Five Steps for Disaster-proofing Your Vacation

09 Apr Five Steps for Disaster-proofing Your Vacation

After traveling to four continents, 18 states, and 20 countries with my kids, my luck finally ran out last week when my family suffered a minor medical mishap on the road. What was supposed to be a relaxing week at a luxurious eco-resort on a secluded beach in Mexico turned into a frantic race home for a series of emergency dental appointments.

Disaster Proof Your Vacation
© barsik

Even though I’m a frequent and savvy traveler, a string of disaster-free trips had left me complacent and unprepared. From now on, I’m a convert to the “hope for the best, but expect the worst” camp. Here are some things I’ll do differently next time we leave the country.

1. Bring a contact list
Having my son fall and chip his teeth miles from the nearest village on a Sunday was stressful. What made it worse was the amount of time I spent looking up phone numbers on a slow wifi connection and trying to call them with a weak cell signal. Like many people, I’ve become accustomed to finding what I need online when I need it. This isn’t a great strategy overseas or off the grid.

Next time, I’ll write down all the contact information for all our doctors, dentists, insurance companies, and airlines – including after hours numbers and international contact information (since calling 800 numbers doesn’t always work overseas). I’ll also write down the U.S. international dialing code so I don’t lose time trying to remember if it’s 00-1 or 0-11.

2. Know the flight schedule
I also struggled to find a flight out. Once I determined that the last Alaska Airlines flight had left Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo for the day, I had to check with Aeromexico, American, United, and Delta. Knowing the schedule would have lessened my stress considerably. It would have been even better if I could have handed the whole problem off to a travel agent, but since the itinerary wasn’t complicated, we had booked our own tickets for this trip.

3. Understand my insurance
While it’s impossible to anticipate every emergency scenario, in the future, I’ll call my insurance provider before we leave to understand what is and isn’t covered (with the expectation that I’ll pay up front and be reimbursed) and whether I need to pre-clear treatment. Some insurance companies also have lists of foreign doctors and hospitals that meet their care standards, which is valuable information to have in advance.

Although we didn’t have them, some premium trip insurance plans and credit cards cover medical evacuation, but usually only in life-threatening emergencies. For a fairly affordable fee, services like Medjet Assist provide medical evacuation to members any time they are hospitalized more than 150 miles from home. This isn’t medical insurance, however – it’s more like a roadside assistance program for travelers.

4. Bookmark the American Embassy
Before my next trip, I’ll also definitely look up the closest American embassy and write down all their contact details. Every U.S. embassy lists an American citizen after-hours emergency line, along with dialing directions. Travelers who don’t have access to a phone can also walk right up to any embassy and inform the U.S. Marine guard on duty that they are a U.S. national needing assistance.

5. Ask my hosts about medical services in advance
The last thing I’ll do for peace of mind on my next trip is ask my hosts in advance about the nearest medical services, and find out what the after hours options are. Again, I’ll make a note of all contact details so I don’t waste time trying to find them when I need them.

While our dental emergency needs were eventually met (an on-call obstetrician was able to prescribe my son antibiotics and painkillers, and a 24-hour pharmacy was able to fill the prescriptions), the experience left me stressed and shaken. Next time I’ll be more prepared.

The following two tabs change content below.
Jamie Pearson
Jamie Pearson is a freelance writer, a mother of two, and the publisher of the independent family travel blog Travel Savvy Mom. She regularly writes about family travel for Vail Resorts and Homewood Suites, and her dispatches have also appeared on National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel Blog and on
Jamie Pearson

Latest posts by Jamie Pearson (see all)

No Comments

Post A Comment