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7 ways to prepare for the unexpected while abroad

March 20, 2022
5 min read
7 ways to prepare for the unexpected while abroad
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Thousands of passengers had their vacation interrupted last week when a Norwegian Cruise Line ship ran aground in the Caribbean. According to the Washington Post, the ship made contact with a channel bed early last week, and passengers had to make their way to the Puerto Plata airport (POP) in the Dominican Republic as the cruise line chartered planes to pick them up.

While it’s certainly not the type of situation any of us want to imagine when planning a cruise (or any type of vacation for that matter), it does serve as a good reminder that emergencies and other unexpected situations can unfold while traveling and being prepared for them is a good practice.

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Here at TPG, we reviewed guidance from the U.S. State Department and leaned on our own travel experience to compile seven steps you should take before traveling (including taking a cruise), to be prepared in case plans change while out of the country.

1. Bring your passport

This goes for any cruise, even closed-loop cruises that may not require a passport. While you may not need a passport for the ports of call included (or where a passport card might suffice), a passport book is going to be required any time you want to fly internationally.

In the situation this past week involving Norwegian Cruise Line, passengers would need to have a passport to fly back into the United States.

The U.S. State Department recommends anyone taking a cruise have a passport book "in case of an emergency, such as an unexpected medical air evacuation or the ship docking in an alternate port.”

(Photo by Getty Images)

Related: 14 things you should do before every cruise

2. Have a plan for returning home if plans change

What documents would you need in case of an emergency? What airport or other transportation hub would you go to? How would you get there? The State Department recommends taking time to make an alternate plan on how to get home whenever you travel abroad.

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3. Learn what countries and territories are along your route while on a cruise

While the pre-planned route of your cruise or expedition might not call for a stop in a particular country or territory, a medical emergency or mechanical problem like the one seen last week could require the ship to dock in an alternative port and passengers to disembark in an unexpected area.

This could be a country where requirements for identifying documents might be different than other places where you planned to get off the ship. During the pandemic, this could mean physical vaccination proof is required where it was not somewhere else. It could also mean needing to know what COVID-19 protocols to follow.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

4. Bring medications, as well as an idea of what your insurance covers and what it doesn’t

Certainly you’ll want to bring any medications you take and your medical insurance card. However, it’s a good idea to figure out how you would pay for any type of unexpected medical situation that could develop during your trip. Would your insurance pay for emergency care while abroad? Did you buy travel insurance for your trip that might pay medical costs, and if so, what would be covered?

The State Department recommends travelers have a good sense of the plans they are enrolled in, what they cover and what they do not, and consider purchasing supplemental insurance if needed.

(Photo by Getty Images)

5. Have contact information for the nearest embassy/consulate

This information would be important in the event of an emergency. However, it also could be necessary if you were to lose your passport while abroad.

The State Department recommends international travelers write down contact details for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, and enroll in the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive travel and security updates. This would also help the U.S. government reach you in the event of an emergency.

6. Alert your bank

In addition to bringing any cash you’ll need, and getting a sense for exchange rates at your destination, be sure to notify your bank and credit card companies where you’ll be going. Financial transactions like swiping your credit card in another country can cause your bank to suspect fraudulent activity and freeze your card and/or account. This can be a headache to deal with while abroad.

7. Pack what you need, but be mindful about it

For longer trips including cruises, you will need to be sure to bring enough clothes and other personal items to safely and comfortably get you through your trip. However, also consider that situations can come up where you may end up having to lug around your belongings more than you’d planned.

As thousands of passengers in the Caribbean found out this past week, this could involve having to disembark from a ship in an unexpected place and make their way to an airport for a flight home.

Related: Ways to prepare for any travel disaster

Bottom line

We all hope that our trips go entirely according to plan, but some extra preparation beforehand – particularly before traveling internationally – could go a long way to making solutions easier should something unexpected come up during your journey.

Featured image by (Photo by Daniel Piraino/EyeEm/Getty Images)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees