Travel is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Visiting other places and cultures connects us with a world that can seem very small, yet infinitely vast, at the same time. More women than ever are traveling and they are taking solo trips in greater numbers each year.
A 2014 Booking.com survey found that 65 percent of U.S. women are taking vacations without their partners. According to REI Adventures, 58 percent of their guests were women and they are designing more of their travel adventures for women.
Along with this increased travel comes real risks especially for women who are traveling alone for business reasons or for pleasure. According to a Women’s Safety Survey commissioned by AIG Travel, 45 percent of female travelers feel less safe or much less safe about traveling than they did five years ago. There are good reasons for those concerns. Based on a Maiden Voyage Women in Business Travel Survey, 24 percent of women travelers suffered an adverse situation when traveling on business such as theft, physical assault, attempted kidnap, and intruders in hotel rooms.
There are many things that you can do to protect yourself, your family and your valuables when you travel. Preventative planning is the key, so before you board the plane for your next trip, take the time to consider these travel safety tips:
The world is an unpredictable place and the following will help you navigate some of the uncertainty that comes with traveling:
It’s important to plan ahead and familiarize yourself with the local laws and customs and security issues, as well as having a game plan if you need emergency or medical assistance. Here are some recommended resources:
Go to the U.S. State Department’s travel site—Travel.State.Gov.
This website provides a wealth of helpful information for any country you may be visiting, as well as specific passport, visa and vaccination requirements, travel advisory messages and specific security alerts. Make sure you know the location of the closest U.S. embassy for your destination and have this information readily available.
Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
Download the app on your smartphone. This is a free service that allows U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad to receive updated safety and security messages and make it easier for the U.S. Embassy to locate you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest or family emergency. You just need to sign up once, and then add trips later for all your future travels.
Go to the AIG Travel for Women website for travel safety tips
As a global insurance provider, AIG’s Travel for Women has plenty of helpful tips! There are too many to list in this particular article but some worthwhile security tips, particularly for women traveling alone, include (1) never hang a sign asking for your room to be cleaned, as this announces that no one is in your room; (2) ask for two hotel room keys and keep one in your purse and one on yourself; (3) consider carrying door wedges with you so you can lock and wedge the hotel room door and (4) organize your belongings the same way every time so you know if something has been tampered with or moved.
Review your medical insurance policy coverage
Check to see if your medical insurance covers you outside of the U.S. and what your specific coverage includes. As an example, when I called my group health insurance provider, I discovered that overseas’ emergency room care was covered for $150 per visit after meeting my deductible. I was also covered for several other medical services based on my out-of-network terms.
Consider travel insurance options
While consulting with a local personal insurance broker, Myrna Smith of Willis Towers Watson, I discovered there are several different types of travel insurance available for a reasonable fee. For example, you can buy individual trip cancellation with or without medical evacuation coverage, as well as annual travel policies for those who travel frequently throughout the year. As important is knowing that you have 24/7 emergency assistance. It may be a phone call to find a local doctor who speaks English, or an emergency airlift evacuation, or even security assistance in the event of political unrest. Having the peace of mind that expert worldwide travel assistance is available may be worth the fee. Consult with your insurance agent to determine what plan is best for you and your family.
Many of our adult children enjoy traveling abroad and it’s not uncommon for them to start at a young age while still in high school or college. In addition to the travel tips and resources mentioned here, there is one more piece of advice that parents or guardians need to keep in mind.
Once a child has turned age 18, he or she is considered an adult and without the proper legal documents in place, a parent or guardian does not have the legal right to obtain medical information or make any legal decisions on the child’s behalf anymore. This is true even if your son or daughter is covered under your health insurance plan.
While medical providers are permitted to exercise professional judgement if the young adult child patient is incapacitated, or in emergency situations, providers often come down on the side of patient privacy, especially if they have never met the family member.
There is no better time than before an upcoming trip—domestic or overseas—for parents or guardians and their young-adult children to sit down and review the appropriate forms to handle medical emergencies or other legal matters that may arise. These forms may be found online or can be prepared by an attorney.
Medical or Health Care Power of Attorney (“POA”)
By signing a Medical or Health Care POA (a.k.a. Health-Care Proxy), a young adult appoints an “agent” such as their parents or guardian to make medical decisions on their behalf in case they are incapacitated and cannot make these decisions for them self. Each state has different laws governing Medical POAs and, therefore, different legal forms. You can access downloadable forms at the American Bar Association. A Medical POA form may also include HIPAA disclosure authorization. If it does not, a separate HIPAA authorization should be signed.
A signed HIPAA Authorization permits health-care providers to disclose your young adult child’s health information to the person the child assigns as their health care “agent” for a designated time period or indefinitely.
Durable Power of Attorney (“POA”)
A Durable POA is a legal document that authorizes a trusted person that your adult child designates to act as their “agent” or “attorney-in-fact” (even though the person may not be an attorney) and remains valid even if the adult child is incapacitated. Since this trusted person as “agent” can step into your adult child’s shoes to legally take care of business on their behalf, your child should only give this type of authorization to an adult they truly trust and who has their best interest at heart. This legal document gives broad powers and should be taken very seriously as it may not be appropriate in many situations.
We recommend that you consult with your financial advisor or attorney in preparing these legal documents. Lastly, once these forms are signed, it’s a good idea to scan and save them electronically so they are readily available on a smart phone or computer. You should also keep the original forms in a secure location for safe keeping.
By planning in advance and taking a few common-sense precautions, you and your family can relax and enjoy your travel adventures, wherever they may take you.
Consider this your training manual to get and stay financially fit for life!