A little planning helps keep your dream vacation from becoming a nightmare.

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Are you envious of your friends’ beautiful vacation photos of tropical beaches and historic ruins? Well, maybe if you set up an oscillating fan next to your heater, stare at your screen, and blur your eyes a bit you’ll feel just like you’re there. No? Not working for you?

Then maybe it’s time to plan your own exotic vacation. It could be the only way to survive the winter. Once you’ve chosen your destination and booked your accommodations and transportation, it’s time to get prepared for your trip. Here are five things everyone should do before traveling overseas.

Vaccinations

Once the arrangements are made, you’ll want to make an appointment with a travel clinic to discuss the necessary vaccinations and medications for the region you’ll be visiting. When was the last time you had a tetanus shot? Do you need a new one? What does a tetanus shot do exactly? A good travel clinic can help you answer these questions.

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When travelers come see us right before they leave for their trip, we often don’t have enough time to administer all the recommended preventative care that’s necessary,” says Christina S., pharmacist at Bartell Drugs. Making your appointment at least 4-6 weeks in advance gives the pharmacist enough time to provide all needed vaccinations/medications and specifically tailor your travel clinic appointment to your individual travel plan. That way you can be out there trekking instead of in your hotel room sick and napping.

Travel docs

You know you need a current passport, right? Make sure to check the expiration date well in advance of your travel. It’s no fun to pay the rush fees and still have to wait by your mailbox in the hope that it arrives in time for your departure. If you need to renew your passport, keep in mind it can take eight weeks to process. You’ll need a new passport photo, which you can get at your local drugstore such as Bartells.  Also, check to see if you need a tourist visa for the countries you’ll be visiting. Most visas can be obtained at the airport upon entry, but in some cases they require pre-approval. These rules and procedures change often so be sure to check the requirements of every country you plan to visit with the local embassy, consulate, or reputable travel company.

Health insurance

Medical insurance coverage is an often overlooked but important aspect of international travel. You’ll want to contact your insurance company and ask these questions before you leave:

  • Will my policy cover me if I get sick or injured abroad?
  • Will my policy cover me if I have trouble with a pre-existing condition while I am overseas?
  • Will I have to pay out of pocket for medical treatment and then file a claim when I am back in the U.S. for reimbursement?

It’s also important for travelers visiting remote locations to consider purchasing emergency evacuation insurance.

Region-specific health risks

Beyond vaccinations, a good travel clinic can inform you about other region-specific health risks and how to protect yourself from them.

“When I went to Costa Rica,” Evelyn M. of Bartell Drugs said of her experience using their travel clinic, “the pharmacist did her research so she was ready to advise me on issues ranging from simple advice on sunscreen and treatments for motion sickness to malaria pills and how to treat intestinal problems.”

Sometimes there’s an easy enough treatment to a common health problem and all it takes is a little preparation. So make sure you’re prepared by visiting a travel clinic.

When you get home, the fun isn’t over. It’s your turn to help your friends get through those gray Seattle days by sharing your photos. Don’t forget to make some hard copies for posterity and maybe even stick one or two on a coffee mug. That way you can be reminded of your own exotic vacation any day of the week – no blurring of the eyes or oscillating fans necessary.

Bartell Drugs is a one-stop shop for all your travel needs including passport photos, International Travel Clinics at 29 locations, travel accessories and adapters, as well as an in-store photo studio for photobooks, photo gifts and more.