Traveling is great fun, but sometimes things happen that can quickly turn an awesome trip into a huge headache…or worse. If you’re going to be traveling, there are some things you can do to prepare ahead of time to mitigate your risk.
The airline lost your luggage.
Losing your luggage is the worst! You pack for your trip, excited about all that you are going to do, and all that excitement goes right out the window as you realize you’re the last one standing at the baggage carousel and your luggage isn’t there. To help minimize your risk of this happening, my biggest tip is to pack as much as you can in your carry-on. For shorter trips or for trips where I know I’ll be able to do laundry, I often try to pack everything I need in just a carry-on bag. The airline can’t lose something that you’re carrying with you. If that’s just not possible, see if you can get a direct flight to your destination. No stopovers drastically reduces your chances of lost luggage. If that’s not possible, make sure you get to the airport and check in early. The longer they have to process your luggage, the more likely it will be that your luggage actually shows up on the plane. Make sure your bags are unique looking to reduce the chance that somebody else walks away with your luggage, and put really good, strong luggage tags on them with your information clearly marked. Take pictures of your bags before you check them in so you can show baggage claim if needed, and lastly, put a copy of your travel plans inside each piece of checked luggage. This isn’t to say your bags won’t get lost anyway, but if you do these things you’ll reduce your risk that they will be gone forever.
Your flight was canceled.
So…your flight was canceled. It happens. It sucks, but it happens. Some things you can do to try and avoid this is to fly during good weather times of year because flights are much less likely to be canceled during those times. If you do get canceled on, your first step should be to call the airline’s customer service. If you’re already at the airport, the help desk will likely have a long line of other frustrated travelers, but if you call the airline on your cell phone, you may be able to get help sooner. Ask about getting put on the same-day standby list and what your other options might be. Remember to be courteous and calm, even though it’s a frustrating situation. The person on the other end of the line has your fate in their hands and they are much more likely to help you if you’re calm and polite. If you really can’t do anything about it, make the most of your situation. Go out and explore a little, or have a leisurely dinner. Maybe check in to a hotel for a nap or treat yourself to a massage. If that’s all too much, get yourself a good book and plop down to read it. Might as well enjoy yourself.
You lost your passport or ID.
You’re going to have to go to the embassy or consulate to get a new one. To prepare for this eventuality, make sure you take a few photocopies of your passport before you travel and keep them stowed away in separate places. That way, if you lose your passport you’ll have an easier time showing the consulate who you are and helping them get you a new one faster. The other thing you should do is keep some extra cash with you. Keep some in a separate place than your passport and wallet in case you need it in a tough situation.
You got pick-pocketed or robbed.
There are some shady people out there. It sucks, but it’s true. As much as we all want to put our trust in those around us and believe that all people are good, the truth is that some of them just want to steal your wallet. You can greatly reduce your risk of being targeted in this way with a few precautions, however. First, don’t make your wallet or other valuables easy to reach. If you have zippered or hidden pockets, put your valuables there instead of just in your back pocket. If you’re carrying it in a bag, get a bag that’s not so easy to get into undetected, such as a cross-body bag with a zipper that you can put to the front of you when you’re in a crowded area. If you do find yourself in a vulnerable situation such as a highly crowded area, just make sure to watch your stuff as you navigate through. Thieves are looking for easy targets…don’t be one.
The hotel lost your reservation.
Make sure you print a copy of your reservation before you head out so you can use it to prove you had a reservation if the hotel tries to deny it. Also make sure you have a copy of the reservation in your email inbox. Call the hotel to confirm your reservation before you head out as well.
You got sick.
It happens. I’ve certainly found myself with montezuma’s revenge in Mexico and horrible allergies in Italy. Prepare for the worst ahead of time and things will go more smoothly. If you’re in an area where water safety is a concern, only drink bottled water, ask for drinks without ice, and eat only well-cooked foods. Also beware of vegetables washed in local water.
Bring medications like allergy meds, aspirin, and any prescriptions you need along with you on the trip. Have the Google translate app installed on your phone in case you have an issue and need to explain your situation to a local doctor or pharmacist who might not speak English.
If you’re concerned about illness or injury, get travel medical insurance before you go.
You got lost.
To me, part of the fun of travel is getting lost, but there comes a point when you’re really lost that it stops being fun. Avoid this by always carrying a map on you, as well as the GPS on your smartphone if you’re able to in your travel destination. If you get truly lost, try to find a taxi or a local who can help you find your way. I like asking people who work in local businesses for directions. I love going out blindly exploring, but a map is always helpful in case I need it to find my way back.
In general, whenever I’m traveling, I go out and tromp around town, rain or shine. In Kyoto, Japan, it was so cold and there was a flurry of snow, but I just bundled up, went out in it, and still had a good time. Sometimes, however, the weather can be so bad it’s dangerous such as in the case of a hurricane or other bad storm. Make sure to stay informed of the weather forecast and have a backup plan if it looks like you might be hit with bad weather. Have essentials in your carry-on in case you end up stuck at an airport overnight. If weather looks like it might be really bad, such as a hurricane, you may want to book a refundable hotel reservation near the airport you may be stuck at. Never hurts to be prepared! I experienced this kind of situation firsthand when I went to Australia. The day before my flight, I found out there was a massive hurricane that was projected to head straight for Cairns, my first Australia destination. I hadn’t planned for this as it was late for hurricane season. Since I had a layover in Brisbane, I figured I would get to Brisbane and then figure it out from there, but I spent a 14 hour internet-less flight wondering what I was going to do and wondering how much a change in travel plans would cost. Thankfully, when I got to Brisbane, we learned that the cyclone had turned North and it was safe to fly to Cairns. I experienced some bad weather that night, but it was an otherwise lovely trip. Crisis averted! Had things gone poorly, I might have been out a lot of money. This could have been avoided by getting a good travel insurance policy that covered these kinds of events. Next time I’ll be prepared!
Hopefully these tips help you out in preparing for your next adventure. Do you have any tips for avoiding travel mishaps? Would love to hear about them in the comments!