What's up doc?

Never sleep naked and bring a spare pair of black shoelaces. These are among the priceless travel tips picked up on the rounds of an international medic.

As a "flying doctor" who's tasked with rescuing ill or injured holidaymakers abroad, Ben MacFarlane spends a lot of time in the air and in hotels overseas.

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This doctor without borders has more than a few anecdotes, travel tips and some quite literal 'war stories' acting as a crisis responder for UK insurers.

Having recently compiled a memoir Holiday SOS, MacFarlane has filled his book with the sort of valuable travel tips and lessons you'd rather not learn firsthand.

Talking to the Daily Mail he said he'd much rather travellers stay "safe, happy and healthy overseas" and that they'd do well to take these pieces of advice - or risk becoming one of this patients.

1. Trumpet Air

Say "no" to complimentary champagne on your flight, if you're lucky enough to be offered it. Otherwise cut down on carbonated drinks. Pressurised plane cabins are notorious for causing bloating and 'flatulence'. Cut down on the fizz, for everyone's comfort.

2. Spit it out

Did your ears just pop? Cut out the bubble gum when flying. Chewing gum will only make your pressurised ears more painful and swallow more air (See re: fizzy drinks above). Instead wiggle your lower jaw or yawn to relieve pressure on your ears more safely.
Chewing is also a choke hazard, warns MacFarlane.

3. Check in, check the time

Arrived late in a new hotel? Unplug the phone and check the alarm clock. Cabin crew friends have advised MacFarlane to rely on his own alarms. ("Because no-one wants a wrong number at 3am.") Also, chances are the room's last occupant might have had an early plane to catch. If you have the luxury of a slightly later lie-in, make sure their dawn wake-up call is not still set to go off.

4. Pyjamas advisable

"NEVER sleep naked." MacFarlane's emphasis sounds as if he's learned this lesson the hard way.

A scrambled assortment of panic dressed clothes – or nothing at all – is not the appropriate attire for assembling in a foreign forecourt after the fire alarm goes off. Be prepared, sleep in a t-shirt and shorts.


5. Trip up pickpockets

Tying off your bag with a discrete black shoelace can trip up potential pickpockets. It's not enough to prevent thieving altogether – but could be enough to buy you a precious few seconds to rumble your thief, or at least make yourself a more difficult target for opportunists.

6. Papers please

The little paper wallet with your key card and room number written on it. Best, leave it behind. Better still, burn it. If you lose both together you've essentially told a potential burglar your address, handed them the key, and told them to let themselves in – because you can't!

7. Remember, belt up

There are many parts of the world – often with the wildest roads – where seat belts seem to be a redundant accessory to taxis and cars. It doesn't matter what the local customs are, or if no one else is wearing one. Survivors belt up. "Don't risk dying of embarrassment," says MacFarlane.

Holiday SOS: Lifesaving Adventures of a Travelling Doctor by Ben MacFarlane is published by Thistle Publications in paperback and e-book