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Dr. Anderson: Stress-Free Travel

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Dr. Anderson: Stress-Free Travel

Doctor Eric Anderson, a charter diplomat of the American Board of Family Practice and a former president of the New Hampshire Academy of Family Physicians is a regular contributor to Travel Tips 'n' Tales. He is widely traveled and published, having written a travel health column for Travel 50 & Beyond and a weekly online column, Ask The Doctor, for The New York Times Syndicate.

Dr. Anderson invites you to send your questions regarding travel health issues to ericmd@lorrypatton.com

Tips to Cut the Stress of Travel: Part One

Dr_Anderson.jpg Eric Anderson, MD

"I now think the benefit of a vacation lasts only as long as the vacation," said a partner of mine recently. He pointed out that when you come back to a stack of magazines and mail, a bunch of phone calls, a pile of data to evaluate and a crammed appointment schedule because your patients waited for you to come back -- by this time you wish you'd never gone away.

This makes our days off all the more precious. Yet it's hard to unwind immediately upon check-in at our holiday destination, partly because the days leading up to it are often so hectic.

Like the other day. I had two hours before I had to leave for the airport. My thoughts were racing as I drove across town thinking, "After I pick up film I need to get the dry cleaning and I wonder if, for once, I should find a drugstore and give melatonin a try, and..."

My ruminations were interrupted abruptly by a screech of brakes. A Plymouth, actually driven by a little old lady, stood on its brakes to avoid hitting me. I'd run a stop sign in the shopping center. As I drove on, a bit shaken, I had no doubt what I'd done wrong: I'd broken one of my own rules for a stress-free vacation.

You probably organize your time better I do and you probably don't need me to point out the ways we might ruin our vacations before they start. Indeed, a lot of travel advice is just common sense, but sometimes common sense flies out the window when faraway places beckon. And some advice, like the following simple rules, is less obvious.

1: Don't be busy the day you leave.

This was the trap that nearly ruined my vacation in the supermarket can you imagine a more inconvenient time to have an accident than a couple of hours prior your planned airport arrival time? I left so much for the last day, that I was harried. Yet most of what we do the day we leave could really be done the day before.

2: Do get to the airport needlessly early.

Before September 11, airport protocols went so well most of the time, we could get away with last-minute stuff, especially in business travel. Those days are gone. Today, it is absolute folly not to arrive very early, especially if our flight out of, say, San Diego connects us to the London flight out of Chicago that connects us with our end destination flight to Istanbul. If we miss that first leg on route because we were running late and driving fast and consequently were stopped for speeding, we've missed the bus, as it were, and God help us if it was a charter flight

3: Consider business class out, economy class home.

It's important to be rested at the start of your vacation; you can always crash in your own bed when you get back. It seems to me, the frugal Scot, that there's not much difference between Business Class and First, at least not enough to justify the added expense, but there's a world of difference between Business and Coach. It may be worth paying that difference to have a gentler start to your trip.

You can achieve the same effect by arriving at your faraway destination a day ahead and checking into an airport hotel. In fact, if you're going to be renting a car, and you traveled overseas, you need the rest. Especially if you're in England and alone driving on the left is even harder when you don't have a companion hollering, "Left. left, left," at those dreadful traffic circles the British call "round-abouts."

4: Car rentals, auto insurance and credit cards user rights.

First, do you really need to rent a car, since most industrialized countries have rail systems far superior to Amtrak -- and they run on time. If you must rent, ask whether your own insurance or the use of your credit card allows you to decline the expensive collision liability. Consider too, for safety's sake, to rent the much higher-priced automatic models and remember, gasoline in most countries is priced like 12 year-old Scotch so ask yourself how far afield you really want to drive.

Roads in foreign lands are not always as good as North American Interstates therefore, give yourself extra time to get where you're going and don't fly along the roads. Not only will you miss the details of your vacation but the aftermath in some Third World countries can actually be dangerous if you've caused an accident or injured locals or hurt a child.

5: Arm yourself with backups.

Have back-up systems for anything you can't afford to lose. That means duplicates of medical prescriptions, eyeglasses, sunglasses, and spare credit cards and even an extra camera, though it need not be as sophisticated as your regular model. Lay out the few credit cards you're going to take on vacation on a photocopier, make two copies, leave one with a friend back home and carry the other. Bring extra passport-size photos. That way if you have your passport stolen in Naples, Italy -- and it may well happen you will be more prepared to get new documents.

Stress Free Travel: Part Two »

» » More articles by Dr. Eric Anderson

Lorry Patton's Travel Tips 'n' Tales would like to remind you to always consult with your personal physician before following any medical advice and to please read the Travel Tips 'n' Tales "Terms of Use" found on the bottom of each page of this website. Dr. Anderson's opinions are not necessarily the opinions of Lorry Patton or Travel Tips 'n' Tales.