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JetwingLast week in travel, we saw a lot of scenarios that we think only play out on the silver screen. Being a frequent flyer myself, a couple of these situations hit very close to home – actually, a little closer than I’d like.

It started with news of severe turbulence resulting in injuries on a United Airlines flight from Denver to Billings, Montana. While the airplane was able to land safely at Billings Airport, five injuries were reported as a result of the severe turbulence, causing the captain to declare a medical emergency upon landing. That same day, an Ethiopian Airlines flight was hijacked by the co-pilot en route to Rome, ultimately landing in Geneva. One of the passengers delivered an account of his first-hand experience on Reddit, which gave a very insightful look on how everything happened. Then on Wednesday, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) warned airlines to be careful of possible shoe bombs coming from flights originating outside the United States. All this comes off the heels of a warning for travelers coming to and from Russia for the Olympic Games.

There are a lot of wonderful things that come from traveling the world, as Vagabondish pointed out in their article this week. However, with the good comes an inherent risk that every traveler takes when they climb in a car, sit in a train or board an airplane.  And while the risk is lower in transit than on the ground, the opportunity for hazard remains.

My thoughts go out to those affected by these events that took place this week.  Yet, as traumatizing as some of these events were, there are still lessons that can be learned for what to do during an emergency:

1: Don’t Panic
I know it’s very easy to say those words from behind a desk, but as I’ve learned from being in my own fair share of emergency situations, there’s nothing that panic will solve. By panicking, one reduces the opportunity for rational thought, problem solving and deducing ways to get out of the situation. So if you are in an emergency, remember to breathe slowly and deliberately, assess the situation at hand with a sound state of mind and make a plan based on the best available information. And keep in mind that sometimes the best heroics may be to keep yourself and others calm.

2: Follow Crew Member Instructions
Those (sometimes) friendly crew members aren’t just there to remind you to keep your tray tables up and your seats in the upright and locked position. In the event of an emergency, your crew members can be your first line of assistance in getting through an emergency – be it mid-air or on the ground. If you’re unsure of what to do, ask one of them for help. After all, this is the exact emergency for which they have been training.  Also be sure to take the 10 minutes at the beginning of your flight to go over the emergency instruction card in the seat back pocket in front of you. Knowing how to use the emergency exit doors ahead of time can mean the difference between life and death.

3: Add Travel Insurance to Your Emergency Card
If an emergency were to happen to you that forced you to diver to another nation, or if you were injured in a foreign country as a result of your travels – would you know what to do and who to contact?
I don’t know that I have the words to describe the fear and anxiety that come with not being able to get medical care while in another country, or arriving in a country that you didn’t intend to go to. Travel insurance has become a vital part of my travel kit, both at home and abroad. In many situations, travel insurance may be able to help me get home or find medical attention no matter what condition or country I’m in.

Have you ever been in an emergency situation? How would you handle the stress of being in an emergency? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Not even the Olympic Athletes are immune from the Sochi Problems. Just ask those who have been skiing or snowboarding on Krasnaya Polyana this week. Though I doubt that travel insurance would cover gold medal expectations...We’re now a week into the XXIII Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. But overshadowing the events  are the stories surrounding the Olympic Village. Social media has helped us get in touch with the Olympic Games more and more every year. However, this year it has taken that access to a whole new level.

It all began when international journalists started arriving in Sochi ahead of the opening ceremonies. Unlike what the world was told leading up to the games, these correspondents shared a completely different look across their Twitter accounts. Everything from incomplete hotels to broken restrooms was put on display for the world to see. This was followed by the trials of bobsleder Johnny Quinn, who seems to have a penchant for getting stuck in the most random places. Next, a Canadian journalist got left a note informing him of the charges that come with placing personal effects on the second bed in his room. And this week, veteran NBC host Bob Costas was sidelined for the first time since 1998 as a result of a particularly bad eye infection. All of these combined make the non-expanding snowflake look like a minor hiccup.

So far, it’s been a tumultuous Olympic season. With only a week’s worth of competition under our belt, I’m a little hesitant to ask “what’s coming up next?”

While these games may be remembered for the rather humorous, behind-the-scenes look that we’ve been given through the lens of social media, more important is the lesson that every traveler can learn as a result of these games:

1. Research your accommodations before you book
Just because a hotel is marketed as a “five star resort” — that doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Before you make that non-refundable, pre-paid booking, make sure you do your research. There are many peer-review websites where guests post reviews after their stay, giving you a more objective idea of where and how accommodations rank. If you’re staying in an area with less established hotels or where reviews may not be as available, then your best bet may be sticking with the big name brand hotel chains, as opposed to the lower-priced accommodations that you know little about.

2: Always have a backup plan for your travels
Even Olympians experience problems along the way. When making your plans for your travels, always have a backup plan in place for what you’ll do if “Plan A” doesn’t work out. Something I always do before I book my hotel is search the location I’m going to, and the area I’ll be surrounded by. This way, I can make better decisions on what I should see and do when I get to where I’m going, and have alternate plans available to me should I need them.

3: Travel insurance gets packed when traveling abroad
If you happen to get an eye infection while traveling in your native country, you would know what to do:
go to a doctor, get a prescription and rest until everything’s cleared up. But what would you do in a foreign country? Not all health insurance plans cover you while you’re outside your home country. Additionally, finding proper medical care may not be as easy as following road signs. By packing a travel medical plan in your suitcase, you may be able to detour around some of these problems if you get ill or injured during your travels.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a result of these Olympic Games? How will the lessons of these games affect how you prepare for travel? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

The slalom will be just one of the events that athletes from around the world will be competing in at the 23rd Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russa, starting this week. It's not my favorite sport, but I'll watch it none the less, and root for our American competitors none the less. I wonder if athletes purchase travel insurance as part of their equipment list...Citius. Altius. Fortius. Faster. Higher. Stronger.

Three words that I believe capture the true spirit of the Olympics. It is with that same spirit that millions will descend upon the resort town of Sochi, Russia this week. This Friday, February 7th , the torch will be lit in Fisht Olympic Stadium, signifying the beginning of the XXII Olympic Winter Games. 88 nations will be represented in competition spanning 90 events, with competition taking place throughout the month of February.

With such an undertaking, the world will be watching everything that happens in Sochi. From the first drop of the puck, to the last curling stone thrown. From the first triple axel attempted, to the running of the final bobsled. Athletes, fans, and tourists alike will bear witness to history at this year's Olympiad.

With the start of the Olympic season comes much preparation and precaution from the Russian government, as well as their international partners. Considering that this is the first set of Olympic Games that is taking place in Russia in over 30 years, there’s a lot of reason for caution when it comes to an event of this size.

If you plan on being one of the many that don’t want to wait for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, to be a part of history, be sure you’re prepared to root on your country before you board a plane, train, or automobile. Here are my best tips for making the most of your Olympic experience in Sochi:

1: Don’t leave home without your Visa
Russian regulations require that many international travelers (including American travelers) have their Visa ahead of time, before their travels begin. In many cases, this requires having a sponsor – such as a tour operator or hotel – to endorse their Visa application. However, during the Olympic Games, the Russian Embassy website states that visitors to Russia can be issued one-month tourist visas based on copies of confirmation letters and tickets for Olympic events. In some cases, you can get your Visa in hand same-day, with proof of ticket. Before you buy your ticket for Sochi, make sure you have your Visa in hand. Otherwise, you could be denied entry to the country - and out a lot of money trying to find your way home.

2: Know the rules and regulations – and what to do in an emergency
Should you end up traveling to Sochi for the Olympic Games
, it would behoove one to take a moment to revisit the rules that travelers are subject to while in Russia. All travelers to Russia are required to carry their travel documents with them at all times, and are subject to inspection upon demand. Additionally, throughout the Olympic Games, the Olympic Village will be subject to “controlled” and “forbidden” zones. Should you find yourself inadvertently in trouble, make sure that you are registered with your home nation’s Consulate upon your arrival. The Consulate office may be able to help you in certain situations.

3: Add travel insurance to your equipment list
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow website says it best:

“The Olympics are the first large-scale event to be held in Sochi and medical capacity and infrastructure in Sochi are untested for handling the volume of visitors expected for the Olympics.”

With the major crowds expected and the unpredictable environment that comes with the Olympic Games every season, travel insurance can be your best bet if something were to happen. Make sure your plan covers emergency evacuation and repatriation as well, in the event that you need to be returned to your home country. Our Travel Insurance Select can provide these benefits and more, including emergency assistance while abroad.

May your Olympic experience be one that will bring you joy for years to come, and allow you many great memories. If you’re going to the games, be sure to share your memories with us on our Facebook page! What competitions are you looking forward to the most? Olympic travelers: what advice would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!