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Going Prepared

The Real Cost of an International Travel Adventures

International travelers tend to focus intensely on finding the lowest possible airfare, but there are many travel costs that exceed the money spent on plane tickets. While some items on this list may seem optional or even extravagant, especially to those on a budget, their value is priceless when you need them most.

The cost of your vaccinations (up to several hundred dollars) could be nearly as much as your plane ticket, but your health is not the place to cut costs. Unfortunately, most insurance companies, do not cover the cost of this preventive care.

The Center for Disease Control’s website is thorough and easy to use, listing vaccination requirements for each country.

You may need to see a travel doctor to get all the necessary vaccinations, and your health plan may not cover this visit either. Plan to get your shots four to six weeks in advance of your departure.

You can probably get medicines wherever you are and, in some cases, for far less than in the U.S., but travel medicine specialists recommend taking along a broad-spectrum antibiotic like Bactrim or Cipro.

Then there’s the over-the-counter medicine kit. Don’t underestimate the value of this even though it could run as much as $100 depending on the length of your trip and type of activities. Some travel or camping stores sell medicine kits, which could be cheaper than doing it yourself as long as it has everything you need and enough for the length of your trip. For more information on travel medicine kits, check your guidebook or the World Health Organization’s resources for international travel and health at

Travel insurance, like any insurance, seems exorbitant when all goes well but priceless when something goes wrong. Like your vaccinations and medicine kit, it’s better to be prepared. Read the fine print before buying travel insurance to learn specific terms and conditions.

Most importantly, the medical portion of your travel insurance can cover the cost of evacuation back to the U.S.

I contracted meningitis in Bahrain, a wealthy Persian Gulf country served primarily by British doctors. But even there my doctor suggested I would be better off in a larger and more sophisticated facility where I could be more thoroughly tested and cared for. My U.S. doctor figured out what was wrong with me in 30 minutes.

Your regular health insurance may cover some of your overseas healthcare expenses, but not evacuation costs. Check with your regular health insurance carrier to be sure of your coverage before you go. You can start your search for travel insurance at, which claims to offer 30 different plans from 11 different companies.

Having the right luggage for the type of trip you’re taking may make the difference between a happy traveler and a crabby one. In short, be mobile and pack light. Don’t count on wheel-friendly sidewalks everywhere. Unless you’re going from the airport to taxi to resort, you better be able to carry it yourself. Eagle Creek has a fabulous pack with wheels, so you can carry it on your back or roll it, as conditions allow. Also, a traveler who is bogged down and reliant on others can be a target, especially a woman.

Special clothing costs from very little to thousands of dollars. If you’re headed to the beach, a swimsuit and sarong may suffice, but if you’re planning any type of sport or climate changes, you may need special clothing. To pack light, you may want to invest in versatile travel clothing made of newer fabrics that dry quickly and are wrinkle-free.

You can buy underwear that quick-dries so you only need two pairs for the whole trip. You can buy long pants that zip off into shorts or a long skirt that zips off into a short one. A good travel skirt or convertible pants will run $50 or more; some come with hidden pockets for added security. The quick-dry underwear can be more than $15 per pair. If you need any special equipment or clothing for your sport, like a new ski jacket, factor that in too. Any camping or travel store will have a wide selection of travel clothes.

Don’t underestimate the importance of having the right shoes. A great pair of hiking or walking shoes may cost upwards of $100. Even small, less expensive items can be invaluable. A compact umbrella or rain poncho may be the best $15 you ever spent when all the taxis are taken and you’re walking two miles back to your hotel in a downpour.

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