Political protests, tsunamis and robberies, oh my! For the most part, traveling internationally is a safe and pleasant experience. But, unfortunately, every once in a while you may hit a snag—maybe a tsunami in Japan, a political protest in Thailand or just a good old-fashioned robbery in Rome. As the saying goes, stuff happens—while you shouldn’t the possibility of danger deter you from a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, here are five things you can do to help you manage if the worst does happen.
- Know your embassy. You’ve already checked the State Department’s website for potential travel warnings. Might as well stay online and look up the location of the nearest American embassy to where you are staying while you are at it. Write down the phone number and address and take it with you in case it is later needed. In destinations that require you to register with the local police or government (or have had recent political or other problems), it’s advisable to call the embassy and let them know you’re in town, too. That way, if there are any issues, they know to be on the lookout for you.
- Carry your travel information. All of it. If there is a problem with your flights or hotel, you’ll find that everyone wants to pass the buck to someone else. It’s not the hotel’s fault, it’s the agent’s. It’s not the airlines’, it’s the weather. You’re just the jetlagged guy who wants to fix it. Make sure you have the names, numbers and addresses of your travel agent (if you booked online, this could be Expedia or Travelocity) as well as the contact information for your flights and hotel. It’s also a good idea to track down the numbers of the local offices—after all, if you’re going to be on hold for 30 minutes, you shouldn’t also have to pay international phone rates.
- Find your “emergency contact.” Your kid can’t go on a field trip to the local farm without listing an emergency contact. It makes sense to have one for your international trip, too. Give a trusted friend or family member all of your travel details, including names and numbers of hotels, flights and travel agents. And make sure to give them a photocopy of everyone’s passport, too—if you lose your passport, this can help expedite the process of getting a new one.
- Call your credit card company. Pick one credit card to use on your trip. Now pick a back-up (not the same brand as your first choice—if you usually use your American Express, make your second card a Visa or Mastercard). Call both companies and let them know you are heading out of town. This should stop them putting a hold on your card once the international charges start showing up. It’s also smart to take only these two cards with you. Chances are, you won’t need your branded store card when you’re on the road. And in the case of a robbery, it will save you a lot of headaches and phone calls later.
- Bring some essentials in your carry-on. Bags get lost. And, sometimes, unfortunately, in international baggage claim terminals, bags can get stolen. Pack a change of clothes and some essentials like a toothbrush or your contact lenses in your carry-on bag. This way, you’ll have them on your person no matter what happens.
Kayt Sukel is an accomplished author, penning pieces about both neuroscience and travel—two seemingly different realms—for such publications as Atlantic Monthly, New Scientist, Washington Post, National Geographic Traveler and American Baby. She is also a partner at Travel Savvy Mom, a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award-winning family travel website. Her first book, DIRTY MINDS, an exploration of love and the brain, will be published in early 2012 by the Free Press. She frequently overshares on Twitter as @kaytsukel