IN Manitoba the holiday season also signals the beginning of the sunspot vacation months as well.
I'm often asked for travel tips during this period as readers are looking for any information that will make their travels safer, more comfortable and hassle-free.
Here are my top 10 tips to include in your travel planning.
1. Take steps to stay healthy
Travellers to high-risk countries need to make sure they are up to date with vaccinations and other preventative medicines that can ruin more than just the holiday.
It's a fact that visitors to high-risk countries will likely be hospitalized six times more than less-risky destinations. It's recommended by Canada's own Public Health Agency that even for Mexico, our most-travelled-to destination from Manitoba, visitors should be vaccinated for hepatitis A and B, typhoid, measles, influenza, and even rabies.
2. Driving can be hazardous to your health
While it's normal to fear natural disasters, protests, and threats of terrorism, the fact is that traffic accidents are the No. 1 cause of tourist deaths and injury. It's also a fact that traffic accidents cause 10 times more tourist deaths than diseases.
Local road conditions may not be up to the standards of Canada and often drivers in other countries are more cavalier. Always wear a seatbelt when driving with someone else, if you choose to rent a vehicle, get to know your routes well in advance. Gain local knowledge by asking as many questions as you can.
3. Map out your surroundings in advance
With the advent of MapQuest and similar tech options you can search out your resort and the area nearby. Do this to gain a comfort level of where you will be staying as well as the tourist sites you may choose to visit.
By printing out the detailed map of those areas, you can make your own decisions about how far afield you may wish to travel on your own.
4. Leave copies of your driver's licence, credit cards, and passport with someone at home
If these are stolen, you want them replaced as quickly as possible. I often print an extra copy and keep it in one of the pockets of my luggage for the same reason.
5. Prevent thieves at home from knowing you're away
As the snow piles up on your driveway and doorway, and as newspapers remain untouched, sooner or later break-in artists will conclude your home is a safe target. Have your driveway kept clean during your absence and curtail known deliveries.
6. Make sure your insurance stays valid when you are away
Many home policies require that an absent home be inspected on a regular basis. Those going for long-stay vacations really need to consult with their insurance agent to find out specific requirements for them.
Even those travelling on shorter vacations should have someone go into the house on a regular basis. Those with home security alarms will have ready proof of entry and exit times from the company should the need arise.
7. Inform your credit-card companies and bank of your travel plans
There is not much more embarrassing than having your credit cards declined a few days after you've reached your destination.
It's common for credit-card companies to do this when usage is being monitored at destinations other than your own.
International thieves are the scourge of credit-card companies. To protect you, they will try to reach you at your contact numbers to have you approve purchases out of your trading area. If they can't reach you, out of an abundance of caution they will freeze your account.
8. Make friends with your luggage
While we like to blame airlines for sending our bags to places unknown, often travellers see a bag of the same brand and colour as theirs and take it off the carousel as quickly as possible. An hour or two later the mistake may be discovered, but it can take several more hours or days to reunite the two of you again.
There are hundreds of distinctive luggage tags available these days. Wrap-around straps help keep your bags secure and provide for easier identification.
9. Pack any medications you may be taking in your carry-on luggage only
While it's good advice to take more medications with you than for the days that you will be away, don't pack them in your checked bags.
If you have liquids in containers that are larger than the allowable carryon size, put them into smaller containers. It's a good idea to carry the prescription with you as well in case security has questions.
10. Do your homework
Visit the websites that will help ensure a worry-free vacation. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority's site, www.catsa-acsta.gc.ca has the most up-to-date information for air travellers.
At www.voyage.gc.ca you will find loads of information on every country. Check www.publichealth.gc.ca for health-risk information on the country you may be visiting.
Also visit the websites of your hotel, the city where you will be staying and the country you will be visiting to gain an appreciation of where you will be during your stay.
Finally, check out guidebooks and review sites to get ideas on how to better plan the finite details of your vacation.
Forward your travel questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca