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Top 5 Travel Emergencies You Are Not Prepared For

Traveling can be one of the greatest joys in life; eating, drinking, carousing and sleeping as late as you like all rolled into one word. But an unexpected travel emergency can ruin the whole experience. Here’s a list of common emergencies and what you should do to save the day:


1. Someone gets sick on vacation and you’re in a small town in a remote country?

What if it were a major city like Paris, France? Obviously the health care standards would be much better in Paris but will your health insurance cover it? If you’re on Medicare, forget about it. Some private plans might reimburse you but you’d still have to come up with money in advance during the emergency. And that’s if you can get through to them on the phone. Just so you realize, 800 numbers don’t work outside of the United States. What’s the best solution? Travel Insurance. Check out sites like this one or pick it up at the last second in any major airport. Before you get on the plane, find out about any health threats by visiting www.travel.state.gov.

2. You’ve been arrested.

If you’re in Mexico or parts of Asia, start sweating. And if there’s anything left from that stash you bought from the local drug dealer, take it now (not that I’m encouraging drug use, just trying to help you gain sanity). Let me be blunt, when traveling, the best way to avoid this emergency is the Nancy Reagan way, Just Say No! If you forgot to say no and are sitting in a cell, start by being as respectful and nice as you can. Keep apologizing and look for the most sympathetic person in charge around you. Your life could depend on it. Be insistent that they call the U.S. Embassy immediately. Every other word out of your mouth besides “sorry” should be “call my embassy” until they do it. Don’t stop asking until an advocate from the embassy shows up and finds you a local attorney. Have that advocate inform all your family and friends in case you’re in really big trouble and they need to help you through U.S. sources like going to the press.

3. Someone has stolen your wallet.

Quickly cancel all your credit and debit cards. All credit card companies have 24 hour emergency lines that accept collect calls. Then go to the local authorities and file a police report. You’re probably thinking that’s useless if I’m in El Salvador or Timbuktu. But it’s not. It will help with your insurance claims and if you’re really up river without a paddle, most airlines will let you fly without a picture identification if you can prove your i.d. was stolen. That’s where the police report kicks in. If you’re stuck in town, go to the US Embassy again. They will give emergency cash and find you a place to stay until you can get on a plane back home. But let’s me smart folks, keep money in different places, not all stashed in your wallet. Hide some in your underwear (I don’t care how gross that sounds, wouldn’t you rather have that money than not!), hide some in your toiletry kit. You get the idea.

4. Your reservation has been canceled.

Come on people, this is a no brainer but still it happens to people on a regular basis. Always ask for a confirmation number by email and print it out to bring with you. If you’ve paid for the flight or the room already, call your credit card company and have them email or fax over the transaction record. Ideally, carry a phone or laptop you can sign onto the internet with and show them yourself. You might not get on the same flight you booked or stay in the same hotel, but you’ll get on the next flight (and ask for an upgrade to First Class) and the hotel will have to get you a place to stay of equivalent quality or higher.

5. The airline loses or damages your luggage

How likely is that! Don’t be slow about your actions; file a report with the airline immediately. They will compensate you for your bag, sometimes upfront, but you have to fight for it. All transportation carriers, including trains and bus companies will compensate you. I was traveling on Amtrak using an old Louis Vuitton bag I bought more than ten years ago. It was on it’s last legs and lucky for me the Amtrak porters broke the handle and somehow pulled open the zipper, spilling all the inside contents. I told them I paid $500 for the bag. That was true. However, the reality was ten years later, it wasn’t worth much. Amtrak explained that I’d have to file a report and wait six to eight weeks. However, if I would accept $75 now, which was all they were authorized to give on the spot, then no report would be filed. I took the $75, walked across to Chinatown and bought a Louis Vuitton rip-off for $15. I spent the other $60 on a fine meal and some great champagne. So you know, each carrier’s policies are different but many airlines will compensate up to $3000 for lost or damaged luggage.

So many things can go wrong when you’re on that perfect vacation; missing members from your group, natural disasters and one of the most common, food poisonings. The important thing is to be prepared before you leave. Do your home work by visiting government and health care sites about the country you’re visiting. Read books on local culture and common crimes that can occur in big cities. Make copies of your passport and credit cards. Plan your trip like you plan your daily life and that will help prevent any emergencies and make your traveling what it should be; a fabulous break from the daily grind.

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