While you may hope to focus on tourist traps and vacation fun, your travel can be derailed by some major disasters that leave you stranded, stuck, or lost. Fortunately, if you know what to look out for, there are a few things you can do to handle most major travel disasters.
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Whether you have a flat tire or a canceled flight, there are always things you can do to prepare for and handle whatever unexpected problems occur during your trip. Here are some of the biggest travel disasters, from injuries to auto problems to natural disasters, and what you can do to handle them.
#1 – Getting a Flat Tire
If you get a flat car while driving, don’t panic. Try to get to the side of the road as quickly as possible. During this emergency, you may wonder how much tires cost to replace, or even “Does insurance cover flat tires?”
As a general rule, your typical flat tire will not be covered by your insurance policy, as it usually falls under general wear and tear. However, comprehensive car insurance will cover things like slashed tires. Blowouts or popped tires are usually not covered, but any damages or accidents caused by them may be paid for by insurance if you have collision and liability coverage.
Hopefully, you’ve already practiced changing a tire in your driveway before you run into having an actual flat on the road. Regardless, you should always check your tires when stopping for gas or bathroom breaks while driving long distances.
Some signs of a flat or popped tire when driving include hissing or groaning sounds, vibrations when driving, and steering that feels off-kilter.
Turn on your emergency lights, slow down, and pull over as soon as the opportunity arises. Don’t try to change your tire when you are close to oncoming traffic. When changing your tire, be sure to use wheel wedges so your car doesn’t roll. Spare tires can usually only handle about 70 miles of driving. They are not permanent tire replacements.
If you are unable to change your tire on your own, or you don’t have a spare, you may need to call for roadside assistance or a tow.
#2 – Running Out of Gas
There are several tips you should always follow while taking a road trip. One of these is to always have gas in your tank. However, sometimes, you just can’t get to a gas station in time.
Regardless, if you find yourself stranded, don’t panic. If you have time and a bit of mobility before your car stops completely, try to pull over to the side of the road and put your hazard lights on.
If you have the misfortune of stopping in the middle of the road, especially on a busy highway, immediately put on your hazard lights. Be sure to put your car in park once you have pulled off. Try to make sure you know the exact location of your vehicle so you can tell people where you are if you need to contact your insurance, a towing company, or any friends for help.
Try to contact someone for help first, and call 911 if you need to. If you can’t, try to flag down a passing vehicle for help. If you are stranded in a remote location, and you don’t think anyone will show up, you may need to try to walk to the nearest gas station. Always walk back in the direction that you came from, as that will always be safer than walking to an unfamiliar location.
Make sure you bring plenty of water and a snack for energy. You will want enough to keep you energized for a potentially long hike or walk. Try to keep visible so you can flag down vehicles for help if you need to, or at the very least, avoid getting hit by a car.
#3 – Airline Cancels Your Flight
Most of the time, if your flight is canceled, the airline will assist you in getting a new flight, at the very least. While many people assume that the airline has to provide you with sleeping accommodations for a flight taking place the next day, the truth is that this accommodation may vary.
Many airlines will simply allow you to sleep in the terminal on a bench or seat, which can be unsafe and uncomfortable, or charge you to sleep in an in-airport rental cot.
Canceled flights can happen for many reasons, which is why it’s a good idea to buy travel insurance that will provide you reimbursement and coverage in the event of a canceled flight.
You should also know what your rights are. If the delay was caused by situations beyond an airline’s control, such as weather conditions, they are not necessarily obligated to provide you with an alternative way to reach your destination. Delays caused by mechanical failures may give you the right to demand a refund or rebooking.
Can you get compensated for a canceled flight?
International flights are often protected by more detailed regulations, especially in Europe. Generally, airlines reimburse passengers up to $700 for delays that last more than 3 hours as long as they are not caused by circumstances beyond an airline’s control. As a general rule, cancellations caused by COVID-19 are not eligible for compensation.
Travel advisors often also have a number of tools, such as advance waivers and discounts that can help you recover and bounce back from flight delays and changes.
The airline will often give you a voucher or non-cash offer to reimburse you for a canceled or delayed flight. However, you should never accept them before you learn precisely what their face value is and the terms and conditions for use.
Make sure you learn exactly what caused the delay so you know what your rights are.
#4 – Airline Loses Your Luggage
Airport travel problems like losing luggage can be anywhere from a hassle to an emergency. While it is advisable to take the most important objects such as medication and important documents with you on your carry-on, sometimes important items cannot be transported this way. If an airline loses your luggage, what are your options?
The good news is that most lost luggage is merely delayed. Large airports usually have a lost-baggage counter you can go to if your luggage does not appear on the carousel. You should never leave the airport without reporting your missing luggage. Ideally, you should report within 4 hours. Make sure the airline has a way to reach you at your hotel or home.
Make sure you write down your baggage numbers before handing over your baggage check tag.
You will usually be able to get your luggage within a day if it was simply put on a delayed flight, or within a few days if it was on the incorrect flight. Some airlines will cover all or part of the cost of items you need to continue your trip or provide overnight kits, and some simply promise to provide the luggage at a future date.
This is another scenario where travel insurance can be useful. Lost luggage that is never recovered will be reimbursed completely (up to your policy limit), and temporarily lost luggage will be reimbursed under your baggage delay coverage. However, baggage coverage is usually secondary to the coverage provided by the airline.
#5 – Natural Disaster Strikes
From floods to hurricanes to earthquakes to fires, sometimes the thing that interrupts your vacation is out of anyone’s control. A natural disaster may do anything from diverting your route to cause massive injury or even death. Whether flying, driving, or going by train or bus, what should you do if a natural disaster strikes during your travels?
First, prioritize your safety over your belongings or itinerary. Some travel insurance policies will cover medical evacuations, while others only cover more generic medical care. Regardless, try to find shelter and medical aid if you or someone with you is injured. If you can’t access a medical facility or don’t need medical aid, get off the street and seek shelter.
Once the disaster is over, make sure to contact your loved ones and let them know you are safe. If your phone can’t get reception, see if you can access Wi-Fi and use social media sites or apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, or Twitter to let your loved ones know your status.
You should also contact your local embassy or consulate if you are traveling internationally and need help in a critical situation, such as if you are injured. Make sure you follow the local authorities’ instructions, however. Evacuation rules will apply regardless of citizenship.
If you can leave the area safely, do so. This will assist in clearing the area so rescuers and emergency personnel are able to better access those in need of their help. Do not attempt to stay and wait for the disaster to die down so you can continue your trip.
#6 – Arrested on Vacation
Occasionally, you may have brushes with the local law enforcement while traveling, most commonly for speeding. While hopefully, the situation remains calm and doesn’t escalate, sometimes you may run into more severe legal trouble. What should you do in the event of a sudden arrest halting your travel plans?
If you are arrested while you are in another state, or worse, in another country, you will be required to appear in court in that state or country.
If you are in another state, contact an attorney or lawyer as soon as you can. You should get an attorney who is familiar with the state you were charged in, as a local attorney will have more knowledge of local laws and situations. Often, a local attorney will be able to not only help you navigate local laws but also act as a representative in court so you don’t have to be there.
This can often allow you to face your charges without having to have an unexpected stay in another state.
Will you be restricted from traveling if you get arrested?
Depending on the pending charges, you may have your ability to travel be restricted. It will depend on the local laws. As a general rule, misdemeanors won’t bar you from traveling, though felonies usually will. Be sure to ask your attorney and the local court before you attempt to travel. Sometimes you will be allowed to travel within the country, but not internationally.
If there is a warrant out for your arrest, you can legally be arrested out of the state that has a warrant out for you and extradited. However, extradition is not likely if you were only charged with a misdemeanor. Nonetheless, you should speak with an experienced attorney about how to proceed towards a legal trial, as an arrest could potentially happen at any time.
What happens if you get arrested in a foreign country while on vacation?
If you are arrested in a foreign country, things can become more complicated fast. A foreign government is required to inform the U.S. embassy or consulate when the U.S. national who was arrested requests that they do. Some countries will automatically notify the embassy due to existing treaties.
Unfortunately, the embassy or consulate will only be able to provide limited assistance if you are arrested in another country. They will likely only provide you with a list of English-speaking lawyers and ensure that you are not being mistreated in jail. The embassy will contact any friends or family members and tell them of your arrest, should you ask them to.
If you are charged with a crime after leaving a country, don’t panic. U.S. citizens cannot be extradited to a foreign country unless they committed a crime that is illegal both in the U.S. and in the other country. So if you merely made some remarks about the local government, you should be fine.
You will need to comply with the laws of the country you are visiting while you are there and while you are going through the legal process there. However, if you are sentenced in a foreign country, you may be able to serve your term in an American prison instead. Notify your embassy or consulate to start that process.
If you are transferred to the U.S., your sentence will be re-evaluated and you can possibly be resentenced.
#7 – Medical Emergency While Traveling
While most people avoid traveling when ill, sometimes the worst happens and you have a serious medical emergency while on the road, or worse, in a different country. Insurance and healthcare can be complicated across state or country lines. What should you do if you need medical help while traveling?
Your first step when dealing with a medical emergency is to seek medical help, regardless of the tightness of your schedule or itinerary. Contact local emergency authorities and make sure you retain all medical documentation.
If you are in another country, your typical healthcare coverage may not apply, which is another reason why travel insurance is so useful. Travel medical coverage will often be able to help you in the event of life-threatening or severe medical emergencies abroad.
Contact your travel insurance provider in the event of an emergency so they can guide you. Your travel insurance provider can help you locate a medical doctor, guarantee payment, and even contact your loved ones.
You should always carry an ID and cash in the event of an emergency. You should also know your vaccination history so you can answer questions about what shots you have had.
Do what you can to prepare for the potential of a medical emergency beforehand. Get familiar with medical providers in your insurance network, talk to your provider in advance, and research what local care options and locations are available beforehand so you can save addresses and contact information on your phone.
If you need to go to a hospital in a place where they do not speak your language, try to bring along someone who can interpret for you or use a translator tool to communicate.
While travel medical insurance can cover you for medical expenses, you may also want to look into medical transportation or medical evacuation insurance. This will help you have medical transportation back to your country of origin.
Finally, trip cancellation insurance can help you recover money lost from having to cancel your trip.
Tips for Safe Travels
Many types of emergencies can strike while traveling, and this is why it is so important to prepare for a disaster before it strikes. Review your road trip essentials and what kind of natural disasters are most likely to occur at your destination and prepare beforehand.
Look into your insurance options to make sure you will be covered in the event of an emergency with your health, travel, or car.
Make sure you stay calm and collected during a crisis, and seek shelter and safety first. In addition, be willing to cancel your plans if you need to in order to remove yourself from a dangerous situation.
Emergencies happen when you least expect them. Try to handle them as calmly as you can and be flexible when the need arises. Try to organize your schedule or itinerary with a bit more leeway and buffer to accommodate for things such as missed or delayed flights, medical emergencies, or anything else that could interrupt your travel plans.
And by the way, you can take a look at the discoverybit travel directory for great recommendations if you are interested in visiting some interesting tourist attractions.
Here is a video on how to effectively use the directory.
Tags: Travel Travel Disasters Travel emergencies