the event money becomes a problem. Never travel with large amounts of cash. If your personal property is lost or stolen, you are usually minimally responsible, or not responsible, for fraudulent use of your credit cards or travelers checks. Once cash is lost, however, it's gone.
(19) Download phone numbers for your card companies and credit bureaus to your PDA or add them to the "phone book" on your cell phone. If your wallet or credit cards get lost or stolen, you will be able to cancel them immediately.
(20) Know where safe harbors are in the country you are visiting - the embassy, an American media outlet, neutral zones, homes of friends, or family members. Hopefully, you'll never need to put these tips into action.
But being prepared will pay rich dividends if you ever face that travel nightmare.