By Michelle Duffy
Long before departing for your journey, you’ll want to make sure your entire family is well prepared for any issues that might arise along the way. This includes ensuring that your family’s medical needs are in order and that you are all covered by insurance that is valid away from your home state and/or country.
Prescriptions and Medications
If anyone in your family is on medication, carry enough with you for the duration of the trip. This may require a phone call to your insurance provider, explaining your travel plans and getting authorization for additional refills. Ask your doctor to provide you with a paper copy of the prescription, as well, in case you do need to restock it along the way.
Medication should always be packed in carry-on bags, in case your checked baggage is delayed or lost.
In North America, you may simply be able to visit a branch of the pharmacy where the prescription was originally filled– these chains share a database and thus have your information already. Elsewhere, you must provide the pharmacist with your doctor’s contact information so he can then authorize the refill.
Abroad, refills may be a little more complicated if your medication isn’t available over-the-counter (which is the case for most prescriptions in many developing countries). This will require you to see a doctor for a new prescription.
Should your medicine be considered a controlled substance (this includes narcotics and psychotropics found in ADD and ADHD medications), check the guidelines issued by the International Narcotics Control Board. At a minimum, you must carry a copy of the prescription to prove medical use.
In the case of an accident, many insurance policies cover travel outside of your home state, as well as overseas, and may reimburse you for emergency and urgent-care expenses. Check with your provider whether your family is covered at your destination. And keep in mind that your coverage might not include certain activities, such as adventure sports, scuba diving, or rock climbing.
Consider travel insurance, if there is any possibility that you may have to cancel your trip at the last minute, after you’ve spent a heap of money on a tour package, or nonrefundable hotel or air tickets. For a relatively small fee, you’ll be reimbursed for costs of a thwarted adventure. Depending on the policy, other benefits may include baggage reimbursement, and medical, dental, and evacuation coverage.
Evacuation and Transportation Insurance
Though no one wants to consider the unthinkable, it’s imperative that you have an emergency plan, especially if you are the only adult traveling with your child. Evacuation insurance covers an injured or ill person’s transport to a medical facility. If you’re traveling in a remote area of Bolivia, for example, you might consider being removed to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the standard of medical care may be better. Such an evacuation could run upwards of $60,000: a cost mostly covered by insurance.
Often included in such policies are repatriation (being sent home) or an emergency reunion. This allows a support person–such as a friend or family member–to be transported to the ill or injured party. An example would be when an adult is incapacitated and the child cannot be left alone. Another provision often covered is the return of children to their home in such cases. Plans vary, so check all the options available.
A good resource is the Travel Insurance Review, which includes information about companies. Check the Family Travel Insurance Coverage Matrix, which offers summary information on family-friendly benefits from major travel insurers.
The Travel Insurance Review does not provide rates, but you can comparison-shop on SquareMouth. These websites make finding and pricing different coverage options easy.
Be sure to read your policy carefully before you leave home, and note all pertinent contact info.
You’ll want to make multiple copies of all your paperwork, including emergency contacts, medical records, vaccinations, and insurance. Carry at least one copy, and leave another at home with a trusted friend or family member. Alternately, if you’ll have access to the Internet, consider an online medical records service. You can store all the details online and then just carry a wallet-size card containing emergency information.
Finding Medical Help
It isn’t as difficult as it might seem to find an English-speaking, Western-trained doctor abroad. One way is to become a member of the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT). While donations are welcomed, membership is free and allows you access to a directory of physicians and medical facilities in 125 countries. IAMAT inspects facilities continuously to ensure quality medical care. U.S. embassies and consulates also provide referrals to Western-trained and English-speaking doctors. Make sure you include contact information for the embassy or consulate with your travel documents.
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Michelle Duffy is an IT professional who, after 10 years in the dotcom world, left Amazon.com to spend more time writing, traveling and being with her family.
With her natural passion for travel, she and her husband left Dublin, Ireland in 1995. After exploring much of the Western U.S., they settled in Seattle with their two boys. Parenthood did not preclude Michelle’s intent to wander far and wide. She has traveled extensively in the U.S., Europe, South and Central America with her family. Her children have so far: visited Machu Picchu, explored Mayan Mexico, enjoyed the view from the Acropolis and marveled at the kangaroos in South Australia – as well as visiting many other fun destinations worldwide. Michelle is currently planning 15-month round-the-world trip with her family.
Michelle is the co-author of Wanderlust and Lipstick: Traveling with Kids.