So this week President Obama announced that trade would once again be opened up to Communist Cuba! For the people of Cuba this is great as it represents the potential for a much needed injection of income into Cuba. While the country is currently open to trade, tourism is another story. It makes sense that if we are openly trading with a country then it is just a matter of time before we openly allow travel there. Currently visitation is limited but includes official business, government work, and missionary ventures. My primary care physician has actually been vacationing to Cuba for years on a missionary visa. He tells me that it is like “stepping back in time!”
With Cuba most likely going to become a travel option in the near future I wanted to use it as a springboard to talk about what veterans (active and non-active) should consider when traveling there or anywhere. I wrote recently about how to get a good deal on travel and the importance of being safe, but now I want to give some more direct tips.
Avoid Traveling in Uniform
For most services traveling in uniform is actually forbidden currently unless when on official business such as traveling to or from a deployment. In some foreign situations where identifying yourself as a service member could be risky (such as the Middle East) this rule might be suspended. If you are no longer on active duty traveling in uniform may not be an option but you still might want to be careful displaying anything that might broadcast your former service. Challenge coins or squadron jackets are examples of items that can identify you as a veteran. I am all for showing pride in my service but just remember that some people are on the lookout for veterans to prey upon and they know the signs to watch for.
My wife likes to arrive at least 30 minutes early to any appointment. More often than not she gets there an hour early. When I was stationed on an Army post I remember that the rule was that you had to check in for all appointments 15 minutes early, and that if you were on-time you were late. Getting to your departure point early can help prevent you from missing your flight and give you a chance to check out the area for any issues or threats. For those still on active duty, depending on your branch and your supervisor, you can actually get approved to depart for vacation up to half a day early. I know the Marines authorize your leave to start at noon the day before and end at noon the day after. They do this so you have more than enough time to get to your destination and get back. The best part about that practice is they do not require you to use any extra leave then what you originally planned. I know that the Air Force has a regulation that allows you to depart for leave during Christmas at noon the day before your leave starts in order to avoid a travel rush.
Whether you are soon to be taking a trip to Cuba in the near future or just going to visit friends, make sure to be safe. Don’t forget to keep a lookout for travel deals as well.