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Seven tips to make your trip stress-free

  • Story Highlights
  • Double check Internet deals, they might be too good too be true
  • Check your insurance coverage; if it doesn't apply, purchase travel insurance
  • Don't let your guard down on vacation, use common sense
  • Pack multiple copies of your passport, keep essential account numbers handy
By Jordan Valinsky
CNN
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(CNN) -- To some it's a vacation, to others it's a holiday. No matter what you call it, it's a time to relax.

Tourists enjoy the beach on Phi Phi Island, Thailand.

Tourists enjoy the beach on Phi Phi Island, Thailand.

But with packed summer flights, ever-tightening budgets and scammers pulling fast ones on unsuspecting travelers, it's easy to make mistakes that could turn your hard-earned vacation into a nightmare. Before you go leaving on a jet plane here are some simple tips to insure happy trails.

Internet finds deals, troubles. The old adage "if it looks too good to be true, it probably is" still applies, even in the Caribbean.

Before you hand over your credit card for that inexpensive travel package, do your homework and find out exactly what's included, advises Linda Allen, cruise specialist for Cruises by Linda in Harrison, Arkansas. Also consider the destination's climate and seasonal variations.

"The cheapest time to go to the Caribbean is in the middle of hurricane season," Allen said. She also sees people trying to cram four people into rooms as small as 120 square feet which she compares to "a Boy Scout tent."

Ensuring your insurance. While you might have no qualms about hiking Mt. Everest, your health insurers might see things differently. In many cases, your medical insurance doesn't extend to international destinations. Check your coverage before you go.

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Doug Stallings, senior editor for Fodor's Travel and Fodors.com, said travelers must remember that being injured abroad can bring about hefty out-of-pocket expenses, even when you are covered.

"The one thing people need to understand if you are injured abroad is you will have to pay for your medical care, even hospital care, but then be reimbursed by [your] insurance," Stallings said. Video Watch tips on protecting your travel money »

If your insurance doesn't cover you abroad, you might want to purchase travel insurance which can cost less than $10 for a week-long trip.

Save your skin. The first day of vacation should be spent scoping out your new surroundings and not finding aloe vera to tend to your newly burned skin, so don't just pack sun screen but use it properly. Travelers often apply sunscreen once in the morning and neglect to re-apply throughout the day, according to travel health expert Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky. Follow the directions closely and keep applying it when you get out of the pool or sweat excessively.

The same applies to insect repellant. Insects can be more than just pests, Kozarsky said. They can also carry and transmit diseases like West Nile virus and malaria.

Also, make sure you're up to date on immunizations and research recommended vaccinations if you're heading to an exotic locale.

Dr. Kozarsky recommends checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Traveler's Health Web site for specific health information for destinations and the International Society of Travel Medicine at istm.org to find a travel health doctor.

Pack your common sense. Don't check your common sense with your bags. Kozarsky sees travelers letting their guard down and participating in reckless behavior like driving erratically.

"If you wouldn't do it here, why there?" she said. "People think things not OK here are OK on vacation."

She also sees a rise in sexually transmitted diseases when travelers return and reminds people to practice safe sex and to pack condoms.

Stay safe. While you don't need to wear a bullet proof vest and padlock your fanny pack, you should remain vigilant, says Robert Reid, the United States travel editor for Lonely Planet. He recalled the first day of a trip to Guadalajara, Mexico, when a stranger distracted him while he was waiting at a bus stop while another took his belongings, including his passport.

Always pack photocopies of your passport and another government-issued identification (i.e. driver's license) in different places. If your identification is stolen or lost, the copies can be presented at the nearest embassy or consulate and sometimes replaced as soon as later that day, Stallings said.

Stallings recommends keeping on hand the State Department's American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS) number (202/ 647-5225), which aids travelers in natural disasters, receiving money and replacing passports.

Minimize flight fiascos. Missing your flight and hopping on one an hour later is one thing, but what if that's the only flight for the week? That's what happened to Reid's wife. He was planning to meet her at the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia but a delay caused her to miss the once-weekly Anchorage to Kamchatka flight. Ultimately, she arrived in the mountainous region, after backtracking to connect in New York City and Moscow.

Reid recommends double checking your flight itinerary to insure you get to your final destination without hassle.

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"These little things can happen if you are flying a lot of different flights that aren't hooked up on the same airline and if you are going to far-away countries," Reid said. "Plan things a little more carefully."

Manage your money. Losing money or having your money stolen definitely ruins a vacation. Stallings recommends keeping account numbers and company contact information in your carry-on luggage to make replacing them easier should they get lost or stolen. If you lose your money, have a friend wire you money via a money transfer service like Western Union to a consulate.

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