The news headlines make a business trip or a vacation sound like an impossible undertaking: “Another Pain Point in a Summer of Travel Woes: Getting a Passport”, “The Worst Flight Delays at the World’s Busiest Airports: See the List”, and “CDC adds 3 places to its ‘high’ risk list for Covid-19.” 

Really, it’s not as bad as it sounds out there — but pre-travel planning will pay off in spades.  

“Know the risks and plan ahead,” said Adam Bardwell, medical operations supervisor at Global Rescue. 

Global Rescue travel experts and Safe Travel Partners share six travel planning tips to ensure the best possible travel scenario today. 

ONE: Evaluate Your Health


According to Mass General Brigham, 30 million travelers visited limited-resource countries overseas, but only 25 to 30% seek medical advice before they go. 

Global Rescue recommends a pre-travel health consultation with a doctor with global travel experience, like Global Rescue Safe Travel Partner Passport Health, a firm specializing in pre-travel health screening. Bring your itinerary, medical records of any pre-existing conditions and a medications list. Discuss any health concerns you may have and ask for ways to decrease the risk. 

“Certain health conditions and medications can increase your health risks during travel and these risks will vary by destination, activities and mode of travel,” said Jeff Weinstein, medical operations supervisor at Global Rescue. 

[Related Reading: How To Get the Most Out of a Travel Health Consultation] 

TWO: Assess the Destination’s Medical Care


According to the Merck Manuals, when it comes to foreign travel, about 1 in 30 people traveling abroad require emergency care. 

What will your experience be as a traveler, injured or ill, seeking care at a foreign hospital? It’s hard to predict.  

“Hospital layouts differ. The medication might not look the same. Some hospitals use IVs with glass bottles instead of plastic bags. Triage may be done differently than it is in the United States,” Weinstein said. Global Rescue provides destination reports covering everything from currency and common scams to travel health and personal security advice 215 countries and principalities worldwide.  

In today’s travel landscape, you may not want to travel to any destination where the level of medical care isn’t up to your personal standards. When Global Rescue member Dolly Webster tested positive for COVID while in fly fishing in the Bahamas, the small clinic on Great Inagua Island was treating patients outside and sharing a small oxygen cylinder between patients. It was incapable of providing the medical care Webster needed and Global Rescue provided transport to a facility with a higher level of care. 

“Every hour counts. I was desperate to get off that island and get early treatment,” Webster said. 

THREE: Research COVID Travel Requirements


States, cities and counties in the United States have largely eased or ended mandates, but the CDC recommends wearing a mask if there is a high number of COVID cases in your community and always wearing a mask during travel 

Internationally, countries have their own rules and regulations. For example, the United States and the United Kingdom no longer have mask mandates on airlines but Asia does and Australia is somewhere in between, allowing travelers to depart without a mask but return wearing one. 

“It has been disappointing to see the lack of fiduciary responsibility across the travel industry as the world opens up for travel. It is almost as if people are pretending COVID didn’t happen and doesn’t exist,” said Kimberly Franke, director of Kanna Travel Services, a full-service travel agency in Montana and a Global Rescue Safe Travel partner. “This is a real disservice to our customers and the larger industry. We need to more realistic about the realities of traveling post COVID.”  

Most travelers agree with mask mandates, locally and abroad. When masks were no longer required on flights, brawls broke out over COVID safety concerns. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 57% of Americans say masks should be required on airplanes and public transportation. Globally, two in five (40%) consumers say they want to see staff and employees in airports, airlines and hotels wear masks.   

While travelling, you should take every precaution to keep you and your family safe. Follow CDC guidelines and your own comfort level, staying current on the protocols and procedures in the country/territory you are traveling,” said Carlene Merola, senior specialist in the medical operations department at Global Rescue. “Be prepared for the potential of being quarantined for an extended period and have enough of your medications on hand for such an emergency.” Travelers can check the Global Rescue’s COVID-19 services and resources here. 

Even though you may not ever wear it, keep a mask handy in your carry on, wallet or purse. 

[Related Reading: How to Manage a Medical Emergency Abroad] 

FOUR: Expect Visa Wait Times


A visa defines the purpose of your trip — tourist, student or work — and can often dictate the amount of time you may remain in a certain country. A single entry visa may be valid for up to 90 days or multiple entries and exits over an extended period of time. Some countries require a transit visa to land and change planes. 

A formidable barrier, according to Skift, has emerged: exploding visa appointment wait times for visitor visa interviews because of a labor shortage and some still-unopened embassies. 

Visa processing times used to vary from a few hours to several weeks. As of May 2022, one-third (33%) of consulates in the top 10 visa-requiring markets face wait times exceeding one year 

If you travel frequently, consider getting a duplicate passport, if possible.  

“Some countries require that you send your passport in as part of the visa process. This will allow a person to continue their international travel plans without delays or having to wait for their passport,” Bardwell. 

FIVE: Plan for Airline Disruptions


Airline disruptions — which includes canceled flights, delayed flights, oversold flights, increased tarmac time and mishandled baggage — might be the norm for a while.  

According to AFAR, 88,161 U.S. domestic flights were canceled between January and May 2022, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics data. The bulk of airline cancellations came from U.S. legacy carriers — American, Delta and United — which also fly the highest number of passengers in the United States. 

New survey data reveals roughly two in five (39%) recent air travelers in the U.S. experienced a delay or cancellation this year. That includes more than a third (35%) of air travelers with a recent flight was delayed and 4% who said their flight was outright cancelled. Delays and cancellations are also happening around the world; FlightAware provides daily delay and cancellation information online for origin and destination airports. 

We have heard stories of families taking a four-day break and it ending up being six days because they were delayed with flights on the outbound and return flights,” Franke said. “In general, most airlines and airports are trying to catch up from laying off staff during COVID, and are struggling to meet the demand of travel. Security lines and airport amenities are also struggling to keep up. 

Franke provides an example. 

“I recently traveled internationally and got stuck in the airport due to a delay. Due to the facilities at the airport being closed because of COVID, I wasn’t able to purchase any food,” she said. “It was surprising the amount of restaurants that were either closed permanently, or had shorter operating hours. Thankfully I was traveling with snacks so I was able to eat something.”  

SIX: Always Have Travel Protection


You should hope for the best travel scenario — but prepare for the worst case by purchasing a travel protection membership and travel insurance. 

The two services fulfill different travel needs. Travel insurance is designed to provide financial reimbursement for trip interruption and medical insurance coverage. A travel protection membership, like Global Rescue, provides emergency field rescue, medical evacuation and transport, and medical advisory services at no additional cost.  

When combined together, you can be confident knowing you’re traveling with the ultimate safety net: emergency field rescue from the point of illness or injury, evacuation services, travel advisory and financial protection. That’s why Global Rescue works with leading insurance providers to connect you to a travel insurance policy that includes Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) benefits, based on your home location.