Treacherous Travels

Sunday, August 31, 2008

You've planned the perfect vacation: getting a direct flight, a beautiful hotel, and a sporty car. But now you're stranded in the airport, without your luggage, hoping that your beautiful hotel and sporty car haven't been destroyed by the hurricane that is currently blowing through your perfect destination. Vacations rarely go exactly as planned, but some types of travel misery are more common than others

From wacky weather to outlandish local laws, for some tourists, everything that can go wrong will.

Going to jail. Foreign countries often have much harsher penalties for offenses that would be relatively minor in the United States. For example, the U.S. State Department warns students traveling to Mexico on spring break that they could be arrested for littering, indecent behavior, drinking on the street, using public transportation without paying, and making obscene remarks. In addition, a person who is caught using or buying drugs could be held in jail for a year before their case is even brought to trial.
Being hospitalized. Getting sick is never pleasant, but it's even worse to fall ill when you're away from home, particularly in another country, where you don't speak the language. If you become seriously ill while traveling abroad, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends calling the U.S. Embassy or Consulate (if calling from outside the U.S. or Canada, dial 00 1 202-501-4444). In addition, you may want to consider joining a group like International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT) or International SOS, which can put you in touch with a qualified, English-speaking physician in dozens of foreign countries. Some of the organizations charge a fee for joining, while others request a donation. It's also important to find out before you travel if your health insurance will pay for medical expenses incurred outside the United States. Medicare, for instance, typically does not cover such costs.
Being stranded at the airport. Reduce your chances of being stranded at the airport by not flying to and from locations known for delays. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation, of the top ten flights that were delayed most often during the first quarter of 2008, seven of those flights originated or ended at the Chicago O'Hare Airport. So it would be smart to avoid that layover at O'Hare, if possible. And if you're traveling to or from Chicago, consider flights that land or leave from Chicago Midway Airport.


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