Sandra Reed’s Life Care Planning: Turn travel travails to triumph

Attorney Sandra W. Reed answers your life planning questions.

Attorney Sandra W. Reed answers your

life planning questions.

You’re retired and at last have the time to travel. Whether your flight of fancy takes you to Europe, China, Japan, Australia, Africa or South America, the travails of travel can turn a dream trip into a nightmare if you aren’t prepared.

Since 9/11, air travel especially has become increasingly complicated and is likely to remain so following last week’s Boston bombings.  Here are some tips to create a delightful reality from the holiday you imagined.

Get Any Required Vaccinations Well in Advance

Some destinations will require you to obtain immunizations or vaccinations from maladies such as Hepatitis A or B, malaria or yellow fever, a specified time before you travel. Additional vaccinations may be recommended for your personal safety, even if they are not required. Information regarding requirements and recommendations can be obtained from local health department clinics or online.

Check your insurance coverage before being vaccinated. Some insurance companies cover 100 percent of the cost of preventive vaccines if given at an approved pharmacy.  If you get the shots from the health department, which does not accept insurance, you may pay $150 or more for a vaccination. If you get the shot at your doctor’s office, the insurance may not cover the fee the doctor charges for administering the vaccine, even if it pays for the vaccine itself.

 Passports and Visas

Know ahead of time the requirements each country you plan to visit has for entering. In most cases, a valid passport will be the minimum requirement. Make certain your passport is up-to-date and meets any additional requirements. In some countries a valid passport at the time of travel is not sufficient. Some do not allow entrance if a passport will expire within a designated period and some require a visa in addition to a passport. You can obtain a passport through the post office and information about the additional requirements online.

If the country you plan to visit requires a visa, be aware that some countries have strict rules for obtaining the visa. For instance, Bolivia requires U.S. citizens to pay $135 per person for a visa while Canadians enter the country free of charge with only their passports. In addition, the Bolivian immigration authorities will not accept certain series $100 bills and all bills tendered must be crisp and pristine. Not only will a torn bill be rejected, but even a folded one is not likely to pass muster. What may seem like a ridiculous procedure and a mere power trip for low-level bureaucrats must be endured in some ports, so be prepared to grin and bear it.

Money and Foreign Currency

Know the type currency used in all your destinations.  Study the exchange rates and develop a formula you can quickly apply to determine the U.S. dollar equivalent. It is not always necessary to obtain the foreign currency before leaving the United States. If you are not going to remote locations, and even in some that are remote, ATM machines will accept a debit card or credit card with which you can obtain the currency you need. A small fee will be charged, but often the exchange rates in these machines can make up for the fee and the machines provide the advantage of being able to carry around smaller amounts of money that could be lost or stolen.

Airline Rules About Luggage/ Meds/ /Liquids, Gels and Aerosols

Pack as lightly as you can to save money and/or for convenience. Some airlines are now restricting the amount of carry-on items and are charging for checked luggage.  For instance, American Airlines allows two carry-ons per person, counting a purse as one and a back-pack as one. American charges $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second one. Size and weight restrictions apply to both carry-on and checked baggage.

For overseas travel, be prepared to carry all medicines needed for the trip in their original prescription bottles or OTC containers. If you attempt to carry liquids, gels and aerosols on the plane with you, be certain they are of 3 ounces or less. Otherwise, they will be confiscated by security officials before you board. If you must carry larger amounts, pack these in baggage you plan to check since these restrictions do not apply to checked luggage.  Some airports require 3-ounce containers and meds to be placed in a clear plastic bag, so pack them this way to avoid the inconvenience of transferring them during the security check.

Food and Drink Precautions

In some countries the water is not safe to drink for those not used to it. Research the recommendations regarding this and be prepared to purchase bottled water if necessary. Remember that if the water is not safe to drink, you should use bottled water to brush your teeth and refrain from eating any food that could have been washed in the water unless it has been thoroughly cooked. This means no salads, fresh tomatoes or fruits, except something like bananas that you peel yourself.


Check your medical insurance policy before leaving for your trip. Determine what services are covered overseas. Depending on your coverage, you may want to consider purchasing a policy that covers medical treatment should you need it, out of the country.


Check the U.S. State Department listings for locations hazardous to American travelers and avoid these until removed from the warning list. In any foreign city, venture alone only in areas designated as safe, especially at night. Leave expensive jewelry — or that looks expensive, even if it isn’t — and furs at home. Limit clothing to the durable and practical, not flashy. When possible, take clothing and other items that are dispensable in case luggage is lost.

Duty On Purchased Items

Review the U.S. limitations on the duty imposed on items purchased abroad. The immigration authorities impose a per person limit on which duty is not charged for each country. For South America, for instance, that amount is $400 per person. Each family must complete one form, meaning that a couple can spend $800 before any duty is imposed. Retain receipts for items purchased so you can prove the accuracy of the amount declared.

Bon Voyage!

Follow these simple procedures so your trip of a lifetime lives up to expectations. Bon voyage!

Sandra W. Reed is an attorney practicing in Glen Rose. She is of counsel with the elder law firm of Katten & Benson in Fort Worth.  If you have any questions, you may contact her by phone at 254-797-0211 or by email at

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