Travel Lessons

Overview: A typical vacation planning checklist is bound to include the usual considerations: booking a rental car, making hotel reservations and testing how much can really fit into that carry-on luggage. But not as many travelers consider what they would do if a serious health crisis were to occur on their trip. Following is advice on how to prepare and deal with such an experience while traveling.

Two couples vacationing together at a resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic were surprised when one person in their party fell ill with two days remaining on the trip. They recognized symptoms of nausea, chest pains and sweaty palms as signs of a heart attack. The group took immediate action: They followed standard medical procedures for a possible heart attack by first calling for paramedics and then giving their longtime friend a baby aspirin.

A week later, he returned to the United States— after experiencing a confirmed heart attack, spending time in two different hospitals in the Dominican Republic, taking two airlifts and contacting numerous health providers spanning across two countries. Now recovering and under the care of his personal doctors, his story and the experience of the entire group becomes a cautionary tale with valuable lessons for all travelers.

Lesson 1: Purchase all-in-one travel protection insurance

This relatively inexpensive option is offered by most major travel companies. All-in-one protection provides extensive coverage, including for cancellations and medical expenses. Protection plans also provide emergency contacts and can offer access to local representatives who can assist during an emergency. Local representatives can become an indispensable resource, especially in a non-English-speaking country. An all-in-one insurance package offers essential support for many different situations and provides peace of mind.

Lesson 2: Read all travel documents prior to departure

Travelers are issued several documents when they purchase travel insurance, but not many individuals take the time to look at the documents provided by their travel company. It is important to read and understand this content. The information listed in the fine print might seem insignificant amid the excitement of an upcoming vacation, but these papers can prove extremely valuable during a crisis.

Emergency phone numbers and detailed coverage explanations are also found in these documents. Travelers should know what is included and remember to take these documents with them on their trip.

Lesson 3: Know the limits on all credit cards

An unexpected health crisis while traveling can cause a great deal of stress, both physically and financially. While insurance packages help cover a majority of medical emergencies, not every situation will be covered. For example, an airlift transport return to the United States could require payment up front as an out-of-pocket expense because waiting to see if insurance will cover the costs is time most cannot afford to wait.

One way to prepare for unexpected expenses is to know the limits on all credit cards. It may be useful to notify credit card companies of any foreign travel plans prior to departure. Carrying an additional card as a backup may be warranted, depending on the limits of each card being used.

Lesson 4: In the event of a medical emergency, contact personal health insurers

Amid the chaos of a medical emergency, it is imperative to contact personal health insurers. Informing a private provider of a situation early on means that provider can shed light on additional coverage and provide another vital line of support.

Keeping calm during an emergency can be difficult, and that stress is magnified while traveling. Private providers can aid travelers with expert assistance and provide additional resources. The assistance of the travel insurance plan and a private provider can see travelers through the unexpected.

Lesson 5: Carry a list of medications and know the signs of a medical emergency

No matter how far the destination, travelers should carry a list of medications and known illnesses. The list should be kept in an easily accessible location such as a wallet or purse, and travel companions should be aware of the location of the list and what is described on it. Paramedics or doctors will need this list to proceed with proper treatment.

It’s equally important to become familiar with the signs of a medical emergency, especially those that are cardiac related. Should an emergency occur, knowledge and the ability to react calmly and swiftly can be the greatest assets.


By planning for what to do if a serious health crisis occurs, travelers should rest easier knowing they have done all they could to protect and prepare for their trip, thus allowing them to further focus on enjoying their vacation.

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The opinions expressed by featured authors are their own and may not accurately reflect those of the BAM ALLIANCE. This article is for general information only and is not intended to serve as specific financial, accounting or tax advice.

© 2013, The BAM ALLIANCE

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