Vacation Mishaps — Managing Lost Luggage and Perilous Political Situations

It’s always disappointing to have a long-craved vacation fail to live up to expectations, such as the time I spent a week shivering in Florida during April only to return home to sub-zero Wisconsin.  Missing luggage presents its challenges, too, and conflicts with friends or family during a vacation can leave one wishing to return to work.

But as Midwesterners are fond of saying, it could be worse.

Last month I heard about an exciting dream vacation my high school friend was taking with her extended family of 11. Their destination was–unbelievably–Egypt, arriving on January 22. These American Tourists had no idea that word had circulated calling for country-wide demonstrations on January 25.  Their long-planned trek to see the pyramids turned into a scary civics lesson of watching a major political uprising take hold in one of the most volatile regions of the world!

By January 29 the group was sequestered in the Cairo airport. They were not permitted to leave; no one was allowed to enter. All concession stands were completely sold out of water and any scrap of food. There was no information at the airport: Nothing about flights; no newspapers, no useful TV or radio broadcasts. The Internet was shut down.

They, and thousands of other stranded fliers, were looking for a way out, waiting for flight crews that could not get to the airport through the riots and chaos that gripped the country.

The family safely flew out of Cairo January 31, one of the earliest groups to leave; they were able to do so because of two key disaster-prevention steps that they had taken. Odysseys Unlimited, their tour planner, had registered all travelers with the State Department prior to leaving the U.S. and two group members had fully charged operational cell phones that they used to get aid from relatives outside the country. It was a tense situation with a happy ending.

Certainly events of this nature are extraordinary; however, you can take a few well-planned steps to prevent any girlfriend getaway from turning into a disaster. Just follow the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.

Here’s what should be on any traveler’s  Must Do list to prepare for travel outside the United States

  1. Carry your passport, one credit card and some cash with you at all times.  Wear it in a holder beneath your clothes. 
  2. Register with the State Department before you depart home so that that the U.S. government can expedite leaving and provide help should you need it. 
  3. Make copies of your passport and credit cards and keep them in a second location in your luggage;  also leave copies for a contact at home.  You can also email the images to yourself.
  4. Take with you a mini emergency kit that includes two Band-Aids, two Tylenol, needles and small spool of thread, two safety pins, one mini tampon, one small packet of tissue, one small bottle of hand sanitizer, one small bottle of sunscreen and a water bottle. Be sure to pack a small bag of nuts, a protein bar and an empty water bottle, which, if you are going to an airport, can be filled after clearing security.
  5. Keep your PDA/cell phone fully charged at the start of each day and carry and extra battery.

–Carol Lewis Gullstad, Feb. 7, 2011

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