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Our mobility is essential to our liberty. Travelers Aid has been helping people away from home and without a home for more than 150 years. We know that there is nothing worse than finding yourself stranded in a strange community, disconnected from your loved ones and with limited access to your resources. While Travelers Aid can offer a helping hand along the way, here are a variety of travel tips that will help make your journey a safe and enjoyable one.
PLAN AHEAD. There is no way to fully plan for the unexpected, but you can be prepared for it. If traveling by car, have a map with you and know your route in advance. If traveling on public transportation, make sure you know the route and any interim stops. Allow enough time for your journey, so that you won't feel rushed, and you will still arrive "on time" even if there are minor delays. Have a well-charged cell phone with you, a phone credit card, or buy a pre-paid telephone calling card. You can often save time and money by planning ahead.
NOTIFY FAMILY / FRIENDS OF YOUR TRAVEL PLANS. Make sure you have someone you can contact in case of emergency. If someone is meeting you at your destination, make sure they know exactly when your plane/bus/train arrives. If traveling by air, notify family of any interim stops. For example, if your flight to Atlanta from Los Angeles comes through Chicago, the person meeting you at the airport needs to know that the flight is coming from Chicago - otherwise they may miss you. It also helps if they know what airline you are using. This tip sounds simple, but Travelers Aid encounters thousands of people annually who do not know airline, flight number, or transfer city information for their loved ones. Remember that some cities are served by more than one airport. For example, last year you got a great flight into LaGuardia for your holiday visit with family. They met you - right on time - at LaGuardia. This year, you got a better deal flying into Newark; Unless you tell your family exactly what airport you are flying into they might assume that they are meeting you at the same place they did last year.
BE AWARE OF YOUR OWN SPECIAL NEEDS. Do you routinely take medicine? Are you traveling with an infant who needs special formula? How about a change of diapers in case that short one-hour flight turns into a five hour weather delayed journey? These are examples of things to carry with you at all times. If travels are delayed, it doesn't help YOU if these items are part of your checked baggage.
TAKE IDENTIFICATION. With heightened security these days, it is critical to have photo identification with you when you travel. Identification is required when purchasing bus and train tickets and must be presented at airline counters and airport security checkpoints. In addition, showing ID has become routine for admission to many government buildings and private businesses. States will issue photo identification to persons who do not have a photo driver's license. Most states will not issue duplicate ID. If your ID is lost or stolen, you can expect a hassle during your travels. The United States Government issues Passports, which are required for foreign travel, and which will also satisfy any photo ID requirement. A Passport could serve as a back-up photo ID if your Driver's License was lost.
PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES. Access for travelers with disabilities has greatly improved since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, but there are still travel challenges. Public transportation carriers will provide assistance for persons with disabilities, but it always helps if the traveler with a disability plans early to determine the probable sequence of travel and plans the best parking location, best entrance point, and most expeditious way to get to the airport, train, or bus gate. The Internet is a great source of information, with maps available of many public transportation locations marked with elevator and other access information. Travelers Aid can also be a valuable source of information regarding access in those communities where Travelers Aid has facilities and programs (See our Directory as well as the Airport Network). If you need additional assistance in getting to or from an airport gate, family members can arrange to get a pass from your airline ticket counter in order to accompany you to the gate or to meet an arriving flight. This pass will enable the person to go through the airport's security checkpoint (valid ID required).
CHECK ON PROHIBITED ITEMS IN ADVANCE. Did you know that five million items were confiscated at airport security checkpoints last year? Visit the Transportation Security Agency's Web site (TSA) to check on what items are prohibited. Remember the Swiss Army knife your grandfather gave you when you were ten years old? Better to leave it at home, since you will have to surrender the item in order to get through airport security. Scrutiny may be intensified if the Homeland Security code is elevated. Be prepared and allow extra time.
SAFEGUARDING YOUR MONEY. If you are traveling as a family, consider dividing the cash for your trip among the adult travelers. That way, if one of your party is robbed, pickpocketed, etc. your travels can continue. Likewise, consider dividing responsibility for carrying a second (or additional) credit card(s). Travelers Checks can be replaced during your trip if lost or stolen, but you need to keep a record of your Travelers Checks separate from the actual checks.
TRAVEL ABROAD. Remember that
security has been elevated nearly everywhere since September 11, 2001. Before
traveling to another country make sure you know THEIR requirements
for entry (i.e. required immunizations, a visa, etc.). NOTE: Some countries charge a fee for your visit, even if you are only passing through one of their airports on the way to your ultimate destination. It helps to
have an itinerary for your visit, since Customs and Immigration officials
will want to know where you intend to stay, and they may want to ensure that
you have enough resources with you to sustain your planned length of travel
(they are anxious to prevent visitors from becoming homeless). It is advisable
to convert some of your currency before your travel (or immediately upon
arrival) so that you can deal with taxis, public transportation, etc. before
you get to your destination hotel. We recommend that you purchase medical insurance for your trip abroad. The insurance should include medical evacuation, in case a medical condition requires that you be returned home in special medical transportation.
The United States State Department has helpful information on its Web site for international travelers. They issue travel warnings and helpful information for travelers. You can also find information on the State Department Web site regarding the location, phone number, and e-mail (if available) of American Embassies and Consulates around the world. They also have helpful links to the American Embassies of other countries. Should you become stranded abroad, it is best to contact the nearest American Embassy/Consulate. In an emergency situation, American citizens can arrange for a loan through the embassy in order to return home. PROTECT YOUR PASSPORT at all times. Replacing a Passport abroad can be a very time consuming process. Finally, make sure all of your papers and belongings are in order for your re-entry into the United States.