You’ve worked hard all year, saved up for that amazing vacation you’ve been dreaming of, booked the plane tickets, found the accommodation and now all you can think about is the one week of peace and quiet, away from all the stress of daily life.
Vacations can be amazing, liberating, enriching experiences; most of the time, they don’t disappoint. However, as much as you may be thinking about fun right now, it’s also important to be aware that a lot of things can also go wrong. When traveling, especially to a foreign country, both minor inconveniences and major disasters can happen, and the fact that you’re away from home can make them look ten times worse.
This doesn’t mean something bad will happen on your trip, but staying informed, taking a few precautions and knowing what to do will give you some peace of mind.
Stolen or lost personal documents
You need your passport when traveling abroad, so losing it or having it stolen can really complicate things.
How to avoid this: don’t walk around with the original passport on you, especially in crowded spaces or areas with a high crime rate. Some tourists prefer leaving their passport in the safe at the hotel and carrying a copy, but this obviously depends on where you are staying. The safest option is to make as many copies of the passport as possible and keep them safely hidden in your luggage or carry-on. It’s up to you if you want to carry the original passport on your person or keep it in the hotel room, but always know where it is, the passport not a good document to misplace.
What to do when your passport is lost or stolen: contact the embassy as soon as possible and fill in an application for an emergency replacement passport. Once you’re home, you can get a full-validity passport again. Most importantly, don’t panic. Lost or stolen passports are one of the most common issues that embassies have to deal with and they’ll move quickly.
You are mugged or robbed
Being mugged is never an exciting prospect here at home, let alone in a foreign country where you don’t’ speak the language, so you should try to take as many preventive measures as possible.
How to avoid this: Get travel insurance. It might sound unnecessary, until you really need it and it saves your vacation. Also, avoid carrying all your valuables with you and, unless you know for sure you are in a safe, upscale area, don’t wear flashy clothes and jewelry. If you travel by public transport, keep your purse right next to you and always, always avoid looking like a tourist. The cliché souvenir tees, the large backpack and the constant taking of pictures can draw the attention of muggers.
What to do when you are mugged on vacation: go to the local police as quickly as possible to file a report. Try to keep your calm and don’t snap at the police officers, even if they might seem slow and uninterested. Keep in mind that not all of your stolen goods can be recovered, so contact your travel insurance to see what can be done.
No one wants to be injured on vacation, but accidents do happen, and not only in the case of more “adventurous” vacations involving winter sports. You can go on 10 hiking trips and not sprain an ankle and then one summer a jellyfish can sting you on the beach and you can have a severe allergic reaction.
How to avoid this: again, travel insurance is the wisest option if you want to avoid expensive medical care. Before you leave, pack a kit of essential meds such as painkillers, cold and indigestion pills and try not to be a daredevil on vacation. Most tourist accidents involve alcohol, so be responsible and don’t try too many crazy new things.
What to do if you are injured on vacation: if you are hurt in an accident that didn’t happen because of you, contacting a no win no fee solicitor can help you get compensation. Combined with extensive travel insurance, legal help is the best failsafe in case of travel-related injuries. If you get hurt abroad, do consider a local hospital, because many countries actually have lower healthcare fees than you’d expect.
According to recent research, long airport security lines have caused one of every seven travelers to miss a flight in the past 12 months, which makes missed flights one of the most common reasons why vacations go wrong.
How to avoid this: if you know you have a flight the next day, always have a backup alarm and get to the airport at least one hour early, accounting for traffic and unexpected delays.
What to do if you miss your flight and it wasn’t your fault: if you took all the precautions and you missed your flight because it was overbooked or the airline canceled it, you can get your money back or reschedule your flight, depending on each airline’s policy. There are companies that deal with these situations, so if you’re not sure how to navigate all that paperwork, they can help.
Road trips are fun, but taking your car on vacation with you does increase the risk of accidents. Spending your vacation looking for mechanics and worrying about compensation is never exciting, so try to take a few measures in advance:
How to prevent this: make sure you have extensive auto insurance and take your car to a mechanic to make sure it’s in top condition. Change the oil and filter, make sure you have a spare tire, replace the brake pads and get confirmation that your car can withstand a long trip. Once you get to your destination, drive safer than usual and look up information on the worst traffic jams and local road conditions.
What to do if you’re involved in a car accident on vacation: call your insurance company as soon as the accident occurs. Emotions and stress run high when this happens, so try as much as possible to avoid negotiating with the other party involved and don’t get into conflicts.
We all want to explore unique, exotic places, but sometimes the most interesting travel destinations are dealing with dangerous political unrest.
How to prevent this: check your local government website to check if there are any warnings in place for the country you are about to visit. If there are, cancel or delay your vacation, because this isn’t something to take lightly. You can get seriously hurt or get involved in diplomatic conflicts.
What to do if you’re caught up in political unrest: if there were no warnings in place when you left, but something happened in the meantime, the best thing to do is not get involved. Avoid areas where people are protesting, don’t have debates with the locals about it and stay at the hotel until things clear out. If the political unrest could lead to your flight back being delayed, contact the local embassy for support.