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I hear a lot of travel horror stories, but many of these can be avoided or made less stressful by applying the following advice on how to deal with travel nightmares…
Flight delays / cancellations
There is little you can do to avoid flight delays and cancellations – weather can turn bad, strikes happen, and delays at other airports can have a knock-on effect. It is the way you deal with these issues that can be the difference between a good or bad experience.
- Buy basic travel insurance – make sure it covers replacement flights if you have to stick to a schedule. If you are not schedule-dependent, you can just re-book on the next available flight through the airline.
- Check for delays, cancellations and airport news via the airport website before you leave for your flight. If in doubt, it is always best to ring the airline.
- Come prepared – make sure that you have a book or tablet, mp3 player, and money for magazines / snacks in your carry-on. Don’t forget to bring the chargers too!
- When delays occur, try not to take it out on the ground crew – they are as helpless as you are at this point! Find yourself a comfy seat, log onto the free airport wifi, and try to be patient. If this affects your onward travel, then I suggest using this time to let your car hire company / hotel know that you’ll be late.
- If you have to re-book onto a later flight, and have lounge access, try talking to the ground crew in the lounge to see if they can re-book you instead of having to wait in the queue with 200 other angry passengers.
I once got stuck in Geneva due to a train strike – but with the help of a free wifi hotspot, I managed to check my insurance documents, then use my booking.com and easyjet.com apps to book a flight for the following day, and book a lovely last minute hotel deal in Geneva. Best advice I have is to just stay calm and work methodically through your itinerary to re-plan things.
Sometimes hotels appear way better in the photos than they do in real life!
- Before booking a hotel, read the reviews and ask around for advice – booking sites should always have a review section, and if it’s empty, do a quick internet search for reviews to double check your choice.
- Always keep your hotel details accessible on multiple devices and/or in multiple places – what if your phone is lost and you can’t remember where your hotel is?
- If the hotel isn’t up to scratch, it is imperative that you deal with it on the spot – don’t endure the pain and then complain about it constantly once the holiday is over. Calm yourself down (if needed), and head down to reception to ask for the issue to be resolved. If the person on reception can’t help, ask to speak to a manager.
- If the hotel can’t solve the problem (perhaps because the hotel is full and they can’t move you), then ask for you to be compensated on your bill. Your last resort is to call their head office, or to tweet them. Never underestimate the power of social media (but don’t abuse it – give the hotel a chance to fix the issue before resorting to complaints online).
I once got given a twin room, despite having booked a double (6 months in advance). I politely attempted to remedy this with two members of the reception team – and failed both times. So I went upstairs to re-group… and to tweet the hotel’s parent company. Within minutes I’d received a message from the parent company wanting to resolve the matter. So I went down a third time, and told reception that I had been tweeting with their parent company, and like magic they were suddenly able to fix the situation for me! But I always prefer to give the hotel the benefit of the doubt in the first instance.
Theft / Loss
Sometimes your luggage doesn’t arrive in your final destination, or you are unlucky enough to get your bag stolen. So, here are some tips to prevent / deal with those scenarios:
- Keep a copy of all your travel documents, and scanned versions of your IDs in the cloud / or in an email account that’s accessible online. If your documents get lost or stolen, having copies securely saved can help during an emergency. It is also worth keeping a record of your local consulate, incase you need a replacement passport.
- Always take 1 change of clothing in your carry-on luggage – if your hold luggage doesn’t end up in the same destination as you, at least you have 1 change of clothes to last until your hold luggage arrives, or your travel insurance kicks in!
- Make use of the hotel safe – leave some of your cash and your expensive possessions in the lockbox rather than carrying them with you.
- Back up your phone to the cloud, so that if your phone gets lost or stolen, you can download your contacts / apps to a new phone immediately, from wherever you are.
- Don’t keep all your credit cards in one place. It’s called minimising risk 😉
- Consider using a travel money credit card, rather than carrying cash. You can load different currencies online onto the one card, and use it like a credit / debit card.
- Don’t use a backpack, or a handbag with no clasp, and never keep your wallet in your back pocket – in other words, minimise the possibilities for pickpockets.
- Don’t stand on street corners reading a map. Luckily, these days, you’re more likely to be checking google maps on your phone. But the principle remains – try not to look lost.
I once arrived in London, and my bag was somewhere in Frankfurt. It took them 3 days to find it. Luckily my insurance kicked in after 24 hours, and allowed me to buy a whole new wardrobe – bonus! My bag arrived safely a few days later, and was couriered to my lodgings free of charge! Read about the time I accidentally took a photo of a drug deal in Naples here!
How to Deal with Travel Nightmares? Basically, the moral of the story is this: be prepared, keep calm and use your common sense!
All photos & content © Hannah Henderson and may not be used without permission (sharing this blog post is fine, though!). Images shot with an iPhone6s.