Even the most meticulous planner can have their travel itinerary thrown into chaos by the unexpected. You can do everything right and still fall victim to delays, lost items, and scams.
But fear not, it’s all character building. In fact, travel experts say that these inconvenient experiences will make you a more efficient traveler going forward. The best way to minimize the damage caused by extenuating factors is to allow for the possibility that things will go wrong and learn what to do when it does.
“Make sure you have a plan B and C before you leave the house,” advises travel blogger Justine Jenkins. “You might make a travel itinerary but it is worth bearing in mind that you need to be flexible sometimes,” she adds.
Here are some of the most common travel issues and how to tackle them so your holiday isn’t hijacked by misfortune.
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Aside from the glaringly obvious reminder to make sure your passport is valid, and packed alongside other crucial travel documents, you should also scan copies of them in case of loss, says Kyle Stewart, a travel writer and travel agency owner.
“Saving them to both your phone and the cloud will cut down on 90% of the delay in getting your information validated,” Stewart says. He notes that it is quicker and easier for officials to verify information provided in your scans than seek it out from their own search processes.
Erika Richter, the vice president of communications at the American Society of Travel Advisors, agrees that you should make extra copies of everything you could possibly need to survive a day or full trip should you lose your luggage. This includes boarding passes, travel insurance documents, reservation confirmations.
Losing your baggage is one of the most stressful things that could happen when traveling, but understanding your rights can go a long way to making sure it doesn’t ruin your trip.
“You will be entitled to money to buy clothes, toiletries, and any other necessities during your trip because it might be a couple of days before your luggage is returned to you,” says Jenkins. On top of these expenses, Jenkins adds, you should be eligible to claim further compensation for the inconvenience caused.
From a preventative perspective, you can try luggage trackers, although Stewart warns that AirTags may alert passengers where their items are but it’s “cold comfort” as airlines are not responsive when acting on this information.
In the event that an airline does lose your bag, however, Jenkins says the first thing you should do is find the relevant airline office at the airport and register your lost items. She adds that your luggage, if found, will eventually be delivered to your hotel or home.
Delays and cancellations
If your flight is unexpectedly delayed or canceled, Stewart recommends using Google Flights to see if other routes to your destination are available, and taking this to a ticket counter.
“It’s easier to search those options for yourself and see if the airline can accommodate your chosen route rather than rely on them to find the best choice for you,” he says. Agents may try to book you a flight the next day but if you arrive with a flight in mind they can be more targeted in their help.
Depending on the country you are, the airline you used, and how much of a delay there has been, you may be entitled to compensation. In Europe, E.U. regulations require airlines to compensate travelers who arrive later than three hours after their estimated arrival time. (Britain has maintained these rules post-Brexit.) There are no such federal laws in the U.S. but some airlines still voluntarily offer compensation for major flight delays.
Jenkins warns that airlines can try to sell you short so research what you are owed: “You might have to do some back and forth negotiating with the airline before they pay out what you are due.”
Richter suggests a “cancel for any reason” travel insurance policy to recover costs from failed or canceled trips but she warns customers to read the fine print and see what your policy actually covers.
Away from the stresses of the airport, accommodation is another area that has the potential to go wrong. “It’s easy to fall in love with pretty pictures on Instagram or TikTok and It’s easy to trust online review sites,” says Richter, “But who is vetting all this? And is it worth the price of your precious time and vacation dollars?”
She advises only taking recommendations from trusted sources, and researching backup options on the ground in case a holiday rental or hotel doesn’t live up to its online promise.
No matter how bad the situation feels, try to stay calm and treat it as a learning experience. With the gift of online resources, every solution is one Google search away. Jenkins says that these inconveniences may feel like “downers” but in the long run they will make you “a more knowledgeable and wary traveler.”
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