Top five travel documents to email yourself before you travel

A lost or stolen passport or ATM card is a surefire way to add stress to any trip. As a preventative measure, I keep a list of travel documents (scanned, as necessary) in my inbox, so I have them at the ready should I run into trouble. Before you head out on your next trip, make sure you have the following documents, copied, prepped and prepared in the event you need them quickly:

1. Passport
If your passport mysteriously goes missing from the hotel security box or hostel front desk, or you’re mugged or robbed on the road, scanning a back-up copy can save you hours of paperwork and waiting. If you need a visa for travel, scan a copy of it, as well.

2. Medical and travel insurance cards (if applicable)
Not all medical insurance covers travel outside of the U.S., so check before you get on a plane. If you plan on visiting a region prone to civil unrest, natural disasters, or general sketchiness, have a medical condition, or are a fan of adventure travel, travel insurance might be worth looking into.

3. Bank and credit card collect call numbers
Keep the bank phone numbers nearby. It won’t bring your cards back if they’re lost or stolen, but at least you can report and cancel/put holds on them, ASAP. Most financial institutions have collect call numbers you can use from a foreign country.

4. Emergency contacts and relevant health information
At a recent appointment with a new physician, he noted that I was allergic to penicillin, and asked what happens if I take it. I explained I have a family history of anaphylaxis, and he asked why I don’t wear a medical alert bracelet, especially given my occupation as travel writer. It’s a good idea that never would have occurred to me. So while you’re typing up that list of contacts, including doctors, add in any life-threatening allergies or medical conditions. Should you wind up in a medical emergency, odds are someone, somewhere, will speak English. Or write it down in the language of the country you’re visiting (Lonely Planet Phrasebooks are invaluable for this kind of translation, even if you need to say it in Urdu or Thai).5. Itinerary
Be sure to send copies of your travel itinerary to family and/or a close friend. If you’re backpacking and don’t know where you’ll be staying or don’t have a world phone, the ubiquitousness of global cyber cafes makes it easier than ever to stay in touch, even in rural areas.

*Bonus round

U.S. Department of State contact info/Embassy and Consulate list
If you spend a lot of time overseas, especially if you fall into the category cited in #2, it’s a very good idea to register your trip with the U.S. Department of State. In the event of an emergency requiring evacuation, you’ll be in their system. It’s also helpful to keep the embassy/consulate link in your inbox and on your person, in case you or a fellow traveler runs into trouble.

Immunization card
Some countries or regions require you to present this, to prove you’ve had the necessary vaccinations before being admitted entry. Admittedly, I’ve never actually had to produce this document, but better safe than denied. For a list of recommended and required inoculations for destinations, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site.

[Photo credit: Flickr user cubicgarden]

Mexico City offers free health insurance to tourists

After near-hysteria over Mexico’s outbreak of the H1N1 (swine) flu virus crippled the country’s tourism industry and resulted in record low hotel occupancy rates, Mexico City’s tourism is slowly rebounding. To help get tourism back to its pre-“aporkalypse” levels, the Mexico City Tourism Ministry is unveiling a new plan that officials hope will help convince people that it is safe to visit.

Any tourists who stay in one of Mexico City’s hotels will receive free health insurance. Under the plan, tourists are covered for not only treatment of the H1N1 virus, but also for any other disease or accident they suffer from while staying in Mexico City. Prescription drugs, emergency dental care, hospital stays, and ambulance transportation are also covered. There’s even assistance in case of robbery, luggage loss, or the delay or cancellation of a flight.

Mexico City normally welcomes around 7 million (international and domestic) visitors each year. When news of the H1N1 flu broke, tourists began to disappear and hotel occupancy rates plummeted, reaching as low as 5% in April, according to USA Today. Now they are around 59%, but the industry is still feeling the pinch. Officials hope that the offer of free health insurance may help sway those who were considering a trip to Mexico, but were concerned about the risk.

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[via Los Angeles Times]

Travel Insurance for the Over-65

The UK’s The Independent recently reported a surprising fact: most travel insurance policies–at least in the UK–exclude claims from those above 75 years of age, and fully one third exclude claims from those above 65.

The reasons for travel insurance are obvious: replacement of lost/stolen luggage, trip cancellations, but, most importantly, medical treatment abroad. The latter reason becomes more pressing for those with greater health concerns.

Understandably, travel insurance rates for those who might have medical problems are higher. Another surprise out of the article, however, was that, in their survey, the rates for those above 65 were often double or more than for people under 65. Above the age of 70, rates got as high as three times higher. And that’s only if the policies didn’t outright exclude those in higher age categories.

I’m not sure of the applicability of these findings to policies sold in the U.S., but a word to the wise is warranted. Read your travel insurance policy carefully. If anyone has had experience with travel medical policies they can share, please do.