You’ve spent months planning this vacation… and there you are, in the mountains of Nepal, on the beaches of Greece, or 2000 miles from home… and you’re sick. This certainly isn’t what you envisioned, but we can’t always plan for every circumstance. Sometimes illness strikes at the worst times.

Obviously, it’s easier to prevent illness than to treat it afterward. That’s why we have sayings like “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” or “Don’t drink the water” (in reference to vacationing in foreign countries). Despite your best efforts, however, illness can and does happen on vacations. So here’s what you should do, in the event that you get sick while away from home.

Call your health insurance company before you leave. Ask them about your coverage in another state or foreign country. In an absolute emergency, you will seek medical treatment right away, no matter what.  Having this information and knowing how to handle medical care in a non-emergency situation can help you decide if you want to seek treatment or try to get home quickly.

Check with your concierge. Many hotels, particularly those that cater to foreign travelers, offer resources to help sick guests. They can help you find a nearby clinic or offer first aid for injuries. Most hotels have gift shops where you can purchase over-the-counter meds to help relieve your symptoms.

Carry the right documentation. It’s easy to panic when you’re far from home and become very ill, but don’t forget to take your personal information, travel papers, and health insurance card to the doctor’s office when you go. As you do at home, take your medications with you as well. Your doctor needs to know about anything you’re currently taking.

Stay hydrated.  Drink plenty of clear fluids. If you’re stuck on a plane when illness strikes, notify a flight attendant and ask for an extra bottle of water.

Consider changing your schedule. Getting sick in a hotel is one thing; having to actually travel while sick could be a nightmare. Consider changing your itinerary so that you can stay in one place until you feel better. On the other hand, if you’ve decided to return home right away (to seek treatment), you might wish to upgrade to a first-class flight for more comfort.

If you’re unsure about your insurance coverage, contact your agent or call the number on the back of your card.  If you’re sick and need medical attention, you may want to make sure you access care the proper way and stay within the guidelines of your policy.

Call your doctor at home. If you’re worried about complications from a chronic condition, or you have concerns about the medical advice you’ve received, double check with your regular physician. He or she can’t offer a definitive diagnosis over the phone, but can probably help to ease your mind.

Once again, we can’t stress enough that preparation is the key.  If you are planning a long trip or if you are leaving the country, look into this issue prior to embarking on your travel.