The Travelers Guide to Emergency Preparedness

The Travelers Guide to Emergency Preparedness

The late, great American author and humorist Mark Twain had a unique perspective on the world, including travel. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” While that quote expresses a wonderful sentiment, if you have ever traveled to faraway lands, you know wanderlust can be fraught with the unexpected. Many travel perils can be avoided by being prepared—whether you are traveling across the world or going on a short road trip.

10 Tips for Avoiding and Coping with Travel Perils

Do your homework: Go to the library or do research online to learn the customs of your destination country. Specific vaccines are mandated when traveling to some countries. Learning a little bit about the country ahead of time can prevent embarrassments and in worst-case scenarios, legal woes. It is also a good idea to learn a few key phrases and bring a pocket English-foreign language dictionary in your carry-on luggage—you’ll be surprised how much you can absorb on an overseas flight.

Share your travel plans: Whether you are traveling alone or on a family vacation, share your itinerary with at least one non-traveling family member or friend, as well as the person responsible for picking you up from the station or airport. If you are driving and alter your plans, it is important to also inform key people of those changes.

Pack a first-aid kit: A few essential items can come in handy, including over-the-counter medicine for pain and a sour stomach, eye drops, bandages, scissors, hydrocortisone cream, antibacterial ointment, and a small supply of doctor-approved antibiotics. If you have severe allergies, pack an EpiPen. Although you may be able to find a pharmacy, if you are feeling ill, you won’t feel up to going out in search of supplies.

Bring a flashlight: A small, waterproof pen flashlight with a few extra batteries is a worthwhile gadget to have when you travel. If you are traveling by car, you can pack a much larger flashlight. You will be glad you did when a hike lasts unexpectedly beyond dusk, you experience a power outage, or find yourself fixing a flat tire on an unfamiliar, dark road.

Practice road safety: Perform any car maintenance before embarking on your road trip, including checking tires, lights, brakes, and passing your state emission test. Make sure your gas tank is always at least half full and your spare tire and jack are in good order. Follow all rules of the road, which can vary from state to state.

Have emergency cash on hand: Although ATMs are available just about everywhere, you may discover that your ATM cards don’t work in a particular locale. Leave a small amount of cash ($100-$200) in your hotel safe. This will come in handy should you lose your wallet or get robbed.

Make copies of key documents: If you lose your passport, having copies for American embassy officials and the local police will make it easier to file reports and obtain new documents that allow you to travel. Bring copies of your passport, health/travel insurance paperwork, and credit cards.

Carry an emergency medical list: This should include numbers of physicians and any food or medication allergies. If you need treatment and cannot answer questions, the list could be a lifesaver. Keep one copy with you and one in the hotel room. If you have any serious medication allergies, a medical alert bracelet or pendant is recommended.

Stay aware: Secure your belongings by carrying your purse or daypack positioned on your body so that others cannot take it. Carry your wallet in a front pocket, an inside zippered jacket pocket, or consider carrying cash in a money belt. Make sure you are aware of what’s going on around you and report any suspicious behavior immediately.

Know your risks: if you are traveling to any location that is prone to natural disasters, familiarize yourself with the evacuation procedures. If the region is experiencing civil strife, stay away from the dangerous areas. If you find yourself in a crisis, contact the State Department’s Office of American Citizen Services and Crisis Management (ACS). They work with overseas embassies to help American citizens in emergency situations.


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