Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, and his primary focus is helping travellers find the right cover for their medical conditions.

Originally posted: 10th Oct 2023

There can be nothing worse and more stressful than experiencing an illness or injury whilst on holiday. You’re away from home, in an unfamiliar place and often faced with language barriers and culture barriers as well. This is why it’s important to always consider the worst-case scenario and ensure you know what to do in case you have a holiday accident whilst you travel.

Looking to make sure you’re prepared? Here is a step-by-step guide on what to do if you fall ill or have an accident on holiday.

Holiday Illness Steps

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1. Assess the Situation

The first step is to assess the situation to determine the severity of the illness or accident that occurred. You may initially brush off seeking treatment due to being in an unfamiliar place or feel like waiting until you arrive home, but you should assess the seriousness of the illness or accident to see whether immediate action or treatment is required as you may be working with a dangerous time limit.

You should evaluate the issues by checking symptoms and keeping a note of these in case medical intervention is required. Consider the overall appearance and behaviour of the person, as signs of severe illness may include extreme lethargy, confusion, difficulty breathing, or an inability to tolerate fluids. A simple assessment will be able to determine whether there is a minor injury or a more serious condition that may require immediate medical attention.

2. Seek Medical Attention

If required, this is the time to seek medical treatment. This might mean calling the emergency services or getting yourself (and the injured person if they are not you) to a local medical facility. We’d recommend that you make sure you know the emergency number of the country you’re travelling to in advance – in many countries, this is 112 or 911.

When you call for assistance, try to be clear about your location, the nature of the emergency and the details of what’s happened. There are mobile services such as the app what3words that can be useful for sharing your location if you aren’t sure.

If you have an illness or accident that allows you to get yourself to a medical facility, do so quickly and ensure you’re aware of the details of your accommodation should you be discharged and have to find your way back. It can also be wise to pack an overnight bag of supplies if the situation allows.

Jellyfish Sting

3. Notify Your Travel Companions

Now is the time to notify your immediate travel companions if they are unaware you’ve been involved in an accident. They’ll likely be able to provide you with support and assistance, whether that’s spending time with you during medical treatment, bringing you fresh clothes and personal items, informing friends and family members back home, helping you seek legal advice and more.

 If you are travelling with a tour operator, it can be wise to also inform them as early as possible about your situation. Especially for guided holiday operators, they’ll likely have contingency plans in place and might be able to help you navigate holiday accident claims and medical treatment.  

4. Contact Your Embassy or Consulate

When there have been accidents abroad, your embassy should be contacted to make them aware of the situation, and they should offer you their assistance if required. Before travelling, you should keep a note of their contact details, which can often be found on government websites. We recommend you make a note of both their general and emergency contact number in case you need them outside general business hours.

They should be able to offer assistance if you are ill or have been in an accident by offering to contact your family in the UK to let them know that you are in hospital if you are unable to, as well as helping overseas medical staff contact UK medical staff or your insurance company to get advice on your medical history.

5. Inform Your Travel Insurance Provider

Now is the best time to contact your travel insurance provider if you have a medical emergency, had an accident or have become unwell and require treatment. If you need medical treatment, it is important to let your insurer know as soon as you can, as they may need to agree to cover the treatment.

You should contact them before any treatment is carried out, but this isn’t always possible, especially if your health deteriorates quickly or as an emergency. If this is the case, you may have to cover the cost in the first instance and then look at claiming when you are home and well. Just be sure to start your claim at your earliest convenience and give them all the necessary information and documentation, as well as any receipts.

Bandaging Ankle

6. Notify Your Family and Friends

From being involved in a road traffic accident, getting injured in a swimming pool or falling seriously unwell, there are plenty of ways to get hurt whilst on holiday. Your friends and family will want to know that you are safe and well or have someone update you on your progress or condition back home, and now is the time to inform them of what’s happened.

However, you don’t have the capacity to do this; the people looking after you or a travel companion may use your phone on your behalf. This is why having your medical ID set up on your phone through an operating system like Apple where it can be accessed on the locked phone screen, or if using something different, an app that will store the details of your next of kin, emergency contacts as well as stating whether you are travelling with medication and what type it is.

7. Consider Adjusting Your Travel Plans

Of course, if you become unwell or are unfortunately injured whilst on your holiday, you may have to adjust your travel plans as you may have to fly home early or extend your holiday. If you are able to do so, you should communicate with the hotel, airline, travel provider, tour operator or anyone else who needs to know to let them know your situation and if certain things can be rebooked or cancelled.

READ MORE: Can you fly with a broken bone?

8. Follow-Up Once Home

After receiving initial medical care abroad, you should follow up with local healthcare providers or specialists as needed once you return home. It's important to ensure that your condition is improving and that you are fit to go about your day-to-day life. This is also a chance to update your GP on the incident, which is especially important if it pertains to a pre-existing condition you’re already living with and might affect current or future treatment.

Making Sure You Have Comprehensive Travel Insurance

One of the most important parts before you even go on holiday is to ensure that you have the right travel insurance, especially medical travel insurance for those who have pre-existing conditions that might affect your trip. Being covered from the booking process until the moment you touchdown back home after your holiday can offer you peace of mind that should you have an accident on holiday, lose your luggage, experience delays and cancellations or any other eventuality, you’ll be covered and won’t have to incur a financial hit as well.

If you’re going on a specialised holiday, making sure you have specialised insurance is a must. For example, those going on a cruise should get cruise holiday travel insurance to ensure they’re covered for things like missed port departures, cabin confinement and more. For those who like to hit the slopes, ski holiday insurance is a must. As well as everything a standard travel insurance policy covers you for, you’ll be covered for things like avalanches or piste closures, too.

READ MORE: Do you need travel insurance?


If you are looking for more information on what to do if you fall ill whilst travelling, more about travel insurance or information on travelling with a pre-existing medical condition, be sure to check out our travel insurance guides. We also have a travel blog filled with informative and useful articles to make your next holiday your best.

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You can visit our help centre on Claims which may help. However, if you need to make a claim, full details of what you need to do to make a claim will be detailed in the Policy Wording provided to you by your insurance provider. 

Single Trip insurance is for one-off, individual trips and will cover your specified travel dates. This is usually up to 45 days; however, some insurance providers can cover up to 94 days. If you’re not a frequent traveller, single trip cover is a great option and will likely be cheaper than an annual multi-trip cover.

A pre-existing is any medical condition for which medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment was recommended or received before applying for a travel insurance policy. For some conditions, we'll need to know if they have ever been present, whilst for others if they occurred within a certain period.

Once you've received a quote you can check your policy wording to make sure your winter sports activity is covered.
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