protect yourself overseas

Whether it's mechanical problems, natural disaster or human error, sometimes the planets just don't align and your well-organised and smooth-sailing travel plans can suddenly turn into the tour bus from hell. Here are some helpful hints for getting through those problems from the slightly awkward to the downright impossible.

1. Make sure you have travel insurance

While it is time consuming and a total pain, reading the fine print really is essential if you want peace of mind. Not all things can be covered – that bad haircut or tattoo you could later regret – but a good insurance policy should cover you for most of the normal glitches. As someone famous once said, "Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted."

2. Research, research, research

Recommendations from friends aside, make sure you know what to expect from your destination. Travelling outside peak times may be easier on the budget, but experiencing cyclone season or travelling into potential conflict zones or being unaware of social etiquette in unfamiliar areas can land you in trouble. There are enough websites and travel guides nowadays for this to be unnecessary.

3. Book and pay ahead of time where possible

Prepaying for accommodation and tours locks you in to a particular time and place giving you certainty and helps budgeting. Many attractions are more expensive on site, so paying up front does save dollars. Also, a well-planned itinerary saves you time and allows for flexibility.

4. Keep calm

While our first reaction may be to rage at airline stewards, hotel staff or tour operators, a calm approach could turn a disaster into something bearable. If the problem you're facing is unavoidable, a considered approach can win friends and get you upgrades. Generosity of spirit in the face of adversity may not win any Nobel peace prizes, but when you're accommodating and understanding you keep your blood pressure down and win admiration.

5. Pack for emergencies

Be a pessimist and pack a carry-on bag for the worst case scenario.

Long gone are the days where two suitcases packed with an outfit for every occasion was the norm. Bags often go astray and occasionally they never return. Make your carry-on luggage count. Pack an emergency change of clothes, plus toiletries in your carry-on. If you are unfortunate enough to lose your luggage, at least you won't have to wear the same set of undies.

6. Carry emergency funds

Not long ago a couple of volcanoes blew their tops, disrupting the travel plans of thousands of people. Make sure your travel budget has enough backup to cover extra accommodation and living expenses. Whatever you don't use can always go into the kitty for your next trip, but if you're caught out, you could end up in worse debt than you planned.

7. Leave home safe and secure

There is nothing like returning home to a disaster. The power went off and your freezer smells like the inside of last month's kitty litter. Or worse, you've been burgled. Tell neighbours and friends what your plans are and get someone to collect the mail, take in the rubbish bins and give the place a lived-in look. Getting a house-sitter may be an option, but if not, a few simple precautions will avoid any home disasters.

Have you ever had something bad happen overseas? If so, what did you do about it? Let us know in the comments section below, we’d love to hear from you.

Written by Peta McCartney. First appeared on Stuff.co.nz.

Over60 partner, Medical Travel Companions, are like the guardian angels for those who love to travel but require assistance or reassurance. Whether you – or someone you love – could benefit from a little assistance, Medical Travel Companions has a range of services that ensure no one has to miss out on doing the things they love. 

For more information or to book your own travel concierge, click here.

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