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While you can’t avoid natural disasters, or control all situations, you can be prepared. I was in Southern Thailand with my family when the Asian tsunami struck. We had a close call, but were not injured. This is what I’ve learned.

Before you leave home:

Leave your travel itinerary with your family, a friend and someone at work. Include all the phone/ fax numbers and email addresses for your hotels and your flight schedules.

Register your travel itinerary online at

This site allows you to enter your local and home contacts, itineraries, and passport numbers. U.S. embassies and consulates abroad are there to help Americans who are victims of accidents, crime or illness, or to help family or friends contact you in an emergency or disaster. Overseas consular officers will also provide you with the names of reputable local hospitals, lawyers and doctors and issue a temporary passport and even provide small loans if you have lost all your cash and credit cards.

Make photocopies of your itinerary, hotel confirmations, passport, driver’s license and airline tickets and pack them in your carry-on bag.

Your emergency kit, which should be packed in your carry-on luggage, should contain:

  • CASH – Several $20 bills and at least ten $1.00 bills WHY? CASH IS KING. If there is a power outage, credit cards and ATM cards can’t be used.
  • Cell phone with charger
  • Phone card with a PIN you can easily remember. WHY? Cell phones don’t work in some areas and you may need to use pay phones or the phone in your hotel room.
  • Consider renting a satellite phone if you must be in contact with home or the office from ships, mountainous areas or remote locations.
  • Bottled water
  • Filling snack bars
  • Medicine (enough prescription medicine to last 4 days more than your trip).
  • A list of your prescriptions, with their generic names. Brand names vary from country to country
  • Extra batteries for phone and flashlight
  • Tiny flashlight
  • Your doctor’s phone number, in case a hospital or emergency center needs to contact the doctor for your medical history/allergies, etc.

Consider overseas travel health insurance. Make sure it covers emergency evacuation, lost luggage, trip cancellation, medical, dental, and life insurance coverage, at the least.

If you’re a scuba diver, Diver’s Alert Network (800-446-2671) offers complete coverage for diving accidents, and if you’re a thrill-seeker or mountain climber, ask your insurance company about special insurance to cover adventure sports—these activities are often excluded from basic insurance plans.

Travel Guard International (800-826-1300) and Access America (800-284-8300) offer overseas insurance plans, while the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (716-754-4883) provides a free directory of English-speaking physicians worldwide. International insurance is offered by International SOS and Medjet