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What to Do When Travel Disaster Strikes

January 07, 2020

When travel disaster strikes, don’t panic. We’ve consulted with the pros and will coach you through how to weather anything from bed bugs to a lost passport.

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Travel Trouble

It's one thing to grapple with a disaster when you are at home and able to access your network of friends and family for help. But it is quite another to encounter a travel disaster in a distant land where you may not speak the language or be able to parse the cultural nuances or access the resources you need to weather a crisis. In the interest of providing a cheat sheet for how to handle any snafu thrown your way, we've assembled a handy guide to 10 common travel emergencies you might encounter and how to handle them.

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Photo: Shutterstock/Vera Petrunina

When You Find Evidence of Bed Bugs

Place a specimen in a bag or bottle or take detailed photos, then share that evidence with your host ASAP. If you have yet to unpack, don’t — and don’t place your belongings on the bed or other furniture. Then, get ready to get out. “The best place to store your luggage and belongings will be in the shower (the place least likely to have bed bugs unless there is an awful infestation) to prevent any bed bugs from infesting your items,” says Brittany Campbell, Ph.D., an entomologist with the National Pest Management Association. Your host should immediately move you to a pest-free room, and Campbell adds that you can ask to be compensated for your inconvenience. She also stresses the importance of remaining civil. “As a guest you have to remember that bed bugs can happen anywhere,” she explains. “It is not necessarily the hotel’s fault or even the host’s fault that bed bugs have been brought into the building prior to your stay.” If you unpacked prior to discovering your tiny roommates, “do a thorough inspection of your suitcase and any other items that you have placed around the hotel room or rental,” Campbell says. “Use a bright flashlight and inspect all small cracks and crevices along the suitcase, as well as other items including clothes, so you don't pack up any bugs. Even with a thorough inspection, it is impossible to be entirely sure since bed bugs are extremely good at hiding. When you get home, inspect your belongings again, put anything that won’t get damaged into a dryer on high heat for at least twenty minutes, and if you are still concerned about bringing bed bugs home call a pest control company to do a thorough inspection for bed bugs and provide any necessary treatments.”

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When You Get Food Poisoning

Symptoms of food-borne illness — including nausea and vomiting, cramps and diarrhea, and even fever — can surface within hours of eating a contaminated item. In most cases, according to the Mayo Clinic, the misery will resolve itself. Since dehydration is the most common serious complication when food poisoning flattens you, it’s crucial to replace lost fluids and much-needed minerals like calcium and potassium. Reach for water and a caffeine-free, electrolyte-rich drink like Pedialyte, Gatorade or coconut water early and often, then reintroduce bland, low-fat foods once your stomach begins to settle. While it can be tempting to treat gastrointestinal distress with over-the-counter meds like Pepto-Bismol and Imodium, doctors note that they can prolong your misery and make the situation worse: Vomiting and diarrhea are, after all, the body’s way of flushing out the bad stuff. With luck, the worst will have passed in around 24 hours. If you experience severe symptoms (like bloody vomit or stool, a temperature higher than 100.4, or signs of dehydration), on the other hand, it’s time to seek medical attention, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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When You Lose Your Phone

First and most importantly, note that recovering from losing your phone is not the same thing as actually recovering your phone. If you’re certain that your device has found its way into a thief’s hands, it’s time to wipe it and move on (and our detailed tips will help you do just that). Then what? If you’re in the United States and can visit one of your wireless carrier’s retail locations, there’s a decent chance they might have replacements in stock (or can have a replacement delivered to you in the course of a few days). If you’re abroad or unable to score a new phone quickly, mitigate your unexpected low-tech interlude by using Wi-Fi to text via your laptop until reinforcements arrive.

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