Emergencies on the road; preventing them, dealing with them, enjoying them…?

Our 2013 Ford Escape on repair rack in Whitefish, MT.

Those pesky emergencies on the road; preventing them, dealing with them; perhaps enjoying them?

It's pretty daunting to see 1,000 pieces of your auto's transmission laid out at a Whitefish, MT, Ford dealership. Ouch!

Since we both retired a little more than four years ago, my wife and I have traveled across the US and Canada (three times), multiple short to mid-range trips throughout the west (logging about 100,000 auto miles), vacationed in Hawaii four times and done two delightful ship cruises through Europe.

We strive to live by the words of Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”.

Having joined the ranks of frequent travelers, we work hard to minimize risk and avoid emergencies when we’re on the road. Here are some of our suggestions:

Automotive trips: Pre-trip maintenance is key; have your fluids changed and checked, vehicle tuned and belts inspected, as well as tires. Take a simple tool kit, flashlight, your AAA card or other auto club membership. If you’re traveling during winter, blankets, emergency food and water supplies are sensible items to pack in trunk. Until recently, despite all those miles traveled in the US and Canada, we had had no auto challenges more than an occasional flat tire.  All that changed on a February trip to Montana.

As we arrived in Whitefish, MT for a Superbowl party and a ski trip with friends, our 2013 Ford Escape’s transmission began to act up; we would learn later that week from the local Ford dealer that it had failed. Though the transmission repair/replacement was covered under Ford warranty, the Whitefish dealership was required to tear the transmission apart, determine if fixable or total replacement was required – leading to a potential 10 extra days in Whitefish.

The warranty would only cover lodging and meals for the extended stay up to $500. Looking over our transmission in a thousand pieces at the dealer, and facing another week-plus stranded in Whitefish, we took the option to purchase a new four-wheel-drive Escape, and trade-in the disabled vehicle; that’s not necessarily a best option for many.

Travel trailer: Ten months of the year, we tour with a light, small and fairly simple classic teardrop trailer.  About the worst that can happen with this trailer is to burn out a trailer bearing.  With that in mind, I take care to clean and repack the bearings once every 1-2 years – and because the trailer is a classic, I travel with a spare set of bearings should bearing failure ever befall us.

We take photos of key documents, like passports, front/back of major credit cards and the like, and store them on our two iPhones as backups, if we lose originals.

IDs, credit cards, prescriptions, passports: I take photos of each of these items, storing them on our smart phones (or, take separately stored hard copies), should they be lost. If a long trip overseas, we give hard-copies to one of our daughters reachable by phone, as a back up.

Safe-keeping of valuables: When you are in a crowd, carry your wallet in a front pants pocket, or a travel chest wallet under your clothes (making pick-pocketing difficult).  Another safety measure, splitting cash between the two of us (though, we try not to carry much cash). While on day-trips, or overnight, use the safes in hotel rooms on on-board ships to safe-keep your other valuables.

Medical: if you’re on prescription medications, get your doctor to prescribe your prescriptions or other medical aids to cover your travel time. Talk to your doctor about other medications which might be needed, such as air or seasickness medications. Check your health insurance to see what is covered when out of your normal service area.

Insurance:Check with your auto insurance agent on coverages, such as an accident with a rental car (as example, our State Farm insurance covers any damages to, or caused by, our rental car – so no need to buy additional rental car insurance). Also check for what your medical insurance covers, and how to handle payment for medical services when a long away from home.

Same idea, with prescription medications, should we lose our supply on the road.

Trip insurance: Consider it for distant and oversea trips, which can cover your losses or extra expenses should you face a travel interruption or serious health issue in a foreign land.

Despite all these precautions, if you suffer an emergency on the road – maintain your sense of humor. We tried to do that in Whitefish, spending an additional, mostly fun four days and purchasing a, new, unplanned Ford. We’ve not yet gone to battle with Ford Motor Company, to recover our $500 travel expenses. I’ll try to stay good humored during that exchange!

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

This entry was posted in Canada, Eastern, Canada, Western, East Coast US, Europe, Hawaii, Midwest US, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Southeast US, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

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  • Blog Author

    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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