Travel 201: When Things Go Wrong (and How to Fix Them)

when things go wrong
Champagne is always a good way to start a vacation.

Forrest Gump may have said it best: sh*t happens. Don’t let a small (or large) mishap ruin your vacation. Things happen. That is simply a fact of travel (and life), but it is how you respond to those things that can be the difference between a great vacation and one that is completely ruined. So, what do you do when things go wrong? I’m so glad you asked.

When things go wrong #1: Flight delays cause a missed connection.

Avoid it before leaving home: While there are no guarantees, the best bet is to allow yourself a healthy connection. A 45-minute layover in Atlanta, the busiest airport in the U.S., is allowed by the airlines but stressful for the traveler. Leave yourself ample time to get from one plane to the next. if you are traveling internationally, allow even more time for a connection. On my recent flight from Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta to London, I had the option of a one-hour connection. Instead, I chose to leave Fort Lauderdale early, and have a three-hour connection. Nobody wants to hang around airports longer than needed, but this is an easy way to start a vacation with less stress.

Solution while traveling: Take a multi-prong approach. If you are using a travel agent, notify them right away so they can work on getting a resolution, as well as notifying a hotel of a later arrival. But, if you are on your flight and know there is no way you will make the connection, get online while still in the air and see if you can rebook yourself on a later flight. Most airlines allow you to access their websites without buying an internet package. When you land, if you have not been able to rebook your flight, head immediately to the airline help desk, while at the same time calling them on the phone. You never know who will be able to help you first, and I can tell you that many times I have had better results over the phone rather than face-to-face at the airport.

Make sure to keep all receipts from any missed connections or delays to submit to your insurance company.

When things go wrong #2: Your wallet or passport is stolen.

Before you go: Make a copy of your passport, just in case. Or take a photo of the important page with your phone. Better yet, do both.

Solution while traveling: Make a bee line to the nearest police station and file a report, and make sure to get a copy of that report. Then call the U.S. embassy or consulate for help in obtaining a new passport. For a stolen wallet, call all credit card companies immediately. New cards will be issued right away, and your account will not be accessible to the thieves.

Make sure you have your card numbers when you call!

When things go wrong #3: The airline has lost your luggage. 

Before you go: Pack an extra outfit or two in your carry on, and a few pair of underwear. Trust me on this one.

Solution while traveling: Alert the airline before leaving the airport. That way you can let them know where to find you when they do get your luggage. Again, keep all receipts as you may be entitled to reimbursement from the airline or your insurance company. If the worst thing that happens on vacation is that you are wearing the same fuschia polka dot shirt in every picture, well, that really is not such a tragedy. (See the previous post about using photoshop.)

Bottom line: things happen. Have fun. Use all of your vacation days. Back up your photos to the cloud (another lesson I learned the hard way). Rewear clothes. Pack less, enjoy more.


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