Anyone who travels a lot knows it can be fun, exhilarating and even life-changing, but it can also often be disappointedly unpredictable.
Whether you’ve lost some luggage or ended up sleeping on an airport bench after a cancelled flight, everyone’s got a travel nightmare story.
The good news is that some travel mishaps can be smoothly resolved with the right planning and, in some cases, you can even avoid problems completely…
1. Lost Luggage
Arguably one of the most common nightmares for anyone travelling by plane is lost luggage.
While some will argue that the only way to avoid losing your luggage is to not check anything in and just pack a carry on, there are some more realistic measures that it’s worth considering.
To help avoid your bag being accidentally picked up off the reclaim belt by someone else, try to find an unusual or brightly coloured bag, or add something distinctive to the handle, such as a ribbon.
Aside from ensuring you’ve removed all old labels to help avoid confusion when your bag is scanned and keeping the sticky luggage ticket you are given at check in, there’s not a great deal you can do to prevent your bag being lost in transit. What you can do, however, is find out where it’s gone if it does go missing. New advances, such as the Trace Me Luggage Tracker, mean you’ll receive a text letting you know wherever your bag is next scanned.
Make sure you file a claim at the airport as soon as you realise your luggage is lost and be persistent with your follow ups, by calling, emailing and stating your case on social media.
Other sensible precautions include checking the fine print of your insurance to establish the maximum amount you’ll be able to claim for your luggage, taking a picture of the contents and having essentials such as medication, contact lenses and valuables in your carry-on bag.
2. Cancelled flights
Reacting quickly when your flight is cancelled can turn a horror story into something that’s just mildly annoying. While it’s sensible to queue with everyone else to speak to the airline staff at the terminal, make sure you have their customer service number to hand and call them while you wait. With response times potentially quicker on the phone, it could be your fastest way of booking the next available flight before everyone else does. If you feel you’re not being fully informed or not getting answers quickly enough, try a more public plea for help by addressing the airline on social media.
Having last minute flight booking apps pre-loaded on your phone will allow you to review the options yourself and decide the best course of action, while flight tracker apps will help you spot potential problems, such as delays and cancellations, before they are announced, meaning you are ahead of the game.
3. Accommodation issues
If you’ve booked accommodation in advance, make sure you print off any email confirmations, to limit any confusion on arrival. It’s also best to confirm your accommodation a week or so before you travel, by phone or email, to check all is correct with your booking.
If you discover there’s an issue on arrival, or you need to book a night somewhere at the last minute due to a missed flight, there are a couple of different options you can explore.
You can pre-load last minute accommodation apps to your phone, allowing you to easily search and book, or go old school and seek out the airport’s hotel desk or tourist information for advice.
4. Missing a flight
It may seem blindingly obvious, but the best way to avoid missing a flight is to make sure that you arrive at the airport, and the gate with plenty of time to spare. Allow extra time for security peak times and ask at check in what the maximum distance is from the main terminal lounges to the gates to avoid being caught out by unexpected lengthy walks and monorail rides.
When booking cheap flights that are indirect, it’s important to check the timings of any planned layovers yourself, so you’re happy you will have enough time to make your connecting flight and if in doubt go for an option that allows extra time.
5. Getting lost
One of the biggest causes of holiday tension with friends or family is getting lost.
Prepare for the potential that your sat nav won’t work, or you’ll have no 3G by downloading maps of the area to your phone in advance. Or better still, rule out being stomped when your phone battery dies by packing an actual paper map of the area you are going to.
6. Theft or loss of important items
While no-one likes to set off on their travels expecting to be robbed, it’s wise to research the numbers of both your local embassy and your bank’s customer service and input them in your phone, as well as writing them down and putting them somewhere safe (in case your phone is one of the things that is stolen).
If your passport is lost or stolen, you’ll have to go to the local embassy for a temporary replacement. While this will undoubtedly be an inconvenience, making sure you have another form of ID that has been stored elsewhere, your travel itinerary and a passport sized photo with you, should help speed things along. Photographing your passport and both printing it and storing it somewhere online is also advisable.
While most of us have the foresight to book travel insurance that covers any costs incurred by becoming ill while abroad, it’s still easy to find yourself confused as to the best course of action when there is a health issue.
Before buying your policy read the small print to establish exactly what the excess is, what the policy covers and what the cap will be on any medical costs. Have the insurance company’s number either printed off or on your phone and also research the details of local doctors and hospitals before you leave.
Most importantly, don’t assume that anything is free. For example, there is a charge for ambulances in many countries, so if you are taken ill with a non-serious condition, it could be worth considering making your own way to hospital to avoid excessive costs.