The travel brochures make a holiday look like the most glamorous thing you will ever do and we all hope that’ll be the case. Let’s face it, they’d find it hard to sell holidays if they showed pictures of a person in a hospital bed, people sleeping at airports because their flight has been delayed or a hurricane ravaged area. Unfortunately, things can go wrong whether you are travelling domestically or overseas. While in your own country you will most likely know exactly what to do or how to get help, in a foreign country it may not be as easy.
We’ve been caught in a hurricane in Hawaii, stranded on a remote island in the Philippines after a typhoon, been sick and had delayed flights. At the time it was scary, frustrating and sometimes daunting but knowing what to do if the unforeseen happens, is key to feeling in control.
After receiving a comment on Facebook recently I thought it might be good to share some information about how to get help and when to ask for it.
Before you even leave home it is wise to register your travels
I imagine most countries now have a version of our Smart Traveller which is a service the Australian Government offer to register your travel details. This gives the Government a way of contacting you to update you on travel advices for that region, in the event of a disaster they have an idea of your location and much more.
For Australians – register with Smart Traveller
For our US friends – register with STEP
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
TAKE TRAVEL INSURANCE
It won’t happen to you? Well, unfortunately it might.
I know I am repeating myself here but I continue to see stories in the press about families desperately raising money to get an injured relative home for medical assistance because their loved one didn’t take travel insurance. The Australian Government have been quite outspoken on this subject and will not intervene and provide assistance in these circumstances. And make no mistake, the costs involved in an air evacuation from somewhere like Bali to Australia runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. A friend recently told me a story about their relative who needed to be airlifted from a ski field to hospital and that short chopper ride cost US$25,000.
You can read more about travel insurance and existing medical condition cover here.
LOST YOUR PASSPORT
Arguably your passport is the most important item you will take on your travels so take care of it. If, however you lose your passport or have it stolen you will need to report it to the police and contact your Embassy in the country you are travelling.
We always travel with a photo copy of our passports which we keep somewhere separate to the passport itself. We also leave a copy with a relative at home. You could carry a digital copy on your phone or laptop too.
If you wait at the baggage carousel and your luggage doesn’t arrive, you need to head straight to the airline baggage claim area. You will need to present your boarding pass which should have had a luggage claim sticker which was attached at check-in.
Best case scenario your luggage is simply delayed and the airline will deliver it to your home or hotel as soon as it arrives. In the interim they may provide you with cash or vouchers to use to purchase essential items. If the luggage is never returned then this becomes a claim with your airline and insurance company.
If your wheelchair is damaged by an airline they will arrange for a repair as soon as possible for you. If the wheelchair breaks down or has another problem, the repairs will be your responsibility. I recommend contacting your wheelchair manufacturer prior to travel to find out of any repair agencies at your destination. You could also look into the local disability organisations in the area who may be able to assist with contacts or loan equipment.
I was once delayed for a day on my way to LA. The airline provided lunch and taxi vouchers for the day. We boarded the ‘repaired’ plane that evening but another fault was found and we missed curfew meaning we were put up in a hotel for the night. The airline provided the accommodation and breakfast vouchers as well as transfers to and from the hotel.
We had to make our own arrangements to extend the trip by a day at the other end. We were also responsible for changing booked tours and accommodation in LA. We had some expenses attached to this and on our return obtained a letter from the airline confirming the delay and submitted a claim to Cover-More (our travel insurer) which was covered. It was all a hassle but we weren’t out of pocket for anything. It is important to keep all documentation regarding costs and any information the airline provides.
The hotel’s in-room compendium is one of the first things I check when we arrive at a hotel. Most list local medical centres, the location of the hospital and any after-hour doctor services. It will usually list the local emergency number.
For minor medical needs, always speak to the hotel staff as they can usually point you in the direction of a doctor.
If you are visiting a less developed country this advice changes. If you are ill and concerned at all contact your travel insurance provider. This is where it helps to have an insurance provider who provides 24-hour emergency assistance advice. On my day at Cover-More travel Insurance I listened in on a call where someone visiting a third world country was concerned with their symptoms. The operator here in Australia was able to look up their database of good medical facilities and advise the caller where they should go to seek medical help.
NATURAL DISASTER OR ACT OF TERRORISM
Earthquakes, hurricanes and acts of terrorism are all events we hope we never face on holiday. But you only have to turn on the news to see that they do happen and you should know who to contact in the event your travel is interrupted by one of these. Your country’s embassy is a great place to start because worried relatives may be unable to get through to you to find out if you are okay. The embassy provides updates to relatives back home in these circumstances. Your other assistance will come in the form of your travel insurance provider who may be providing special assistance like chartered flights out of the region.
- Register your travel plans with Smart Traveller if in Australia or the equivalent if you live elsewhere in the world.
- Leave a copy of your travel itinerary, passport and any other important travel documentation with a trusted family member or friend at home.
- If you have an existing medical condition which may cause you to need treatment while you are away, check the hospital and treatment facilities at your destination prior to booking.
- Take your regular doctor’s details with you in case you need to make contact while you are away.
- When you take out travel insurance, ‘like’ the company’s Facebook page and make sure you also tick ‘get notifications’. I know Cover-More Travel Insurance post regular updates for their customers in the event of a natural disaster or volcanic ash delaying flights. As an example, during the Nepal Earthquake, details were being posted on special evacuation flights which had been chartered for their customers.
- Pack a sense of humour and level head. Don’t throw caution to the wind just because you are on holiday. The same precautions for safety should be taken and in some countries upgraded.
This is not a sponsored post. Cover-More Travel Insurance is mentioned because they are the company our family use for travel insurance and therefore I can provide examples of their services we have experienced.
I’d love to hear your stories or any other tips you can share.
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