Preparing for your vacation
Get information well before you leave
Reliable sources for useful travel information include your travel agent or a foreign destination travel guide. You can also contact us for information on your destination before your departure. If pre-departure time is short, your best bet is to contact the consulate or embassy of the country of your destination for travel information.
After you decide on a travel destination, visit a travel clinic to find out which vaccines are mandatory or recommended for your destination. Ensure that you and your children are vaccinated against potentially dangerous illnesses and that your vaccines are up to date. Several common vaccines can now be administered in a single injection.
Be aware: Being vaccinated should not preclude being careful. Take measures to avoid insect bites, bacteria and contact with indigenous animals. Ensure you are well equipped with an insect repellent, a long-sleeved shirt, pants, closed-toe shoes, a mosquito net, etc.
If you’re pregnant, you should always consult your doctor before you travel. Your doctor will verify your state of health and advise you of activities or foods to avoid if you are travelling outside Canada.
Although most major airlines allow pregnant women as passengers until the 36th week of a normal pregnancy, most travel insurance contracts will only cover pregnancy up to the 31st week (inclusive).
First aid kit
Always carry a first aid kit to treat minor injuries when you travel. Your kit should include items such as bandages, compresses, adhesive tape, scissors, antiseptic, antibiotic ointment and a sling. Remember that if you have a pair of scissors or even a metal nail file in your carry-on luggage, it can be confiscated at the customs gate. Place your first aid kit in your checked baggage, which will be stored in the airplane baggage compartment.
Travelling with a chronic illness or health condition
- Consult your doctor at least four months before your departure to ensure that your illness or condition is well under control. If you are over the age of 55, visit your doctor at least seven months before you plan to leave. Failure to consult your physician may result in the refusal of any future insurance claim.
- If you take medication on a regular basis, you must have proof of its required use. The best proof is the original prescription label or a copy of the doctor’s prescription. Bring more medication than you should need, and store it in more than one piece of luggage in case your baggage is lost or stolen.
- Avoid trying to save room in your baggage by placing all of your medication into one container. Customs regulations are strict. Your medication must be in its original container with the label indicating that it was prescribed to you. Ask your pharmacist to provide you with medication in two properly identified containers.
- Do you suffer from conditions such as diabetes, asthma or epilepsy? Consider wearing a MedicAlert a bracelet that immediately lets medical staff identify your condition if you become ill.
- If you require a syringe to administer medication, or if your medication contains narcotics (such as migraine headache tablets), you must present customs officials with a signed certificate from your doctor attesting that the material is reserved for personal and medical use. Make sure that you have enough syringes.
- If your health is in a fragile state or if you are highly susceptible to getting the flu, you should consult a doctor before your departure.
- Call us for the addresses of health centres that provide services for specific conditions. We can quickly locate a properly equipped institution close to your vacation site.
Avoid accidents and illnesses while you travel
Motion or car sickness
Commonly experienced when any kind of vehicle is in motion, motion sickness is rare while flying. Symptoms include feelings of discomfort, with sweating, paleness, excessive salivation, headache, and sudden nausea, vomiting, dizziness or weakness. It is not dangerous, but it can be very uncomfortable. To prevent motion sickness:
- Get a good night’s sleep before you leave
- Eat a well-balanced meal, and avoid white wine, coffee and carbonated beverages
- Avoid tobacco or being near cooking odours
- While in motion, keep head movements to a minimum, focus your gaze on the horizon and avoid reading
- On a boat, stay close to the boat’s centre of gravity
- In a car, sit in the front seat
- In an airplane, select a seat in the middle of the aircraft
Many over-the-counter products are available to help manage the symptoms of motion sickness. Consult your pharmacist to ensure that this type of product will not interact with any prescription medication you may be taking. If you decide to relieve your aches and pains with over-the-counter drugs, contact the appropriate consulate or embassy to make sure the drugs are permitted at your final destination.
To minimize this particular discomfort while you’re travelling, consider the following tips:
- Even if the water at your travel destination is drinkable, your body may not be used to the micro-organisms the water contains. Don’t risk drinking tap water; drink only bottled spring water, and only from bottles that have been opened in front of you. Avoid beverages with ice cubes or crushed ice. If, after having consumed water, you become nauseated or have violent and persistent symptoms of gastroenteritis, go the nearest hospital immediately.
- Avoid salad bars and foods that may be washed with contaminated water. Always avoid raw foods and fruit that cannot be peeled, such as grapes and various berries. Carefully peel fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid foods from street vendors.The golden rule: peel, cook or avoid.
Safety in or near water
- Be careful at the beach. There may be a good reason no one else is swimming in the water. Ask for information on safe places to swim, and wear sandals while walking in the sand to minimize risk of injuries, burns and infections.
- Find out if there are jellyfish in the area. Never swim when jellyfish are around.
- As a general rule, avoid swimming in freshwater lakes or ponds. They often contain parasites that can penetrate the skin.
- Don’t risk water shock. Water shock can occur when your body, after being heated by the sun, comes in contact with cold water abruptly. It can cause a violent reaction that could lead to a heart attack. Enter the water gradually.
- Take the time to acclimatize once you arrive at your destination (this also goes for the first hot days of summer at home), and take it easy for the first two days. Don’t overexert yourself during the hottest times of the day.
- When in the south, do as the locals. If people aren’t working between noon and 3 p.m., there is a reason. Slow down; after all, you are on vacation.
- A shower or dip in the pool or ocean will help lower your body temperature and help avoid heatstroke. Children and seniors dehydrate faster and are more susceptible to heatstroke. Ensure that they keep a normal body temperature by spending time in the pool or ocean, or have them take a shower often.
- Wear light-coloured and loose clothing, as clothing protects you better than any sunscreen will. Light colours reflect the heat, and dark colours absorb it. Cotton and linen are the most comfortable fabrics to wear in the sun, and the tighter the fabric weave, the more protected you are from the UV rays.
- Wear a hat, preferably one with a wide brim to shade your ears and neck. Wear good-quality sunglasses that filter UVA and UVB rays.
- Wear a sunscreen or sunblock with an SPF of 15 (for adults) or 30 (for children) on exposed areas of the skin, and reapply after swimming. Skin cancer can take up to 15 years to develop, so this is particularly important for children. Make sure your sunscreen or sunblock contains UVA and UVB filters, and look for the Canadian Dermatology Association logo on the product.
- Prevent dehydration, which can lead to serious health problems. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water. Your body requires up to 2 litres a day, or up to 6 litres if you’re perspiring or participating in sports in the sun. Avoid alcohol, which is a diuretic and attracts mosquitoes when they sense it in the blood.
If you are going on an excursion into the desert, regardless of the duration or time of year, you should always take the following:
- Warm clothing, as the temperature can drop below 0°C after sunset, even in the summer months
- A blanket
- Cereal bars
- At least 4 litres of water per person per day
This is an allergic reaction to the sun; a rash appears on exposed skin, resulting in an itching sensation. If you suffer from this problem or if you are very sensitive to the sun:
- Avoid sun exposure during peak hours, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use an SPF of at least 45
- Consider medication, as some substances may reduce the development of a rash. Consult your doctor and your pharmacist: an antihistamine may be helpful
Some drugs and products can also provoke skin reactions when the skin is exposed to the sun. They are said to cause photosensitivity, which means they can make the skin react with sunlight. Avoid perfumes and perfumed creams, and be aware that many drugs can induce photosensitivity, such as antibiotics, antidepressants, contraceptive pills, heart medications, anxiety medications and some cosmetic skin products.
Travelling with Children
Plan before you leave
- Children must now have a passport issued in their names. The International Civil Aviation Organization recommends this measure for children’s security. If your children are currently registered on your passport, the passport is valid until it expires. If your children are flying alone, they need to have their own passports.
- It is highly recommended that a parent travelling without the other parent but with their children carry a notarized legal document signed by the other parent or the legal guardian authorizing the trip. This will avoid problems at the customs gate. The document should include the names of the children and the name and address of the parent or guardian.
- If you rent a car outside Canada, bring a car seat that meets the North American safety standards
- Plan for frequent stops to allow everyone to stretch their legs; stops will prevent driver fatigue, and children can burn off some excess energy
- Bring sugar-free and caffeine-free snacks and drinks. Fresh or dried fruit, whole-wheat crackers, raw vegetables, cheese, nuts, and fruit juice or spring water are some good examples
- Keep games, toys, books and music in the car. If the kids are busy, the driver can better focus on the road
- If your children are used to having a nap, plan to travel during naptime to keep them on their usual schedule and make for a less stressful trip
- Avoid smoking in your car, especially if your children suffer from motion sickness
- Inform the airline that you are travelling with children. Most airlines will try to make the children’s trip more enjoyable. Travel agents and airline staff can help you reserve the most practical seats for your family.
- A child under the age of 2 may travel on your lap, but children over 2 must occupy their own seats. If your baby weighs less than 12 kg (25 lbs.) and cannot sit unassisted, you can request a skycot. Request it when you reserve your tickets. Skycots are only available on large planes.
- If a family member has food allergies or if your children are fussy eaters, you can request special meals, including children’s meals, from the airline at least 24 hours before departure.
- Ensure that your children have something to drink during takeoff and landing to prevent discomfort from the change in air pressure.
After you arrive at your destination
- Give your children a card that lists the address where you’ll be staying while on vacation. Tell them to keep it with them at all times. If they get lost, they will be able to find you.
- Each day, select a meeting place in case someone gets lost.
- Show your children how to use a foreign telephone and ensure that they know the name and telephone number of the person or place to call if they get lost.
Helpful guide for snowbirds
- Do you have a chronic illness? Using the Blue Cross medical questionnaire, your doctor can provide our medical director with an assessment of your health condition. If your illness is under control, it may be covered under a Blue Cross travel insurance plan. You are under no obligation to complete the questionnaire, but it is recommended for determining whether your condition can be covered. You will be covered in case of accident or illness not related to your condition. For more details, contact us at 1-866-732-2583.
- If you take medication regularly, bring more medication than you would normally require in case it gets lost or stolen. Bring an additional one-week supply.
- Identify your baggage to make it easy to find. How many black or navy suitcases do you see on a baggage carousel? Identify your baggage in a distinctive way: a ribbon, sticker, tag or button.
- Did you know that seniors are more sensitive to the sun and dehydration than people in the younger age groups? Prevent heatstroke and overexposure by drinking lots of water and protecting your skin. Bring a beach umbrella, sunscreen or sunblock, bottle of water, large hat and sandals to the beach every time you go.
- Wear sandals at all times to prevent injuries from sharp stones, broken glass or parasites.
- Wherever you are, avoid looking like a tourist. Before you buy souvenirs, look at the locals and adopt their mannerisms and appearance when walking around town. They do not carry cameras around their necks, or large amounts of money. Keep your camera in a bag, and pay for purchases with a credit or debit card so that you do not have to carry large amounts of cash.