Summer holiday season is just around the corner, and the tickets for your dream holiday are paid for and waiting to be used! Maybe the suitcase has already been dusted and vacuumed and you are already looking at it and wondering what to put inside.
As former Cabin Crew members, your Two Queens love and enjoy the relaxation part of any layover or holiday. But for us, having a good and enjoyable trip and good times are also about safety. And when you think of the recent adversities Mother Nature has decided to make headlines with, the safety aspect can not be stressed enough. With the devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria areas, many people and animals have been displaced, dead, and still missing.
These adversities are something we have little power over, but when we get ourselves ready to face situations out of our normal life, we can properly relax and enjoy the hard earned vacation where ever we are.
Back when The Two Queens were still jet setting around the world as Cabin Crew, we were told about the importance of being prepared, each and every year in the trainings. Now, as the years have made us more mature, more experienced, and wiser, we decided to share some of our knowledge with you, as it might help you in those situations that, hopefully, you will never have to face.
What To Do Before Even Leaving From Home!
Being proactive is always better than to react on something that has already happened. That is why certain things should be considered prior leaving to a trip. I highly recommend making a list either in your phone, tablet, or on a notepad about those things and items that need to be checked and packed. This list should also include skills such as First Aid.
Become A First Aider
Becoming a First Aider is not just for travelling. The skills from the courses are extremely useful in everyday life because you never know if your significant other tries to cook you a lavish dinner and manages to cut their finger in the process, or if your child falls down with their bike and needs a bit of TLC and bandages.
So now it is time to Google the Red Cross (or Red Crescent) in your country and participate in the training. The courses go through accidents such as bleeding, fractures, and resuscitation.
And if you have already been through a Red Cross organised First Aid course, make sure your certificate is still valid. If not, contact your local Red Cross branch and attend a refresher course.
Thankfully, I have had to utilise the skills from a First Aid course only once, and that was when I was holidaying in Thailand with my friends. One of them tried to swallow a slightly too large piece of chicken and that got stuck in his throat. With several strong pats to his back I managed to dislodge the chunk of meat, but it was close call.
And one definite bonus from going through a First Aid course is that one gets certain feeling of “I can do this – I know how to do this” if something happens.
Don’t Forget A Travel Notification
If you are a resident of Finland, you should also check out the Ministry of Foreign Affairs page and notify them of your travel plans and contact details. Doing this notification is free of charge, and it provides you with valuable information should there be an event, like the earthquakes in Türkiye.
They will send information directly to your phone number concerning what to do, where to go, and so forth.
Obviously, they won’t transport you back to Finland if you fall ill, or if someone steals your passport, but it helps if there is a catastrophe and Finland decides to evacuate the residents from the country where you happen to be travelling at that time.
And if you are not a Finnish resident, check your own Ministry of Foreign Affairs if there is a similar notice policy in place.
Also, if you have a Facebook profile, and should something happen, remember that Facebook also has their own Crisis Response information system in place that allows you to tag yourself as safe, so your family and friends can feel better.
Get your EHIC – It’s Free!
If you are a resident or a citizen of an EU state, you should apply for the EHIC card (European Health Insurance Card). This card is for your own benefit, as it guarantees you health care services in any EU country in public health care. From my own experiences, many public hospitals are not interested in your travel insurance card, they want to see that you have an EHIC.
So, take a moment out of your day and do the EHIC application today!
With EHIC you are entitled to same level of care as the residents of that EU country, and with the same price that you would get the care in your home country. If there is more costs for treating you, your own country pays them instead of you having to fork out the last of the coins in your travel purse.
But please remember that EHIC and a travel insurance are not something that will cancel each other out, in most cases they complement each other. Even if you travel inside the EU, it still might be much faster to pop by a private medical centre, where your travel insurance covers the costs – and EHIC will never guarantee a medical repatriation back home.
Recently I had to utilise EHIC as I contracted a stomach bug during our visit to the Alhambra. I was first attended by the First Aiders, but after their recommendation an ambulance was called and I was whisked to the ER of the nearby hospital. They just took my EHIC details, and that was it. I received blood tests, ECG, IV fluids… the whole lot!
Traveller’s Insurance Covers YOU – But Your Luggage?
I mentioned about the repatriation, should you fall seriously ill during your trip. For sudden illnesses and for the sake of the possibility of repatriation due to them, remember to get yourself a travel insurance. Ask around from different insurance companies for their coverage and remember to read the clauses! In my experience the most common things that you must look at are:
- worsening of a pre-existing illness
- does the policy cover extreme sports (including diving)
- pregnancy and giving birth are usually not covered as it is not an illness
And what about your luggage? Always make sure to check from the insurance provider that your travel insurance covers your luggage too. If it covers only yourself, then anything that can happen to your luggage will be out from your own pocket. There is a long surviving urban legend that insurance companies would automatically cover a lost luggage, but that is not the case – unless you have insurance for luggage as well. Usually airlines (if you travel by air) will reimburse you with basic necessities if your luggage gets delayed, but that’s it. If the suitcase gets destroyed or lost and you have no luggage insurance… then it’s off to the shops at your own cost.
Getting a travel insurance is a relatively cheap way to protect yourself from many unforeseen situations when it comes to your health. As a good example I could mention a food poisoning that you contract in a hot and humid country. The dehydration can take you to an ER within one night of vomiting. Or other unforeseen situations might be tripping on a pavement and breaking your leg.
Time To Pack… But What?
First Aid Kit containing at least plasters, cleansing wipes, pain relieving medicine (paracetamol and/or ibuprofen), burn free gel, tape, scissors, bobby pin or few of them, cotton wool, and cotton buds). You can find small first aid kits in pharmacies, for instance.
As a registered nurse I have customised my kit to include also few pairs of disposable gloves, wound dressings, and several other things. That is why my kit resembles more of a First Aid Ball than a nice and tidy rectangular bag.
And then a nifty Cabin Crew tip – if you want to include pair of gloves in your kit, eat a Kinder egg first. After savouring the chocolate, take the plastic container and put your gloves inside it. And if you fancy another Kinder egg, you get a nice container for medications or other tablets.
A Torch (flashlight). This was one of the items we were told many times to bring with us when flying. And we wondered why, until that one time when the hotel suffered a blackout. Trying to find a door in pitch black room is an experience that made me miss my LED torch. And should there be a fire alarm going off in a situation like that, finding the right door might be even harder.
Why not trust your cell phone torch in an emergency? Well, if there is a catastrophe that has cut the electricity to the whole town, conserving the battery would be a good thing. Also, you might remember to take your cell phone, but what about the charger cord? And not all cell phones are water or splash tight even in this modern day.
Medicines. If you have pre-existing illnesses, please remember to take your medicines (at least for the travel day +1 day) in your hand luggage. Also, if you are travelling for 7 days, bring several days’ worth of medicines as extra, because you never know if there is a massive delay. Last time that I had a massive delay was when the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, closed the most of European airspace for one week. In many cases a travel insurance won’t cover a visit to a local doctor to get new medicines as it is a pre-existing condition.
And if you have prescription medicines with you, it might be a good idea to keep copies of the prescriptions with you as well. What might be an approved medicine in your country might not in your destination country and they might want to see proof that you are required to take that medicine. The United Arab Emirates is a good example of this.
In addition to the prescription medicines you should always carry pain and fever medication (paracetamol and ibuprofen), stomach medicines (lactobacillus milk bacteria, Imodium for diarrhea) and a nasal spray for blocked nose when flying. And if you are prone to infections (usually chest infections), ask for a antibiotics course, just in case. You can keep the tablets with you in case an infection starts.
Several years ago, during our trip to Bali, Indonesia we ended up renting a moped. And, of course, during the first day, in a truly Queenly manner, we managed to fall down. My road rash got pretty badly infected, and in the end required two courses of antibiotics before my foot started to resemble a foot and not a balloon. I’d say that it was partially my own stupidity that I let the infection worsen before starting with the antibiotics in the first place.
My Luggage Allowance Is Used! Anything Else?
The information above is meant to be a guideline for you from the safely point of view. Of course you need to pack your favourite pair of Speedos and sunscreen, and what ever you think you might need for the most splendid holiday ever!
Let’s Go – It’s Time For A Holiday!
Bags packed and measured so that you can fit them inside those metal cages at the airport as airlines are so stingy nowadays. Whist waiting for the taxi to come and pick you up just make sure that you check the Internet the most common health concerns that can bother you when you travel to other countries. These are, for example:
How To Stay Safe In An Airplane?
Why airplanes, I hear you asking. Well, mainly because most of us travel by airplanes, and I have most experience in working in them. And in case you might wonder, yes, these safety procedures can and should be used on other modes of transportation (such as cruise liners, and even trains). And as many of these tips take just a moment, you should consider using them.
Safety Cards – A Remnant Of A Bygone Era?
No, not at all. It may be a proper, laminated A4 sized card, or a sticker stuck on the seat in front of you so that you have to look at it for the whole flight.
So for a moment, stop being too cool to look at it, even if you hide the true purpose to sniggering to the bad artwork. And if you don’t have the safety card in the seat pocket, please ask the cabin crew for one – it is your right to get accustomed to the safety procedures in all transport. And if you consider on snatching one to your bag – don’t. Stealing a safety card (or any safety equipment on board) is actually a criminal offence.
Blah, Blah… What Did The Cabin Crew Just Say?
Those of us who travel a lot grow a bit bored of the same routine of listening to Cabin Crew demonstrating the safety features on the plane. To increase the safety awareness, many companies have actually allowed some deviations from your basic video and demonstration – but the core information is still there. Like in this Air New Zealand video. Also the US based Southwest Airlines, which is Internet famous for their smile-induing safety demonstrations.
Also, just to be safe, keep your seat belt fastened throughout the flight. I noticed that at least Lufthansa says that it is the responsibility of the traveller to make sure that the belt is fastened (which used to be only a recommendation). I can understand where this comes from as I have witnessed first hand a clear air turbulence. Thankfully only once during my eight years as Cabin Crew. But it was terrifying, as I was standing in the front part of the plane, and suddenly felt my feet leave the floor. Immediately we sat down, and strapped on, and about 15 seconds later we saw the rear part of the plane jump up about 2-3 meters and then dropped down, before stabilising. Thankfully that first warning allowed the people to fasten their belts as well.
Exit? Isn’t It The Door We Came In From?
It may be, or it may not. That’s why it is a good practice to orient yourself after settling down to your seat. Count the rows to the exits around you, even behind you, as it might be closer. It is good to know where the exits are in case of an emergency where some of the exits might not be used.
Why count the rows? I learned this from a blind passanger who literally cannot see where the exits are. But by counting the rows, they know exactly where to go. This simple trick applies to situations where there might be smoke in the cabin and one has to be near the floor. It also keeps you calm, as you need to concentrate on something else than panicking.
Airplanes… But What About Other Vehicles?
You might be wondering if the above information is valid anywhere else than in an airplane. Yes it is, and it should be used and adapted to which ever form of transport you are in!
I have never been on a cruise liner where the cabins wouldn’t have an extensive safety card stuck on the wall near the door. Even on Stansted Express trains running from London Stansted Airport to Liverpool Street station in London there are safety announcements in place (and safety cards).
Speaking of cruises, it is also a good practice to count the cabins between you and the exit. In case of emergency there is always a possibility that some people flee the cabins and leave the doors open – and you don’t want to make a wrong turn and end up in one of the cabins.
Sun, Sea, Sangria… And Safety!
As you can see, safety and safety issues are something that cannot be emphasised enough. Checking out your surroundings within 5 to 10 minutes before donning up your beachware and sun screen is a cheap life insurance.
Check the safety card in the hotel room, and orientate yourself to the nearest exits (and how many doors there are between you and the nearest fire exit – not a lift!) Why not a lift? If there is a fire in the building, you don’t want to get stuck in one.
Roughly ten years ago I was solo travelling in London and stayed in a rather grand hotel. At about midnight the fire alarm went off, and of course I wasn’t the only one peeking through the door before making a decision to quickly get dressed and to head down. Surprisingly enough, when I went, many people started to follow me. Some of them actually stayed and waited for a lift, even though there were big signs of “do not use the lifts in case of fire”. Luckily I wasn’t the only one heading down the stairs. We found out that the cause of the alarm was actually a burned toast, but still had to wait for the fire department to check out the building.
Anyway, after familiarising yourself with the safety card in your room, it’s a good thing to place the torch on the night stand, within easy reach from your bed. And whilst you are at it, it’s good to think of the following:
What To Take With You In An Emergency?
Passport and money. These are perhaps the most important things (after clothing), as there are situations where it is nigh impossible to pay with a card, especially if there is a catastrophic situation; if there is a large scale blackout, even the ATM’s most likely are without power. Passports and other valuables should be kept in a safe place, but where they are quick to grab should something unexpected happen.
Which reminds me. If you are travelling with a car, please, please make sure that your valuables are not left anywhere visible – even if you stop just for 10 minutes to take a few photos on a beautiful spot. I know of a case where a young couple left their mobile phones to the front seat (with the lady’s handbag containing their money, credit cards, and passports). They walked around a corner to snap a few photos, came back after few minutes just to find that everything, including their luggage from the trunk, had been stolen.
Water and small snacks. Keep an unopened water bottle on your night stand, next to your torch. You should also have something small, such as raisins and/or nuts in a sealed bag next to it. In situations where your body needs to use the emergency supply of energy from the body, it is good to replenish it as soon as possible after the ordeal. This replenishment helps to keep your mind and body going on for longer. And fresh water is a necessity of survival.
And as we all are aware, it is good to recycle. If you use plastic bottles when travelling, please reuse them and bin them accordingly.
Warm clothing. There are situations when you just have to go wearing whatever you are wearing at that moment, but if you have a possibility, take with you something that you can wear to keep the cold away. It is good to remember that even in the tropics, especially if you are wet, hypothermia is always a possibility.
It’s Not All About Natural Catastrophes – My Wallet Was Stolen!
It may not be caused by Mother Nature, but there are pickpockets everywhere nowadays. And ending up with a lost wallet might be one of the top three catastrophes that bugs travellers. So consider these basics even though they might not be needed in your home country:
Zip Up Your Handbag And Hold It Under Your Arm
The closer you keep your handbag to your body, and under your eyes, the less likely it is to go missing. And also, please remember that you don’t need all of your credit and debit cards in there at all times, and you are not going to spend the whole amount of cash at one day that is supposed to last for the whole week. So leave some of them to the safety deposit box at the hotel.
Men – Take Your Wallet Away From The Back Pocket, Please!
This might be one of the most basic things that one thinks of, but sadly it still needs reminding. There were enough cases during my time as a Cabin Crew when passengers disembark and before they arrive to the luggage belt, thieves have already managed to get wallets from men. And as they are men, they usually carry the whole travel budget with them, in that one wallet that just got stolen.
Don’t Put All Eggs Into One Basket!
This is one of the basics as well. Divide up your cash and cards. It might be that you get robbed, but at least this way the thieves don’t get all of your budget.
Is This All?
Sadly, no. It would we almost an impossible task to write a blog, or a book, that would list down all the possibilities that can happen when you travel. This blog is meant to wake you up to think what can happen when you travel, and start to prepare for those common incidents.
I have lost my wallet, my bank card, and my phone over the years when travelling, but did it deter me from continuing? No. Did I have a traveller’s insurance? No. It taught me things, and because of that I like to think I am more responsible traveller today.
It goes to show that you can, and should, travel. Just keep your wits about you and even though you might end up drinking yourself silly, remember that there are alternatives to walking back to hotel through empty alleys.
All information and advice presented in this blog are based on the first hand experiences of the author, and do not represent anyone else. The advise presented does not cover all possible situations, so if you think that something important has been left out please comment on the blog – we will update the blog when required.