What to Do If You Get Sick While Traveling

You’ve finally saved up your vacation days and have the trip of a lifetime planned. You’ve researched the best places to eat, the can’t-miss sights and have crafted the perfect hashtag so your friends and family can follow along on your adventures. You have your passport, have boarded your dog and have someone picking up your mail. You’ve thought of everything — or so you thought.

According to the National Travel and Tourism Office, 2016 saw an 8 percent increase in American travelers internationally. Most trips go off without a hitch, but we’re humans. Our bodies can only take so many sneezes on a flight before our immune system takes a hit and we find ourselves spending our hard-earned vacation days staring at the ceiling of a hotel bathroom.

You need a doctor, stat.

Most people plan for all aspects of a trip except for what to do if you get sick, have an accident or need to cut your trip short. Here are a few tips on how to prepare for the unexpected, from your business trip to Columbus, Ohio, to your honeymoon in Bali.

“The most important thing you can do when preparing for any trip is to purchase travel insurance,” recommends Scott Masciarelli, director of talent and airline partnerships for Connoisseur Travel. “Many people think that you only need insurance if you are going abroad, but travel insurance can be applied [to] any type of trip and can easily be purchased either through your travel agent if you are working with one — or you can do it yourself with companies like AIG Travel Guard or Travelex.”

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With travel insurance, you can customize your coverage, from including lost bags to hospitalization to flying home earlier than planned. The insurance company will assist with any arrangements that need to be made and will help you find the right doctor or hospital in whatever city or country you are in. Additionally, with travel insurance, any out-of-pocket expenses you may incur will most likely be refunded to you — just make sure to keep all paperwork.

Oh, but my credit card has travel insurance on it — I’m covered

Don’t be so sure.

“I recommend calling your credit card company prior to your trip to see just what they cover,” says Masciarelli. Many credit cards will cover you if your trip is delayed or canceled or if your baggage is lost somewhere along the way, but most do not include health insurance, leaving you holding the bill should you need medical assistance, and that can add up quickly.

Let’s say you need to be airlifted off a mountain in Colorado. Your credit card company will most likely not reimburse any of those charges, but travel insurance will. Additionally, if you must cut your trip short because of a medical issue, your credit card company might not be able to help you out at all.

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Oh, but I have health insurance — I’m covered

Sorry — not so fast.

Your medical coverage may just be for the state you reside in, so if you live in New York, and you get hurt in California, you might not be covered.

“Again, I recommend calling your insurance company before you travel,” says Masciarelli. “Ask them specifically about the city that you are traveling to, not just a generic ‘Am I covered out of state?’”

He also recommends asking what is covered. A trip to the emergency room might fall under their coverage, but a surgery might not. If you are traveling abroad, there’s a very good chance your health insurance will not be able to help you at all unless it is specifically outlined in your policy.

The bottom line: No one wants to think about what could happen on a dream vacation, but if you are prepared for the unexpected, it makes the zip lines, the airplane jumps and the snorkel expeditions even more memorable.

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