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What to do in Case of Emergency While Traveling

Filled with new sights, delicious food, and memorable experiences, travel is celebrated by many as one of the best parts of life, and often, that is the case. Travel allows people to open up their minds, expand their experiences, and have a lot of fun along the way. However, in new experiences and new places, there is always the possibility for something to go wrong. Travel tales such as losing luggage or dealing with a flight cancellation are common and non-emergent, but it’s also possible that traveling could open you and your loved ones up to experiencing an emergency. 

While no one wants to go through an emergency on their dream vacation in Mexico or their rafting trip in Nicaragua, it’s important to be prepared for common emergencies as much as possible and have a plan in place in case the unthinkable happens. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered; we’ll dive into some of the most common travel-related emergencies and how to best prepare for each one.

What is Considered an Emergency?

An emergency is something that endangers the life, health, or safety of you or someone you are traveling with. Emergencies don’t have to be life-threatening to be considered an emergency. Usually, emergent situations require immediate attention in order to solve the problem or get the necessary care, often pausing your trip and all trip-related activities. 

While it’s never ideal to put a pause on the fun, working through an emergency sooner rather than later is always the better route to go. Trips are replaceable, health and safety are not.

Some Common Emergencies During Travel

Emergencies can vary in cause and severity, but it’s critical to be aware of the most common types of emergencies travelers face and how to address each one. A nasty stomach virus that keeps you glued to your hotel bathroom will be a bit different than a hurricane that rips through the resort, but each is possible and worth taking precautions for. 


If you travel often, you have likely heard of “traveler’s stomach” which is a common illness for people who are trying new foods in places with different food standards or spice levels that their digestive system isn’t used to. Usually, traveler’s stomach is an annoyance for a few days of your trip, but it can escalate into something more dangerous sometimes. 

Additionally, there are regional illnesses that travelers should be wary of, depending on the area of the world they are visiting. For instance, if you travel to Colombia, Yellow Fever is prominent there and it is highly recommended that travelers get a vaccine before their trip.

Lastly, illnesses that occur at home can occur while you’re on a trip, too. Bladder infections, respiratory infections, the flu, and more are all possibilities no matter where you are.


“Injury” is a very broad term that comes with a range of realities. Renting a motorbike in Vietnam could result in a bad accident and dangerous injuries, but so could paragliding in Switzerland. Injuries are similar to illnesses in that they don’t discriminate against where you are and can occur anytime.

It’s common to think that as long as you don’t do anything “dangerous,” you will remain injury free on your trip, and while that’s the goal, daily activities can cause injuries. Walking down the street and tripping on a rock or accidentally burning yourself with a curling iron are both things you would do whether you’re traveling or not, but sometimes accidents happen at the most inconvenient of times.

Lost Passport

There’s nothing like being thousands of miles away from your own country, losing your passport, and panicking about whether or not you’ll be able to make it home. Remain calm, because this is usually a solvable emergency that will not harm your health or put you in danger, however, there are some caveats here.

Losing your passport on a night out or dropping it in the ocean is a bummer, but again, generally doesn’t put you in harm’s way. If you are robbed, the circumstance changes. Though a stolen passport is never good, your first priority should be to stay safe in a robbery situation. If there is the possibility of harm being placed on you by someone else, the best thing to do is give them what they want to stay safe and uninjured.


Though it’s rare, the unthinkable can happen while traveling. Whether from a tragic accident or natural, yet unexpected causes, no one can ever anticipate death. If you are traveling and someone you are with passes away, there are many resources to help with that situation in a safe manner.

Natural Disaster

Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and other natural disasters are unpredictable and can completely ruin a trip or even endanger your health and well-being. It seems that natural disasters of large scale are happening more and more these days, so this is a travel emergency that should be on your radar.


No one ever thinks that they are going to end up in a war-torn place while traveling, but it happens. As we have seen in recent events, countries can be attacked at any time, leading to a terrifying situation for residents and visitors alike. The impact of war can vary, especially for foreigners, so it’s a hard emergency to prepare for, but it’s something to consider when choosing a travel destination.

Preparation is Key

The more preparation you do before traveling, the better off you’ll be. While it’s nearly impossible to predict the things that could go wrong in a new place, there are steps you can take before your trip to help minimize the impact of emergencies, react to them more efficiently, and prioritize your health and safety during stressful, scary times. 

What to do

Like vacations, emergencies are all unique, requiring different precautions and preventative measures, as well as different reactions once they happen. Let’s comb through some ways to handle the most common emergencies travelers face:

Preparation: Illness

The impact of illnesses can vary greatly. For health issues that you know you have, talk to your doctor before your trip to get any medications you might need in case you have an issue while you’re away. 

If you are dealing with an unexpected illness on your trip, talk to your accommodation to find a doctor or the medical care you need. Some illnesses, such as traveler’s stomach, can be resolved with a visit to the nearest pharmacy, while others may require a doctor to figure out what is wrong and prescribe the right treatment.

Preparation: Injury

Figuring out your health insurance coverage while abroad and obtaining any necessary travel insurance before you leave home is absolutely critical. Many health insurance policies will cover certain incidents or treatments while abroad, but it’s often best to get a supplemental policy that will cover you in different countries and for a wide range of injuries.

Usually travel insurance is very affordable and having it could save you thousands of dollars in the event of an emergency. Read the fine print of the policy before purchasing because some have activity restrictions and even altitude restrictions!

Preparation: Lost Passport

If you lose your passport while abroad, the first thing you’ll need to do is contact the nearest embassy in the country you’re visiting. Stay calm, embassies deal with these incidents all the time and will usually service people who are traveling very quickly. Usually, lost passports can be replaced within a few days. If you need help locating the embassy or reaching out to them, ask your hotel or accommodation to assist you.

Preparation: Death 

There’s no way to prepare for an incident as tragic as death but having proper travel insurance can help cover the costs of transportation back to your home country, which is critical if the unthinkable happens abroad. Stay as calm as possible, contact your family, and reach out to the embassy that is closest to you. Remember, there are many people willing to help, you just have to ask.

Preparation: Natural Disaster

Before you plan a trip, be informed about the weather patterns during the time you’ll be visiting that area. If you’re going to Mexico, avoiding hurricane season is the best way to avoid encountering an emergency. However, often, natural disasters are unavoidable, so if you find yourself in the midst of one, do your best to stay calm.

First, reach out to your state department and follow any guidance that has been put out by your home country for its affected citizens. Governments monitor these global events to react quickly and help bring their citizens home to safety if possible. Be sure to gather all your important documents and be ready to follow instructions swiftly.

Preparation: War

This is a terrible emergency that is nearly impossible to prepare for. If you plan on traveling to a place that is experiencing unrest, postponing your trip, or choosing a different location is probably the best option. If you’re already in a country when war breaks out, contact the embassy near you and look online for instructions provided by your home government to develop an action plan.

Tips to be Best Prepared

Don’t let the possibility of something going wrong stop you from living your life. More often than not, you’ll have a wonderful trip, returning home with only memories and souvenirs. If something does go wrong while you’re traveling, it’s best to be as prepared as possible. Reacting and planning for specific emergencies is important, but there are also a few things you can do prior to every trip to help ensure things go as smoothly as possible in the event of an emergency:

Register your trip with the State Department

Letting your government know where you’ll be and when you should be back will help them keep track of your safety and provide assistance if needed.

Get your medical requirements sorted out

This means having all your medications ready before leaving and bringing with you anything you may need while you’re away. A quick visit to your doctor is a great thing to do before a trip!

Do your research beforehand

Get informed about weather patterns, current events, and safety warnings for every city you’ll stop in. Remember, travel advice for one part of a country may vary from the advice for a different part of the same country.

Notify your family of your plans

No one will keep better watch over your safety than those who love you. If your family knows your plans, they can help coordinate from inside the U.S., or whatever country you are from, if you experience a travel emergency.

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