In Case of Emergency: What to Do When Your Vacation Turns into a Nightmare

by  Tommy Burson | May 28, 2014
Emergency Travel Tips
Emergency Travel Tips /

Traveling isn't always a stress-free, smooth-sailing, relaxing-on-the-beach-while-sipping-mojitos experience. Unexpected emergencies – be it a broken ankle, an lost passport, or a bout of food poisoning – can turn a dream vacation into a nightmare. So how do you prepare for a potential travel emergency?

What to Do During an Emergency

First, it depends on the type of emergency you're dealing with. Losing your passport requires an immediate embassy consultation, but you’d never turn to the U.S. embassy for a broken arm. Luckily, 10 of the most common travel emergencies, from bed bugs to transit strikes, just require a bit of common sense and a grasp on the typical rules.

Need a doctor while you’re away? ZocDoc, an app and website, lets you seamlessly book doctor’s appointments from anywhere. Using a GPS tracker, it locates nearby medical facilities and lets you reserve an appointment on the spot, often for the day of. (Did you know that one of the most common causes for hospital visits on vacation involve children with allergies?)

Then there's "emergency" in the bigger sense, when travel warnings are issued for certain countries. Looking at recent cases like Thailand and Yemen, it can be difficult to gauge what the real dangers are without being on the ground – especially if the U.S. embassies there close. But even when that happens, each country still has representatives on hand to answer questions by phone. The Department of State also has two alternative lines for additional assistance: 888-407-4747 for US-based calls and +1-202-501-4444 for overseas calls.

When it comes to lost items, cancellations, and more, travel insurance can end up saving lots of money, particularly if you're embarking on a lengthy trip or going to a more exotic locale. And if you plan on any potentially dangerous activities abroad – like skiing or rock climbing – additional coverage for medical expenses can account for as much as $10,000 in fees that you could be billed without insurance.

Other Travel Tips

There are some common travel issues that, while not exactly emergencies, can have a huge impact on your trip. A dirty hotel room, for example, can cause a lot of anxiety. To combat this, avoid immediately tossing your luggage onto the bed or chairs, analyze these surfaces for bugs, and wipe the counters with alcohol wipes.

The same goes for sleep – or a lack thereof. Jet lag, uncomfortable plane seats, and unfamiliar beds challenge even experienced travelers to get enough rest to enjoy their vacation. Consider these 23 tips to guide you to slumber.

But before even hitting the road, make sure you understand your country’s passport laws. Some nations require your passport to be valid for three months, others six months, and some for up to one year. You'll also want to make sure you have your visas in order; not having the proper ones can result in travel delays and big fines.

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