Oops, We Have a Little Emergency

By Kathy Klofft

Sad face is just for drama, the problem was small...this time! 

Sad face is just for drama, the problem was small...this time! 

Today I made a detour a local urgent care clinic in Florida. It wasn't on my itinerary of bike riding, kayaking, and napping on the beach!  Luckily for me, a small injury or bug bite that became infected was easily and quickly treated with antibiotics, but injuries and emergencies on the road can be scary. About a year ago, I wrote a post about how to avoid medical emergencies and how to prepare for them when they occur. I hope if you have a travel medical emergency, it is small and easily solved, and I hope our tips help you solve it and get back to the fun stuff! 

See our post here; 

 http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/2015/5/30/expecting-the-best-preparing-for-the-worst

All fixed up and back to the fun in Florida!  

All fixed up and back to the fun in Florida!  

Europe- don't make my travel mistakes!

I travel a fair bit, and I even write about it on a travel blog! So you'd think I'd be immune to "travel mistakes" - but on my recent trip to Great Britan and Paris, I made a few! I'm not too proud to share them with you, so that if you are planning a trip, you don't make the same mistakes! 

Tour d'Eiffel from Trocadero Fountains

Tour d'Eiffel from Trocadero Fountains

 1- Don't forget to adapt to the culture and customs of the place!

When I travel, I tend to bustle around trying to fit a lot into a day.  London suited me; it moves fast and since we started our trip there that's what we did! But every place in Europe has a different culture from the next place, and when traveling in Europe it's easy to travel an hour or two and be in a whole new country. I forgot how important it is to remember it can also be a whole new culture! After London, we went to Paris on the Eurostar train and we were in Paris in less than 2 hours!  And I was still hustling down the Rue de Rivoli like I had a train to catch. Except I didn't, and the French strooooooll along. I had to slooooooow down! Luckily, for me it was made easier by a few rainy days, because even the French pick up the pace in the rain! 

Our Context Tour guide had a route through the Louvre planned, but we got hopelessly lost at the Musee Arts Decoratifs on our own! 

Our Context Tour guide had a route through the Louvre planned, but we got hopelessly lost at the Musee Arts Decoratifs on our own! 

 2- Don't go it alone at the museum

Travel requires an investment - of time, of money. I like to save both, but don't make the mistake I made of spending money to go somewhere and then not getting the most out of the experience. My daughter is a design major, so we thought we could explore the Musee des Arts Decoratifs on our own. And while she was able to point out the Cameron Macintosh chairs and distinguish between Art Nouveau and Art Deco, neither of us could sort out the layout of this museum! We walked for miles trying to find exhibits! The Musee des Arts Decoratifs is in the same giant palace as the Louvre, but it's set up vertically with a small set of galleries on each of 9 floors. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get from one floor to next. One set of stairs only goes to some floors, another lift to the top floors can only be accessed from the 4 th floor. The museum is well staffed, and we asked the docents, but after the fourth explanation in French, I didn't know my troisième from my deuxième etage!

We decided to take 2 Context Tours in Paris, https://www.contexttravel.com/city/paris?page=1 which were recommended by Wendy Perrin on her WOW list http://www.wendyperrin.com/wow-list/ We picked the Louvre Crash Course and The Pompidou Center. Context provides local guides for walks in many European cities, and they are usually educated people with expertise in the area you are visiting. Our tours were led by artists and art teachers. We had skipped booking a guide for the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, and it took us twice as long to navigate the labyrinth of galleries as it should have and we only understood half of what we saw, with me reading the descriptions in my high school French and my daughter trying to recall her art history class. In contrast our Context guides got us to the front of the line, had a planned route through the museums that hit the highlights and still left time for us to explore things not on the hit parade. The Context guides also provided, well, context (with a small c) to understand how the works were seeing fit into the culture and history of the place. We couldn't afford to hire one for every museum we visited, but our experience show is well worth hiring a good guide for places that require a high level of expertise to navigate and interpret! 

While I relied on an "offline" app to navigate the Metro, it's also good to know how to read the map- technology doesn't always work!  

While I relied on an "offline" app to navigate the Metro, it's also good to know how to read the map- technology doesn't always work!  

 3- Don't rely on tech to bail you out

We brought plenty of tech on this trip, and generally I rely on technology as a travel aid.  I had paid for an international plan with my cell carrier; I could send texts, but inexplicably only received texts once I arrived at a rest area one day on a motorway in England! I never had cellular data in England despite paying for it.  My daughters phone charging cord was fried by the power outlets. At one point nearly every piece of tech we brought was broken, uncharged, or just plain ineffective!  My niece, who we met whee she was studying in Oxford, got a sim card in the country for her phone. That worked better for her than my hoping my carrier will play nicely with the carriers abroad. I'd get the SIM card for a long stay in Europe next time.

I did download 2 good apps that allowed me to route the public transit off line. (YR Creative Offline London Tube and Paris Metro Maps) These were invaluable for finding our way around the Tube and Metro, when we couldn't count on google maps. I also carried a guide book with street view maps which proved very helpful when standing on a corner wondering which way to go! (DK Eyewitness-  Paris, London) 

A young couple locks down their relationship status on Pont Sofferino where people from all over the world leave a lock to commemorate their love. This reminds me to keep things secure while traveling!  

A young couple locks down their relationship status on Pont Sofferino where people from all over the world leave a lock to commemorate their love. This reminds me to keep things secure while traveling!  

4- Don't get pick pocketed IRL or phished or scammed on line on wifi

In big cities anywhere, there will always be an element looking to take advantage of distracted travelers by trying to pick their pockets, or worse! We were lucky, with our cross body bags from PacSafe, we didn't encounter any trouble in real life (IRL) and our bags had RFID blocking pockets to prevent scammers from scanning our electronic info from passports or credit cards remotely. But we also had to guard against getting phished or hacked on wifi and sometimes using wifi in public places can be chancy! Don't enter personal passwords or important info over public wifi, where anyone can be skimming for that data. While we were away my daughter fell for a phishing scam (this was a coincidence and not related to our travel) where she clicked on a link to reset a college account password that was from a hacker, not her university! Luckily, the University shut her account down before any major damage was done! Try to use wifi networks that are password protected, where they change passwords frequently. And don't fall for phishing scams anywhere, never change a password with a "link" sent to you, always log in at the website first to make a change or enter data. My daughter knows this now! 

Also, remind people back home not to fall for travel scams. A popular one is to send emails or social media messages to loved ones in your name, asking for money because of an emergency abroad. While sitting in the airport in London, I had a FB message from a young cousin with a general statement saying she "needed my help". That sounded "phishy", and we hadn't been in touch in months, so I responded asking if her account might have been hacked. She responded with request for help with some general information she needed (not personal info) and used very specific nicknames for her grandparents, so I knew it was really her. Before helping loved ones when you receive a request for money or information, be sure that you are really hearing from the person you think you are. Check multiple sources of contact; text, email, call them in person. If they just instagrammed their breakfast, they probably aren't locked in a Tunisian jail! And remind your loved ones you'll use specifics if you ever needed to reach out to them for help, so they don't fall for a scam at home either! 

Trying to help my adult daughter pack reminds me of the saying "not my circus, not my monkeys" - artistically represented here by this Louis the 15th clock at Petit Palais, by multiple artisits, (ceramics by Kandler, Reinicke) depicting an overmatched ceramic monkey band conductor and his "circus". 

Trying to help my adult daughter pack reminds me of the saying "not my circus, not my monkeys" - artistically represented here by this Louis the 15th clock at Petit Palais, by multiple artisits, (ceramics by Kandler, Reinicke) depicting an overmatched ceramic monkey band conductor and his "circus". 

 5- Don't take the wrong (overpacked) bag

In a classic case of Maternal "I Told You So..." I had warned my daughter not to take a back pack she's had since middle school on our European trip. With no padded lap top section, a zipper that splits open at the worst possible times, it was too small and overstuffed.  Mother knew best; this was not the bag to take! I offered any of a dozen promotional back packs I have sitting in my closet, but these were rejected. So what could go wrong?! First, the bag fell from a hook in the loo at Kings Cross and the display on the lap top was ruined. Second, we made it almost all the way home, when the zipper split (in the bathroom again, this time in our home airport!) and she didn't realize a bag of chargers and a small sentimental gift from her boyfriend had fallen out until she arrived home. I did the good mother thing - empathized, even though you know I wanted to say it!

There are so many great travel bags (I'll be reviewing my pacsafe sling bag soon, which traveled beautifully on this trip!) and you can spend a fortune. But you don't have to! You just have to make sure the bag easily accommodates your things with extra room for souvenirs,  is secure and meets the guidelines for size and weight by your carriers, The most important part is to know you can access important things like your passport, or lap top, in and out of the bag without losing the contents and while keeping them be secure in crowds.

Planning an expensive purchase abroad? Be sure to get your VAT back, get the paperwork and save the packaging too!  A parfum store along Champs Elysses.

Planning an expensive purchase abroad? Be sure to get your VAT back, get the paperwork and save the packaging too!  A parfum store along Champs Elysses.

 6- Don't fail to get your vat back

There I was at the Customs desk at Gatwick trying to get my paper work stamped to get back my VAT (value added taxes added to goods for residents that is generally refundable to tourists at the end of their stay) I was arguing with the agent about what he would do if he bought a sapphire ring. (I wanted to say it might not look so good on his fingers, but I rightly decided snark wouldn't be the best tactic at that moment!) I spotted a ring in exactly the style I had been looking for for years in a shop in Cambridge. It was also my daughters birthstone and would be the perfect souvenir to remember this special mother daughter trip to Paris. I bought the ring, which in itself is shocking because I rarely buy things, I usually just go places! I got all the official paperwork from the shop to get the taxes back and took them to the airport. Because the ring was for myself and we were very overpacked going home, (see # 5 above) I left the "presentation box" with my relatives in Britain and just tucked the new ring in my jewelry pouch.

Well, big mistake. Seems there are people willing to scam, (see # 4 above) and one of those scams is to bring paperwork from someone who is staying in the country with the goods and tries to pass off an old ring and reclaim the VAT money. I would never be clever enough to think of that or brave enough to do anything so stupid!  But the agent couldn't know that about me, and he argued "if I bought a nice ring like that I'd save the box it came in". Well, I resisted the urge to yell, "well, I'm not you and I don't collect superfluous packaging" because I knew that would get me nowhere fast! I prevailed on him that shop keepers in his country sold these things making the promise of VAT returns and it would be disappointing not to get it back. I explained how we were overpacked, the ring was for myself, and as he inspected the new ring for age wear,  I explained I could call my sister in law and have her dig the box out of her bin, pick off the coffee grounds and banana peels and send a photo to my iPhone! Luckily, with enough obsequiousness and apologies on my part, the stamp hovered above the paperwork, then swiftly came down...punch, punch. Satisfied I wasn't a tax scamming tourist, he approved my paperwork, I queued at the money exchange booth to get my VAT back, (less their fee!) Lesson learned, have the paperwork, but also keep the article new and with all of it's packaging before heading to Customs!

 

Overall, we had an amazing trip, just two gals exploring in London and Paris and visiting relatives in England. We had a few stumbles and made a few mistakes, but mostly we learned to be patient and soak up the atmosphere and enjoy time with eachother! And that's what travel is all about! Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting my trip reports for Paris France,  London, St Ives, Ely, Cambridge and Oxford in England, with lots of photos...this time Kathy's own attempts to follow Jeff's photography instructions about how to get great travel shots. I hope you will follow along and enjoy the reports and photos from our special mother/daughter trip! 

Near Palais Royale, even the rain couldn't spoil a special mother daughter trip!  

Near Palais Royale, even the rain couldn't spoil a special mother daughter trip!  

Expecting the Best, Preparing for the Worst: Preparing a Travel Medical Kit

We all head out for a trip expecting the best...months of planning, organizing itineraries, and dreaming about a destination.  But it's also important to prepare for the worst.  Today, I am starting to pull together my Travel First Aid Kit, for our trip to Cuba, and I thought I'd share what and how I pull together the things I hope I will never need!

Our trip to Zambia included a village visit and time in the bush, which required some medical planning in advance.

Our trip to Zambia included a village visit and time in the bush, which required some medical planning in advance.

I cannot advise anyone about anything medical because not only am I not a doctor (and never played one on TV) but I’m also not YOUR doctor…only your doctor can determine what YOU need to bring along on a trip, and I highly recommend finding an excellent travel medicine physician or nurse if you plan to travel out of the country, especially in the developing world. Not only will this professional know what things you’ll need (and don’t really need) but they have the skills to sort out any unusual illness that might come up in the rare event that you come back with something uncommon.  

Step 1 is a visit to a qualified travel medicine professional.

To find a great travel health professional, I recommend asking a  well traveled friend or calling a local adventure travel agent and asking who they use before a trip.  I try to do this about 3-4 months before traveling, so I have time for any vaccination series or prophylactic medication I might need. I’ve got a great travel medicine provider who has the latest updates on illnesses and prevention of them in the destinations where I’m headed.  They understand the realities of developing nation medical care and are usually happy to provide you with “just in case” things, like antibiotics, that your general practitioner is rightly reluctant to prescribe.  I’ve also saved money and discomfort by having a pro that recognizes that I probably don’t need a rabies vaccine to travel to countries where that illness is endemic if I plan to be on a cruise ship and not out in the bush.  To be prepared for your appointment, be sure to bring along your whole itinerary, with every country and the activities you’ll be doing, as well as your own medical history and list of medications.  Extended exposure to people or animals in volunteer trips requires different action than a tour with a tour group which might have more limited exposures to the public and wildlife. The travel medical pro can best advise what you need and what you can do without, to keep you healthy!

My travel nurse suggested this CDC website for general food safety guidelines.

 

Step 2 Build a travel first aid and medical kit.

I’ll share how I’ve built my own medical kit, to give an idea about how to get started assembling the things you might need after your appointment with your own medical professional.
I purchased this AM/PM pill organizer from Lewis and Clark.  It’s really designed for a weeks worth of pills, but I use it to organize my medical kit.  (These are all products we buy ourselves and use; we have not received any compensation for mentioning brands.) 

This is the 16 pouch version (two weeks) which works better when packing for the whole family

This is the 16 pouch version (two weeks) which works better when packing for the whole family

This is the one week, or 8 pouch version which works for individuals or couples.

This is the one week, or 8 pouch version which works for individuals or couples.

It has individual pouches, which I organize by ailment.  This proved useful, when traveling in Botswana, our youngest had some kind of tummy trouble, and I could grab the pouch and head out to her tent and have everything I needed.  Since each trip back to my own tent required an armed guide escort, I wanted to limit trips when I went to check on and medicate her. 

One down at Little Vumbura camp in Botswana! Thanks to our medical kit and an excellent Wilderness Safaris nurse, she wasn't down for long!

One down at Little Vumbura camp in Botswana! Thanks to our medical kit and an excellent Wilderness Safaris nurse, she wasn't down for long!

Pouch 1: Pain relief- an assortment of our preferred pain relievers, ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen sodium

Pouch 2: General tummy trouble- relief for all the general travel realted tummy issues; a laxative pill, gas remedy, antacid like Tums, and stool softner

Pouch 3: Big tummy troubles- when “tourista” hits (and in all our travels it rarely has- my travel medical pro replaces my Z pak because it’s expired, not because we’ve had to use it much!) This section includes a broad spectrum antibiotic prescribed by my travel doc, enough for each person to have a 3 pill dose, if needed. Also, in the baby aisle, I found little pedialyte films in a package (like those breath strips), which will replace important minerals in the case of dehydration.  They are made to slip under a small child’s tongue and dissolve, but because they take up no more room than a tiny pack of gum, they are a very efficient way to travel with electrolyte rehydration that you’d normally get in a bulky sports drink or pop.  We would use them with bottled water if we had ever needed them, which fortunately, we have not! I also carry Imodium with us. Although this isn’t always recommended for tourista.  Our Dr advises us about the importance of getting the “bug” out our system, which means, we have sometimes held off on Imodium and antibiotics to let “nature take its course" for the first 24 hours or so of these types of illnesses.  It is there as a backstop, should things not resolve themselves!  Lastly, I purchased an anti-emetic medication that is not available over the counter here, but is abroad.  It was prescribed by a nurse while on our Botswana trip, and while we’ve never used it, we are happy to have it in our kit! 

Pouch 4: Sleep Aids- I carry melatonin a natural supplement to help smooth out jet lag.  I get sleepy with that rather than sleeping pills or alcohol, both of which are likely to make things worse rather than better for jet lag. For more info on my advice on jet lag and being comfortable on the plane see my post What In the Air is Going On Here?!

Pouch 5: Motion Sickness- Whether its small planes over Livingstone, Zambia or boats in the Galapagos…motion sickness happens!  We pack  Ginger gum, meclazine, and  Dramamine (click here for our 4 prong attack to prevent motion sickness)

These are found in the motion sickness aisle of the drug store.

These are found in the motion sickness aisle of the drug store.

Pouch 6 and 7: Personal Medications: I carry my own morning and evening pills and supplements. Some locations require you to pack these in the original bottles if they are prescriptions.  Organizing these in separate pouches allows us to take one pouch to breakfast or dinner, if the contents are to be taken with food. 

Pouch 8: Cold remedies: benadryl, zinc lozenges, I carry extra tums, in another location, because they are bulky! The nasal decongestant spray has to go into the gel bag. I also carry a handful a zinc lozenges in my general toiletry kit because they are little bulky for the small pouches, but I find they do help me avoid the full force of a head cold if I start taking them at the first sign of a tickle in my throat!

Along the right side of my  pill wallet: is a flap large enough to carry a few bandaids, blister bandaids, and paperwork for any prescription medications. I have NEVER had anyone official check my pills in any of my travels, but technically prescriptions require a label and I find it easier to travel with a note or copy of our prescription label (the pharmacist can print an extra label) instead of carrying all the original bottles around.

In my liquids and gels bag:  These items are part of our kit but in order to carry them on board  the airplane,  they need to be in the quart bag. I always recommend carrying on your medical kit and medicines, as they are one thing you do not want to be without should a bag get lost or a flight delayed.  
-antibiotic cream
-cortisone cream
-tears or eyedrops
-oral anesthetic for braces disasters or kanker sores
-nasal decongestants, (which are to be used sparingly or risk rebound effects, but during a bad cold they help us sleep through the night for a couple of nights)
-anti fungal or yeast medicine
 

I keep my "liquid" first aid in my gel bag to show at TSA, but in their own small bag so they can join the first aid kit once I arrive at my destination.

I keep my "liquid" first aid in my gel bag to show at TSA, but in their own small bag so they can join the first aid kit once I arrive at my destination.

In my general toiletry kit: I pack insect spray and sun screen.  In many places the sun is the biggest travel trouble most people have!   If you are like me, you will probably never even open the rest of the kit, but the sun screen is the one thing you might use every day! This also needs to be packed into the gel bag (I use sample sizes and back that up with larger quantities in the checked baggage or buy it at my destination if needed.)

Step 3: Pack a “go kit” for day trips and outings  

Most of the items in my travel first aid kit are a back stop if things go bad, if we are really ill, we are likely to break off touring and head back to the room where we can access the kit.  But it’s bulky to carry everywhere during day touring, so I’ve created a tiny “go kit” that fits in my back pack (or evening bag!) with a few remedies that will help with troublesome, but not day ending problems.  A couple of pain relievers for sore feet or headaches, a benedryl in case a food, plant or insect touches off an allergic reaction, a couple of Imodium to help stave off any issues until we can reach a toilet, some ginger gum and meclizine in case any part of our tour gets us feeling queasy. Add to this a couple of band aids and blister band aids, a few packets of bug repellent wipes and sunscreen in our day bag, and we pretty much ready for anything!

My go kit is tiny, it fits inside a small travel wallet along with a few bandaids.  The clip wallet can attach to a belt loop for places where you don't want to carry a whole day pack. If you can't remember which pills are which, just put a photo in your phone with the names under each!

My go kit is tiny, it fits inside a small travel wallet along with a few bandaids.  The clip wallet can attach to a belt loop for places where you don't want to carry a whole day pack. If you can't remember which pills are which, just put a photo in your phone with the names under each!

Step 4: Medical and Evacuation Insurance

I make sure my medical coverage covers me out of the country, and or that I have purchased both medical and/or medical evacuation insurance.  

Some trip providers coverage or require it up front, on other trips our TA might recommend a supplier.  Or you might do what I do which is get a quote from the travel provider and then compare that to plans I can get on Insuremytrip.com.  In a future post, I'll share more details about what I look for in travel insurance.

Step 5: Important Phone Numbers

Lastly, I always make sure I have the numbers and addresses for the local embassy and a hospital where it’s safe and allowed for foreigners to be treated.  Luck has been on our side, and we’ve never needed this, but having these numbers in my travel documents means I don’t have to panic if the worst case scenario were to happen.

Expect the best...prepare for the worst!! Bon Voyage! 

Please share with us any great travel health tips you have!