With Spring Festival upon us, I am sure many of you will find yourselves itching to travel to another country or another part of China. For some of you, your trip to China was one of many; for others, it was the first of many. We want to make sure that as you are traveling you are both ensuring your safety and exploring the diversity of our world as much as possible. Read on for some tips to make that happen!
1) Make sure to take a photo of the first page of your passport and upload it to a cloud service you can access on your phone.
This tip saved me on multiple occasions. While it cannot be used as an official form of ID in most settings, it’s a good thing to have in a sticky situation, such as if your passport was stolen and you need assistance from an embassy/ consulate or you are purchasing a ticket and can't find your physical ID (this sometimes works). It’s a quick and easy way to protect yourself in case of an emergency.
2) Carry a scarf with you always.
Kind of emulating The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, scarves are an essential tool to travel. They can serve not only as a protector from the cold, but on a long bus or train trip they can double as a pillow. If you are on a budget trip, a scarf can even serve as an emergency towel (don't really recommend this though). They can also block the intake of particles if you are walking outside or happen to be in the desert (and if you are, be sure to share this story with me!)
3) Have at least $200 in cash in a secure location for emergencies.
Sounds a bit silly to have to say this, but it can be a lifesaver (quite literally). $200 is a little over the amount for a new passport and in most cases enough for several meals too. In the worst case scenario, you will have enough money to pay for unforeseen emergency expenses. In the best case scenario, you will have enough to pay for extra souvenirs at the end of your trip or to save for your next trip!
4) Pack an extra day of socks and underwear.
While we can always wear the same pants and shirt multiple days in a row, wearing the same undergarments isn't always the most comfortable or the most sanitary. So, packing an extra day's worth of undergarments allows you to have an extra set in case you need to do laundry or something unfortunate happens. Also, be sure to pack one set of clothes in your carry on if you are checking your luggage. Unfortunately, airlines do lose luggage and it's quite uncomfortable to wear your travel outfit several days in a row while waiting for your luggage to be recovered (trust me on this one - I know).
5) Bring multiple forms of identification.
Whether it’s your driver's license, permit, credential card, or something else, it is always a good idea to carry multiple types of identification with you, in case backup identification is requested or your primary form is lost. It may not work in all situations, but it is better than nothing! In conjunction with a picture of your passport on your phone, it can come in handy if you need to go to an embassy/ consulate.
6) Register for S.T.E.P.
If you are from the US, this simple step can put your mind at ease for your entire trip. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (S.T.E.P.) is a way for you to register your travel with the U.S. Department of State. If you are traveling and something happens in an area close to you, embassies/ consulates are able to contact you immediately and arrange help. It's a great way for the government to protect its citizens in case of emergencies. It’s a simple thing to do - you only need to put in your basic contact information (and emergency contact information if you'd like), where you are going, and your expected travel dates. If you are not from the US, it is suggested that you still register your travel plans with your home country's embassy.
7) Check visa requirements before you go - don't assume you don't need one!
There have been stories of people, especially those of different nationalities traveling together, where one or more people get stuck in the airport and are unable to travel because they don't have the correct visa documentation. So, check your destination's travel information website about any visa requirements for people of your citizenship. This also includes entrance and exit fees that may be required.
Also, if you are traveling to an autonomous region in China (Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, and Guangxi), make sure you are aware of the travel requirements for foreigners.
8) Everything, but you, is replaceable.
The only thing that's not replaceable is YOU. Please make sure that you are doing everything to make sure that your adventures are as safe as possible, and you are bound to have the experience of a lifetime.
9) The greatest and easiest gifts to give are your stories.
Trinkets and knick-knacks are great, but it is hearing about experiences from other people that help to create the desire for others to have their own global experience. Use your photos and voice to help share that. The AYC Annual Media Competition is right around the corner, so now is a great time to get photos and videos to make your story stand out!