5 common risks you can avoid on vacation

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You might have noticed thinner traffic on the roads or fewer people in the office, as most are away for the holiday season. While you leave for your much deserved vacation, the last thing you want is to be unprepared for mishaps, large and small.

Some of these risks can be very common. For example, nothing ruins your holiday like your credit cards getting stolen or receiving news from Singapore that your home has been burgled.

Just as you wouldn't forget to bring a winter coat on your ski trip to Japan or pack your sunscreen for a beach holiday, here are some simple ways to prepare for your vacation so that you can keep common risks at bay.

1. Prepare for medical ailments - big and small

Many of us tend to forget to pack medicine when going overseas, which leaves us panicking and searching frantically for the nearest chemist in a foreign country. Make sure you stock up on any prescriptions before you go, as these may not be readily available at your holiday destination. Cater for common ailments such as colds, stomach upsets, and fevers with over the counter medication. If you have a family doctor, keep their contact number on hand in case of an emergency.

However, not all medical conditions are minor ailments. Sometimes, more serious medical problems can crop up when you least expect it during your holiday. One of the highest claims paid out by AIG this year was for a customer who fell ill suddenly and experienced bleeding in Seville, Spain. He was too sick to travel on a commercial flight, and had to be transported back to Singapore by air ambulance. The evacuation and subsequent medical costs amounted to almost S$140,000.

So before you head off, be sure to cover yourself and your family with comprehensive travel insurance. It costs as little as S$26, but can potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars.

2. Deter home burglars

One of the greatest risks when jetting off overseas is leaving your home empty and vulnerable to burglars. With the rise of social media where everyone constantly shares details about their personal lives online, our homes are more at risk than ever. While it is understandable to get excited about your trip, avoid posting specific holiday dates on Facebook or Instagramming too many selfies from the sun lounge.

Other ways to keep your house safe are to invest in a security system linked to your smartphone, get a friend to house-sit for you, or ask a friendly neighbour to keep an eye out for suspicious activities.

In case your preventive measures do not work, AIG's Home Guard, which is a supplementary benefit under its Travel Guard® travel insurance, will cover physical loss or damage to household contents for up to S$5,000 while your home is left vacant.

3. Protect yourself from pickpockets or thieves while on the go

Singapore has some of the safest streets in the world, and as a result, many of us become complacent when walking around in foreign cities. AIG has paid out a number of claims where customers have been robbed at knife-point in places like Barcelona, Italy and Brazil, with the value of items lost costing up to S$5,000.

Safeguard your belongings by using a bag that zips up and has a body strap, and position this bag where you can see it. Only take with you what you need for the day, and leave your passport, at least one credit card and some of your cash in the hotel safe in case you lose your bag.

4. Safeguard your credit cards

Most of us think that using credit cards while travelling overseas is safer than carrying large amounts of cash. However, you run the risk of someone making fraudulent transactions with your card if it is stolen or lost.

An AIG customer's hotel room in Seattle was burgled earlier this year, where his briefcase was stolen along with his credit card. The thieves managed to fraudulently withdraw US$2,500 with the credit card before he could cancel it.

To ensure you are quick to react in the event your credit cards are stolen or lost, keep records of your credit cards such as retaining a photocopy of the credit cards. You should also have your bank's emergency hotline handy, so that you can cancel your credit cards immediately if they are stolen or lost. If you choose to leave your credit cards in your room, make sure you lock them in the hotel safe.

5. Be prepared for large-scale emergencies

You can never be fully prepared for crises such as natural disasters or terrorism, but you can make the best preparation possible to enable you to tackle these if they occur.

Before you head off on holiday, check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) website for travel warnings and be aware of the political and social environment in the country you are travelling to. This is particularly important during the busy holiday season where destinations with high concentrations of tourists may be targeted. Also be mindful of any extreme weather conditions, and avoid travelling to countries during the typhoon or tornado season.

Make sure your family knows about your travel plans in advance, and you can also record information about your overseas travel itinerary in the MFA's eRegister system. The information you provide will allow MFA to contact you in order to make sure that you are safe and, if need be, assist you should emergencies such as natural disasters and civil unrest arise.

Always keep your travel insurer's details handy, as that is another avenue of assistance you can tap on. During the Nepal earthquake in April this year, AIG deployed its Travel Guard® Crisis Response Team comprising a medical doctor, security manager, and an operations manager to provide ground and logistical support, as well as medical assistance to AIG customers who were travelling in Nepal and to bring them home safely.

Misfortunes can happen while you are on holiday, but you can prepare amply for these with a little pre-planning. For peace of mind, always buy travel insurance before you set off on your vacation, so you can travel worry free knowing that you are covered in the event something happens.

Ms Anita Tan is the Head of AIG Travel, AIG Asia Pacific Insurance Pte. Ltd.

*Disclaimer: Benefits and sums insured will vary depending on the specific travel insurance policy you purchase. You should always check against the terms and conditions of your own insurance policies to know the benefits available to you and the specified limit of your claim for each benefit.

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