Travel Secrets: Protect Your Most Valuable Asset, Your Health

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Travel Secrets: Protect Your Most Valuable Asset, Your Health

Sickness and Injury

. Hardly sexy topics when it comes to travel. Yet anyone who has been waylaid with a bug or worse, or had an accident, while far from home is sure to give healthcare a premium spot on any trip’s checklist.

Take Coleman Sperando, for instance. Last month, the 21-year-old BASE jumper from Florida smashed into a cliff during a jump in Switzerland suffering major injuries. He was stranded on a ledge for 13 hours until rescuers could reach him. One has to wonder how many times in those long hours Sperando thought, “Man, I’m glad I have travel insurance.”

His World Nomads policy covered emergency medical, plus getting him home—an expensive undertaking involving a private air ambulance and onboard MD.

Sure, that’s an extreme example. Humanitarian photographer David Duchemin thought his coverage would be most important for travel in remote or risky regions. Turns out, his time of need came in tourist-friendly Tuscany, where he fell from a wall, shattering his feet and pelvis. Duchemin relied on evacuation coverage through MedjetAssist to return home and begin a long process of treatment and recovery.

From tripping over a curb and breaking a toe to contracting a tropical disease (yeah Zika, we’re thinking about you,) smart travelers know things can go wrong anywhere, anytime.

While good planning doesn’t make us bulletproof, it can go a long way toward providing peace of mind along with a safety net in time of need.

Get Covered

Today most airlines make obtaining travel insurance as easy as upgrading cabins. One click and your trip is covered.

For independent travelers, companies like World Nomads offer coverage for a week-long trip up to a year (with unlimited renewal.) Editorial manager Mark Hiss says a policy covers three things: trip interruption/cancellation, stolen/damaged gear, and medical costs/evacuation.

“If someone gets injured or sick, we make sure they get the medical attention they need and get them home if they need to be evacuated,” says Hiss.
An issue the company sees all too often is motorcycle accidents. A policy specialist recently said she sees about eight motorcycle accident claims per month, just from Thailand alone, prompting Hiss to offer this advice: “Wear your helmets, people.”

What’s Covered
Read all insurance contracts carefully for mention of specific activities. World Nomads offers two policies for US residents covering 150 activities. The list is comprehensive from paragliding to horseback riding.

If worried about Zika or another destination-specific issue, ask questions before purchasing. Hiss says through World Nomads travelers are covered if infected with Zika, but cautions that cancelling a trip out of fear of the virus isn’t covered.
Hiss also says, “Stupidity is not covered. And neither is illegal activity. So travel smart and obey the local laws.”

Who Pays
When considering any policy, ask if it’s primary or secondary coverage. WN is a primary policy, whereas many credit card companies offer secondary coverage, meaning a primary policy is billed first.

Factors affecting cost include length of trip and whether solo or family coverage. WN’s average premium is $184 for US residents.

WN caps coverage at those 69 or younger at time of purchase. Shattering a myth that the young aren’t insured, 40% of policy holders are millennials.

Pre-existing Conditions
Read the fine print of any policy for language related to pre-existing conditions. For WN, if you have been treated for something in the past six months it’s considered “pre-existing” and not covered.

Get Inoculated

Being up-to-date on routine and destination-specific vaccines can be crucial for healthy travel.

A common mistake is not planning far enough in advance of travel, as some vaccines require multiple treatments. CDC recommends seeing your doctor or visiting a travel clinic four to six weeks before a trip.

Start planning by checking CDC’s list of recommended vaccinations by country and region. Common vaccinations include Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines for destinations where there is a risk of contaminated food or water and Hepatitis B for travelers who might have sex with a new partner, get a tattoo or piercing, or have any medical procedures.

There is currently no vaccine for Zika. CDC recommends pregnant women not travel to areas experiencing Zika outbreaks and those hoping to conceive, along with their partners, postpone pregnancy after visiting prone areas.

Other travelers should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites including frequently reapplying repellent, wearing clothing with permethrin, and practicing safe sex. For updates, subscribe to CDC alerts by texting PLAN to 855-255-5606.

Get Home

Although health care standards around the world are generally better than common U.S. perceptions, most of us want to be near home when sick. Especially when it involves extensive treatment.

Companies like industry leader MedjetAssist serve as supplements to travel insurance and specialize in getting travelers home.

“A Medjet membership will cover getting the member back to their home hospital, family and inpatient network,” says communications manager Laronica Conway. “Medical transports range from $15,000 domestically to well over $100,000 internationally and Medjet Membership covers those costs.”

When Duchemin was injured he says the company was in constant contact with the hospital in Italy until he was stable for transport. A personal briefing of evacuation plans from the company president helped to set his mind at ease. Now the photographer doesn’t leave home without travel insurance, an evacuation policy, and SCUBA-specific medical coverage which he estimates totals $600 per year.

With Medjet, individual membership is $270; family is $395. A premium plan covers heavy duty travel security issues like violent crime and acts of terrorism.

Memberships cover those 74 or younger. Those 75 or older must submit a medical statement.

Get Medicine

Although TSA doesn’t require original prescription labels on containers to fly, Hiss recommends traveling with medications, and even vitamins and supplements, in their original packaging. Knowing what a patient is currently taking, in what dosage, can assist medical personal in another country when evaluating your case.

“And your prescription won’t be any good in a foreign country, so bring enough meds to last your trip,” he says. Also, some medicines requiring a prescription in the U.S. can be purchased over the counter in other countries. If you get in a
bind, ask a local pharmacist.

TSA rules
Travelers can carry-on medication in solid form in unlimited amounts. Meds in liquid form are okay too, no ziplock required. Alert officer during screening.

First Aid
Consider packing an antibiotic for moderate issues. Check out CDC’s packing checklist for more suggestions.

Good Practices

According to CDC, travelers’ diarrhea is the most common travel-related illness, prompting the organization to create the Can I Eat This? app to help travelers make smart decisions. “Eat only food that is cooked and served hot,” says CDC senior press office Tom Skinner. “Avoid, for example, food that has been sitting on a buffet. Eat raw fruits and vegetables only if you have washed them in clean water or peeled them. Drink only beverages from factory-sealed containers, and avoid ice, because it may have been made from unclean water.”

Hiss adds: “When it comes to the food…follow the crowds. Avoid the food stalls and restaurants with no customers…wait in line with the locals. It could save you a case of Delhi belly.”

And, for everyone’s sake, wash your hands. Often.

Image: roaming-the-planet, CC-BY

Jess Simpson is a writer chasing a dream of slow travel in a fast world. Now accidentally running a hotel in Bulgaria’s Rila Mountains. Find her on Facebook and Instagram.