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SOS! How to Deal with Emergencies While Traveling

How to deal with emergencies on the road
Written by Suzy Guese

This blog post was updated on May 8, 2018.

Most of us idealize travel to the point where we seldom think about what go could go wrong when we hit the road. Just as emergencies can occur at home, when they happen far away from it, travelers can panic. From a lost passport in Peru to a car accident in Paris, we are detailing some travel emergencies and how to deal with them if you meet trouble while roaming the globe.

Lost or Stolen Passport


No matter if you lose your passport abroad or at home, the first thing you want to do is report that it’s missing. You can do this for US passports online, by phone or through the mail. If your passport is lost or stolen before your trip, you can go to a passport center to replace it in an expedited fashion. If you are outside the US, it gets a bit more complicated. You’ll need to get in touch with the nearest US embassy or consulate. From there, you will fill out forms in order to obtain a new passport.

Travelers can be a bit more prepared for the lost passport situation abroad by carrying some extra passport photos when traveling. Also, you should always carry photocopies of your passport when you travel. This will help to show evidence of US citizenship when you need to apply for a new one because of theft or loss.

Missed Flight

Travel emergency - missed flight

No matter why you missed your flight, whether it’s your fault or the airline’s problem, you should immediately get on the phone with your airline or try to speak to someone as soon as possible at the airport. If you missed your flight because of the airline, the customer service desk will be your friend. Most likely, an agent will book you on another flight without penalty. If the airline doesn’t have any other flights that day, they should put you on another carrier. If no other carriers are available, you should be offered a hotel and food voucher until your flight the next day.

If you didn’t set your alarm or completely forgot about your flight on Tuesday, again, you’ll want to act quickly. If you miss your flight and get in touch with the airline within two hours of the missed flight, you might dodge paying the price of a new ticket. You might have to pay a change fee or a difference in fare price. Check with your airline to see what fees they will charge. Airlines also have an unwritten rule called the flat tire rule. If you missed your flight based on factors outside your control, they might waive the fees to get you on a new flight. You should also have travel insurance, because if it’s not your fault you can usually recoup the costs of the missed flight.

Victim of a Crime


No one wants to be the victim of a crime regardless of where they are, but things can happen while traveling. Whether you’re in your home country or abroad, you will want to get in touch with local police to report the crime. It’s crucial to also get a copy of the police report in case either your travel insurance provider or the US consulate needs to take a look at it. If you are overseas, get in touch with your embassy or consulate to help you with local police and medical attention if necessary. You can be a bit more prepared for crimes while traveling by making note of the emergency numbers for local police in the area you are going to and keeping a secret stash of cash away from your wallet, in case it gets stolen.

Car or Medical Accident

Medical emergency when traveling

If you’re in a car accident while traveling but you’re still in your home country, generally your auto insurance will work like it should at home. However, if you are abroad and get in an accident with a rental car, you will need to call your car rental company. Car rental companies usually will want a police report. If it’s your fault, you need to check the terms and conditions of your car rental policy. Your personal car insurance policy usually doesn’t cover you abroad.

For non-life threatening issues, the US state department lists local doctors, depending on your location, to help treat your condition. If the health problem is life threatening, you will want to reach out to the US consulate or embassy for help. You can prepare for medical issues on the road by knowing what your medical insurance covers. If you aren’t covered outside of the US, you can obtain the appropriate travel insurance for medical attention before you leave on your journey. It’s also wise to travel with a medical and first aid kit for conditions like food poisoning and the common cold so you can avoid having to go to a doctor or a hospital while traveling.

While we hope you’ll never meet travel emergencies on the road, things can happen when you least expect them. Preparation and knowledge are key when confronting these issues head on while traveling.

Have you ever encountered these travel emergencies? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

About the author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at

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