Christopher Elliott | Special to USA TODAY
Did you forget something?
Travelers always leave things behind. I’ve left toothbrushes, an expensive electric razor, and countless computer plugs in vacation rentals and hotels in the last year. But this holiday travel season, being forgetful could cost you.
Consider what happened to Daniela Jedlicki, who was headed to Turks and Caicos for her honeymoon. When she tried to board her flight, an agent stopped her. It turns out those Caribbean islands have begun requiring travelers to have health insurance that covers COVID-19 hospitalizations abroad. Hers didn’t.
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“We were told we needed to buy supplemental insurance from another party to enter Turks and Caicos,” recalls Jedlicki, a teacher from Northbrook, Illinois.
Forgetting to double-check the insurance requirements cost her $4,381 in nonrefundable airline and hotel expenses.
But that doesn’t have to happen to you. The keys to not forgetting are simple: Do your homework, make a list and get everything on your list done before you leave. Otherwise, your upcoming trip could end before it starts.
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Research, research, research
Assume nothing when you’re making your travel plans. And that means researching your destination even if you’re sure you know the entry requirements.
“I check the entry requirements at the embassy or the local tourism board’s website,” she says. “I also contact my airline a day before my departure to get the most up-to-date information on local travel regulations, such as what type of masks need to be worn.”
It’s worth the extra work. Entry and quarantine requirements change so quickly that even your travel adviser may have trouble keeping up to date with them. And ultimately, it’s your responsibility to have the right test results and vaccine verifications – not your airline’s, cruise line’s, or travel agent’s.
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How to not forget: Make a list and check it twice
Deanna Ford, who runs a travel planning site called The Detailed Traveler, has dedicated her career to helping travelers remember things. She says checklists can help.
“Don’t leave home without a detailed itinerary and checklist,” she says.
What’s on the list?
COVID-19 paperwork. Number one on Ford’s list: the COVID-19 documentation. That includes a vaccination card and a copy of the card, a photo ID, and a negative coronavirus test result taken within the required window of time. Even if you’re traveling domestically and don’t think you need it, take it anyway. You never know when requirements might change.
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A safety kit. Debora Anthony, a nurse practitioner from Dallas, has a pandemic safety kit. She compiles a checklist before each trip and then checks and double-checks before her departure. “It should include spare masks, disposable seat covers for dirty airplane seats, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and a power bank to charge your phone, so you can avoid high-touch areas like airport wall outlets,” she says. “Keep the kit in your carry-on bag, so it’s ready any time you head to the airport.”
Medication. “A medication checklist is a top priority because it can be difficult to replace certain medications in many destinations, especially with the pandemic-related supply chain disruptions,” says John Gobbels, chief operating officer of Medjet, an air medical transport and travel security program. He says the company has had members who forget medication and assume they’ll be OK, but then land in the hospital. He recommends taking twice the medication you might need – just in case.
If you do forget something, it’s probably not the end of the world, say experts. Many hotels keep a stash of extra chargers and toiletries, just in case a guest forgets them. And you can always have paperwork overnighted to you.
But it’s still a hassle, and you’re better off remembering everything the first time around.
Tools for remembering everything before your next trip
A reliable checklist. Chris Emery, the founder of the outdoor travel site Ordealist.com, says it’s easy to forget something even if you’re an experienced traveler. “I used to forget important things all the time when planning expeditions: tent poles, matches, passports, socks, a spare car key,” he says. The solution: A checklist with everything on it. “Checklists are the magic cure for my forgetfulness,” he adds. You can find a great checklist on the website of tour operator Vacation Express. Also, the TSA has a handy checklist of restricted items for your checked bag.
Watertight sources. Consult primary sources like the State Department Travel site, which contains the most up-to-date visa and passport requirements for Americans. Check out a tool like Borderless from insurance company SafetyWing, which helps keep travelers updated with restrictions and entry requirements worldwide.
A little extra time. Giving yourself a few extra minutes before you leave can make all the difference. That’s what Warren Jaferian, the dean of international education at Endicott College, has found. “As cliche as it sounds, you need to check, recheck and check again if you have all of your documents,” he says.