Handling Emergencies While on Vacation

An emergency can happen at any time, but when you are on vacation and away from familiar surroundings, stress levels can soar and the feeling of vulnerability can leave you or a loved one in a state of panic.  The truth is, vacation emergencies happen frequently.  In this article, we will look at some of the most common emergencies while on vacation and offer some advice if it happens to you.

Medical Emergencies

This is the most common type of emergency, but it can be one of the most serious and stressful events to go through if you are traveling.  Illness and accidents can happen anywhere at any time.  If you are still in the United States, call 911 immediately.  There will be an equivalent number in each country you visit, so knowing that number ahead of time is wise.  The State Department provides up-to-date information by country here

Medical treatment can vary widely from country to country and what type of insurance you have.  Some forms of insurance will not work in all countries, so make sure you check yours before you go.  It may be a good idea to buy a travel insurance policy before you leave home.  Regardless, make sure you carry medical information for everyone in your traveling party just in case.

Vehicle Issues

Whether it is your own car or a rental, vehicles can break down at a moment’s notice.  Breakdowns can leave you stranded and/or cause other delays or postponements during your trip.  Accidents, vehicle theft, and vandalism can also ruin your trip.  Having the right insurance can take some of the sting out of an accident or breakdown as is dealing with a reputable rental company.  We recommend checking the car each time you take off for the day to make sure the tires are properly inflated, there is coolant in the radiator, etc.  It is also wise to park under lights whenever possible when retiring for the night.

Loss of Personal Belongings

Passports, luggage, money – the loss of any of these things can cause a real headache, especially traveling overseas.  If your passport is lost or stolen, you will need to go to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to get a replacement.  It is always wise to keep a photocopy of your ID and passport in a separate compartment while traveling.  Also keep a set of photocopies with a loved one back home, just in case you need them to fax it to the local U.S. Embassy. 

If your wallet or money is stolen, report the theft to the local authorities, then contact the U.S. Embassy for additional assistance.  Report any stolen credit cards to the credit company immediately.  Some countries have many pickpockets, so also keep your wallet and valuables hidden and out of the reach of thieves.

Medical Emergencies Back Home

Many travelers’ vacations are cut short upon hearing that a loved one back home has a severe illness or medical emergency.  Trip interruption insurance can help reimburse you for the unused portion of your vacation.  It may also help arrange to get everyone back home quickly in case of an unforeseen event.

Natural Disasters

Earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, and tornados – these are just a few of the natural disasters which can occur here in our world.  Mother Nature can sneak up on travelers quickly and cause widespread damage in her path.  Cell phones may also be temporarily out, which can add to anxiety levels.  If possible, contact your airline immediately to see if you can leave early.  If not, contact the local U.S. Embassy for assistance if you are out of the country.

Speaking of traveling out of the country, before you go, sign up for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so you can receive travel advisories and help the U.S. Embassy reach you quickly if there is a natural disaster.

Hopefully, your vacations this year are times of happiness and full of wonderful memories.  However, if you should encounter an emergency during your travel, remain calm and remember there are a number of things you can do to lessen the situation.  Remember, for every problem, there is a solution.  Having a plan in place for all types of emergencies will help you make the most of any crisis.

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