No matter what kinds of insurance you have—home, car, medical, or travel—you’d rather not use them, right? Even if you have great coverage, it will never fully make up for the trauma of your home burning, your car being stolen, or coming down with a serious illness. It’s the same with travel insurance; it can make your life much easier in those unpleasant situations and help you avoid financial calamity, but you’d probably rather avoid those situations altogether. Here are some travel tips to help you avoid bad experiences on your next journey. – Wherever you are (and this applies in your hometown too) be aware of your surroundings. If something seems suspicious to you, it probably is. Take the common sense precaution of observing your environment and the people around you. – Know the risks of the place you are traveling to before you even make the decision to go. Check the U.S. State Department website for the types of crime or other hazards that tourists in a particular country experience. In most places, the chance of being the victim of a violent crime is probably less than it is at home. However, you’ll be better prepared if you can find specific information that will help you make informed decisions while traveling. If there’s a popular scam or an area that’s known to be the site of frequent crimes against tourists, it helps to know this in advance. – Whenever you travel to a foreign country, knowing at least a few phrases in the local language will enhance your experience. Even if you feel self-conscious, people will appreciate the effort, and learning such key phrases such as “Can you help me?” “I’m allergic to…” or “I can’t find my child” can help you deal with a bad situation. Dorling-Kindersley puts out a good series of language phrasebooks that come with CD’s. It’s possible to learn useful phrases in a few hours, perhaps even on the plane ride over. Most locals will be eager to help you if you are in distress, even if you can only communicate in charades. It is also helpful to carry a card with vital medical information in the local language. – Be sure to fill your prescriptions before you leave, and plan in advance! Some HMOs will only give you a week or month of your prescription at a time, so if you are going on a longer trip, plan ahead and call your insurance company so that you can get an adequate supply for your vacation. Be sure to pack your medicine in your carry-on luggage. Leave it in its original container and be sure the container is clearly labeled. – Carry a photocopy of your passport stored separately from your passport itself. It’s also a good idea to leave a photocopy at home with a friend or family member that you can reach easily if necessary. It also helps to carry a money belt with your most important things—the bulk of your cash, credit card, plane ticket home, passport—and carry just the cash you need for the day in a “decoy” purse or wallet. You can buy slender, soft money belts from most travel stores, and they will stay hidden in the waist of your trousers or skirt—accessible if you need them, but out of sight. (Fanny packs, on the other hand, are an invitation to robbery, and not terribly aesthetic either.) – The peace of mind that you get from having travel insurance should help you to relax and enjoy your vacation, not add to your concerns. Once you’ve taken these sensible precautions—and others that you may read about in your guidebook—forget about them and have fun! Travel insurance can help you if you become ill or if your luggage is stolen, but it can’t make your trip more fun or memorable. That’s up to you.