The hard times we are facing due to this novel coronavirus pandemic are unique and unexpected situations, but there are also plenty of other instances when you might need to make an emergency departure in the middle of a trip and get home sooner, from impending hurricanes to sudden political unrest. Follow the tips below if you find yourself in a similarly high-risk scenario.
U.S. citizens abroad scrambled to get back into the country before the ban kicked in, waiting in long lines or paying exorbitant prices to get one of the few available tickets home following President Trump’s recent announcement of a ban on travel from Europe due to COVID-19. One thing is sure: the pandemic have left many travelers needing to make an emergency departure from the countries they’re visiting, although the Trump administration clarified (a little too late) that the ban did not apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Don’t hesitate to contact your airline
Although the airline call centers and airport service desks will quickly become swamped, they will be aware of the situation and often will rebook you for free and with no questions asked. See if someone back home (such as your spouse or another family member) might have better luck calling the airline’s toll-free U.S. phone number and making changes on your behalf in case you’re having trouble getting through to an agent in the country where you’re located. (Make sure the other person has your confirmation number and other pertinent information.) Prepare to wait in line or on hold for up to several hours and be patient.
Slowing down and prioritizing what’s most important is difficult during a time of crisis, but it’s the only thing that helps. Always have your passport and wallet close to you, your phone charged and the emergency numbers saved in your contact list (the nearest embassy, your travel insurance company, and your airline).
Let the State Department know about your trip
In order to register their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, U.S. citizens can sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Doing so can give you access to information from the local embassy as well as help friends and family at home contact you in an emergency. Be prepared for long lines and chaos at the airport—especially because some types of local emergencies (such as health crises or problems affecting public transportation) could lead to limited staffing.
Once again, don’t lose your cool
Losing your cool or treating others unkindly will only make things worse for everyone. Although you have to face big crowds, long lines, and high-stress levels, stay calm and think clearly. Take a few deep breaths and try to keep the situation in perspective when you feel anxiety or anger rising.
Take care of your health as much as you can by eating well, staying hydrated, and trying to rest when you can and be vigilant and patient. The way you act during a crisis situation defines you.