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Resources >> What to Do if You Experience Death During Travel
Of all the road trips Carol and Dan took in their RV, one landmark always managed to escape them - Mt. Rainier. For some reason, Mt. Rainier was just out of their reach. Some years it was too cloudy to see; one year there was a government shut down! But in September of 2015, Carol and Dan drove from Arizona to Washington and finally experienced “The Princess” in all her glory.
From there, the plan was to take U.S. 101 toward Southern California and then head home. But fate had other plans for Carol and Dan. A few days later Dan started feeling sick, so he went to the closest Urgent Care facility. His condition worsened, so he was transferred to a nearby hospital in Astoria, Oregon. Doctors diagnosed him with a bacterial infection and scheduled him for open heart surgery in Portland, Oregon - 90 miles away. While Dan did make it to Portland, he unexpectedly passed away shortly after that.
So there Carol was. Grief-stricken, alone, 90 miles away from her RV. But even if she was closer to her vehicle - was she supposed to drive it 1500 miles home all by herself? And what about Dan - what was she supposed to do with his body? What was she supposed to do … period?
While it’s not something anyone wants to think about, death can happen anytime, anywhere - even on vacation. Whether you’re a frequent or not-so-frequent traveler, it’s important to be prepared in case the unimaginable becomes a reality.
When someone dies in another state or country, the survivor should expect to spend a lot of time dealing with paperwork. Death certificates must be obtained at the location of death and depending on the circumstances, could take a while to be issued. If an autopsy is deemed necessary, generating an autopsy report will take even more time.
A body can’t cross state lines until a funeral director or medical examiner signs the proper burial-transit permit. If a U.S. citizen dies in another country a consular mortuary certificate, affidavit from a funeral director in the country of death, and a transit permit are all required to ship a body anywhere.
Transporting human remains is known as "funeral shipping," and methods vary widely depending on location and circumstance of death. In most cases funeral shipping involves two funeral homes; one funeral home prepares the body, and another funeral home receives the body upon arrival.
If someone dies relatively close to home, ground transportation is generally the easiest and most cost-effective solution. But if death occurs in another state or country, flying may be the only option. Each airline has its own set of rules and procedures for transporting a body, so it’s important to work with a funeral home that is a “known shipper” and can navigate this territory for you.
One of the most complex scenarios is when a death occurs on a cruise ship. Most cruise ships are equipped to store a body until the ship reaches a port capable of starting the repatriation process. A morgue in that port country will then issue a death certificate and prepare the body for transport. From there, the deceased can finally head home but may have to cross multiple international borders along the way. The body may need to be inspected, go through customs, or follow other procedures as required by law. When it’s all said and done, the repatriation process can take weeks - or even months.
The cost of shipping human remains can vary greatly. At the minimum, expect to pay paperwork processing fees, medical expenses, mortuary charges, autopsy costs, and funeral home costs. Depending on the location of death and method of transportation, the prices go up. For example, a body can’t fly until it’s embalmed and hermetically sealed in a cargo-safe coffin. From there, shipping fees are calculated based on weight and distance traveled.
When it’s all said and done, the cost of flying a body to the U.S. can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars - and that’s before funeral and burial costs.
If your travel partner dies, your life screeches to a halt - and so does your trip. Not only do you have to figure out how to deal with the situation at hand, but you also have to figure out what to do about the rest of your trip! The costs of canceling or rescheduling flights, hotels, and excursions can add up quickly. So what do you do - reschedule? Cancel? Stay the course? What if you’re like Carol - 1500 miles away from home, alone in an RV?
Dealing with death is stressful enough as it is. And so is wading through red tape. Now imagine having to combine the two when you were supposed to have been on vacation. With Good Sam TravelAssist, you don’t have to. Good Sam TravelAssist is designed to get you through the worst of times — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, worldwide.
Carol was dealing with a worst-case scenario, but since she and Dan enrolled with TravelAssist a decade earlier, she had peace of mind knowing she wasn’t alone. Once she called TravelAssist, Good Sam took over. They flew Carol’s children to meet her in Oregon, where they prepared the RV for travel. They hired a transport company to drive the RV back to Arizona. They arranged for Dan’s remains to get home legally and safely. They even made travel reservations so that Carol and her children could all fly back home together. The best part is that with Carol’s TravelAssist membership, all expenses were covered.
While some travel stories don’t always have a happy ending, TravelAssist can make your journey a little easier. Make sure you are covered for anything that happens during your next trip. Learn more about Good Sam TravelAssist today.