Mike Kelly is CEO of On Call International, which provides medical, security, and travel assistance to individual travelers and groups.
As such, he has spent plenty of time thinking about what could possibly go wrong with your trip! In fact, he sees the company’s mission as not only assisting individuals during travel but also helping to prepare them prior to departure. So here are his top tips for preventing the big disasters and little annoyances that can ruin a travel experience.
Make this checklist part of your pre-meeting mailing to attendees.
1. Wash Your Hands
It’s the best way to avoid getting sick. Bring a small container of hand sanitizer for your journey through the airport—from check-in kiosk, to security line, to the plane itself.
2. Sign Up for Notifications
Share your cell-phone number with your airline so that you will get text messages regarding delays or cancellations. You can also make use of Twitter and otherfor up-to-the-minute travel news.
3. Double Tag Your Bags
Include your contact information both inside and outside your suitcases. (If your bag is lost and you are a member of an organization like On Call International, you can call a 24-hour help line and let its representatives track the bag while you continue your trip.)
4. Get Some Exercise
Traveling is tiring. Consider increasing your physical activity pre-trip to build your stamina—and your resistance to infection. There is evidence that exercise boosts your immune system, which could help you fend off bacteria that might make you sick.
5. Don’t Set Yourself Up for Stress
Instead of waiting until the last minute to complete your travelpreparations, create a timeline that starts several weeks in advance. Doing a little each week will eliminate last-minute stresses. Stress raises your level of cortisol, a hormone that can lower immunity and make you more susceptible to infections.
Water strengthens your immune system by transporting oxygen to cells, moving nutrients to tissues and organs, and flushing out impurities. Try to drink eight glasses of water daily before, during, and after your travels—and especially on flight days.
7. Don’t Sit Still
Deep vein thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein, predominantly in the legs. There are many causes, one of which is traveling in cramped quarters. On flights, get up frequently, stretch your legs, or simply flex your ankles up and down at least once every 90 minutes.
8. Pack a Travel Health Kit
The Centers for Disease Control Web site has a comprehensive checklist for putting together a travel health kit.
9. Stay Informed
Learn about your destination prior to your trip—and don’t stop once you arrive. Keep track of what is being reported in the media or on social media sites, but of course, trust vetted information sources only. The U.S. State Department Web site is an invaluable resource for international travelers.
10. Be Street Smart
Avoid demonstrations and areas with large crowds. If you are traveling to an area known for pickpockets, take the following precautions:
• Wear a cross-body purse that can’t easily be snatched off your shoulder.
• Transfer your wallet to your front pocket and put a rubber band around it to make it harder to remove.
• Keep valuables, fancy jewelry, and extra stashes of cash at home. Credit cards can always be canceled, but stolen cash can never be recovered!
11. Determine the Coverage You Need
If you consider that one emergency medical evacuation from Dubai to New York or Beijing to Dallas could cost your company more than $100,000, the case for having some kind of emergency coverage is easily made. But is it assistance, insurance, or both that you need?
“Travel insurance is about reimbursing costs,” Mike Kelly explains. “It covers cancellation of a meeting, protecting the cost of air tickets and hotels.” Travel assistance, on the other hand, “technically is not insurance. It is a dynamic service. Say you’ve got 50 people traveling to an international meeting and one gets sick and another loses her luggage. You, as the meeting planner, may be distracted by the logistics of dealing with those situations to the detriment of your other 48 attendees.” With On Call International, the planner would call a coordinator (there are 110 in the call center, and calls are answered 24/7), and On Call would take over, tracking the luggage, getting the person transported to a hospital or back home, while the planner carries on with the group.
“Travel assistance is a tool to protect employees that gives meeting planners the opportunity to really do their jobs. We do this hundreds of times a week—up to eight medevacs a day.”
Kelly says that many companies have annualwith On Call International, so that for a flat fee they “handle anything that comes across the transom.”
On Call International has offices in 53 countries, and has its ear to the ground in all of them. When demonstrations began in Egypt, which had been viewed as a stable country, On Call sent private jets to evacuate students and executives. The service included, Kelly emphasizes, transportation to the airport, which often is the trickiest part of evacuating from an area in conflict.
Because of its breadth of knowledge, On Call also can be contracted to provide comprehensive on-site reports about a country.
The cost of travel assistance varies depending upon the length of the trip, the destination, the number of travelers, and the services required.
In its retail business, On Call sells coverage for a single trip at $55 per person; annual coverage is $225 per person.
On Call International provides medical, security, and travel assistance to individual travelers and groups through a multilingual team of assistance coordinators who operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Learn more at the company's Web site.