Second to terrible weather, nothing can spoil spring break travel plans faster than being unprepared. Taking time to plan ahead can save sanity, even if it rains.
The passport is the most important item for anyone considering a vacation. According to Steve MacSween, a spokesperson from the Communications Division of Passport Canada, it is the “most secure” document one can carry.“Everyone who travels outside of Canada should carry a passport.”
One can obtain a passport by picking up an application at Canada Post outlets, or online. The fee is $87 and processing time is 20 days.
MacSween suggests travellers keep their documents safe.
“We recommend that Canadians carry a photocopy of the photo page of their passport and store it separately from the passport. Having this information at hand will be a great help should the passport itself be lost or stolen while outside of Canada.”
Buying traveller’s insurance may seem unnecessary to some, but members of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) say it is a “good investment.”
“Travel insurance will pay for trip disruptions and, if health [insurance] is included, medical attention,” says a representative of ACTA’s member services department through an email.
Rick Mauro, vice-president of marketing and public relations for CAA Niagara, says insurance is essential.
“Medical bills in the United States can be substantial, and OHIP may not cover all expenses.”
Mauro says CAA offers vacation packages and Niagara College alumni receive a $12 discount when applying as a new member.
Insurance is a sure bet considering the potential for illness.
Dr. Gerald Rockman, 54, works as a general practitioner in Scarborough, Ont.
Rockman says one of the biggest health risks while travelling anywhere is traveller’s diarrhea.
“It can really ruin a vacation. In most cases it’s an e-coli infection. It’s an incredibly common sickness. Fourty per cent of people who travel to the Caribbean can be stricken at any time.”
Rockman suggests using caution when eating and drinking.
“If you can’t boil it, bottle it, peel it or cook it forget it,” he says.
Preventative medications are available and, Rockman says, it is a good idea to bring an anti-diarrheal medication with you.
More serious health risks include hepatitis A and B.
“These are preventable illnesses if you decide to be vaccinated before travelling. A follow-up booster shot six months after will give life-long protection.”
Hepatitis causes liver malfunction. Hepatitis A is caused by contaminated food and water, the B strain is caused by contact and infected blood and bodily fluids.
Rockman says although hepatitis can be acquired anywhere, there is “definitely a higher risk” of contracting it while travelling.
“Avoid unnecessary risks, see your doctor and consider vaccinations ahead of time.”
Many destinations have travel warnings because of civil unrest and security situations.
One way to stay safe while abroad, especially if visiting a country where incidents of unrest are high, is to contact the Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) service.
Emmanuelle Lamoureux, deputy director of media relations for the Foreign Affairs and International Trade department of the government of Canada says the ROCA service allows Canadians to inform the government of their travel plans prior to leaving the country.
“[It] is recommended for all Canadians travelling and living abroad,” says Lamoureux.
A representative from ACTA suggests some common-sense rules to enjoying a vacation: not drinking too much alcohol, not travelling alone and being aware of your surroundings.