Travel never goes 100% to plan. Here are a few not so wonderful occurrences that you may encounter on a trip and how to cope and remedy the situation as calmly as possible.
1. Delayed/Cancelled Flights
This is one of the most common issues you will face while traveling. If you miss a flight due to cancellation or find your flight delayed, you might miss out of part of your itinerary, which can be pretty devastating if you have to cut back on plans.
If your flight is cancelled, the airline will try to notify you as early as possible so you can rebook. Even without travel insurance, airlines will often offer you a seat on the next available flight out as long as there are seats available. If you book a ticket in coach but there are no other coach seats available, you may get upgraded to first class seats. If you book first class and are rebooked in coach, you’ll receive a refund of the difference.
If the airline is at fault for the cancellation or delayed flight, you will likely receive compensation. If it is beyond their control due to weather or a strike, etc. you are not likely to receive compensation. If you decide not to fly after the cancellation, you can receive a refund for your flight to be applied for another trip. You may have a limited amount of time to rebook before the voucher expires, so be sure to use it!
If your flight was in the evening, you may be provided overnight accommodations, meal vouchers, etc. You’ll encounter this with major airlines, however for smaller discount airlines, this may not be the case. Read up on their cancellation policies before booking flights.
If you’re concerned about a delay or cancelled flight, it is best to book your travel in the morning or during the day and avoid those late night flights. If that last flight of the day is cancelled, you may be stuck for a while waiting for the next flight out. Otherwise, if your flight was earlier in the day, there may be several flights you can take that will get you to your destination on that same date you were planning. If you have a connecting flight that you need to catch with another airline, you best schedule a decent gap in between flights in case of delay or embrace that you may not make the second leg or your journey if your first flight was delayed/cancelled. Research policies before you book, especially out of airports that are notorious for delays and cancellations due to weather.
2. Missing a flight
If you miss a flight because you didn’t arrive at the airport in time, don’t expect anyone to bend over backwards for you. Travel insurance will not cover you unless you have evident proof that you missed your flight because of another airline delay, motor accident, etc. If there is a severe weather or a natural disaster your travel insurance should also cover this. Keep all your receipts for any transactions you made due to missing your flight which you can submit to your traveler's insurance for reimbursement.
If you miss a flight due to medical reasons you will need proof from your doctor. If you were in an accident, you will need proof from transportation authority wherever it is that it occurred. If you can provide proof, you will likely be reimbursed.
In order to avoid missing a flight, there are several things you can do. For one, arrive at the airport early. This seems like a “duh” piece of advice, but it is better to arrive early and have to wait around than arrive late and have to deal with the aftermath of a missed flight. If you have a connecting flight, leave a few hours of padding in between flights. Another tip is to book all flights with the same airline. If you miss a flight, they are obligated to get you on the next available flight and will put you up overnight if needed. Yes, it may be cheaper to book with multiple airlines, but just remember you may be paying more for it after if you end up missing a portion of your flights.
3. Lost Luggage
If your luggage goes missing, you might be left stranded for a day (or more) without it. This can mean you have to stay put until it is located, or possibly reunited with it when you get home from your trip.
Be sure to report the lost luggage to the baggage claim office and make a report. If you flew multiple airlines it may be difficult to pinpoint where things went wrong and which airline is responsible.
If your luggage is truly lost, you will be able to make a claim for up to a certain amount based on the current value of the items inside. You may be offered a voucher for future travel, but be very weary of blackout dates and restrictions. There is no point in getting a voucher if you can’t actually use it.
In order to avoid lost luggage, either pack a carry on bag for the entire trip (aka don’t check a bag at all) or be sure that you have at least a change of clothes and all necessities (medications, money, valuables, important documents/tickets, etc.) on you.
When you’re about to leave for your trip, be sure that you have a tag on your luggage that identifies who to contact when it is found. For extra good measure, leave something in the bag that also identifies you (business card, etc.) in case the tag is removed. Take a picture of your luggage so that you know what to look for at baggage claim or something to give the baggage claim office in case it goes missing.
4. Lost ID/Passport
If you lose your Passport on international travel, this can be devastating. Report the loss immediately to prevent identity theft and so that you can get a replacement as soon as possible. After reporting the loss, go to your local embassy to have your passport replaced. You will likely need to have photos ready upon arrival, so check with them to find out where to have these taken. Remember that embassies and consulates are closed on weekends, so this can be quite a blow if you were needing to be home by a certain date.
If you do need a replacement, there are several documents that will help the process go quickly. In an ideal situation you will have a copy of your ID or an expired passport, evidence of your citizenship (photocopy of stolen passport or birth certificate), travel itinerary, police report (if it was stolen), and application for a new passport. You will be expected to pay for a replacement, or someone back home will be billed for the replacement. Payment may be waived in extreme cases of crime or disasters.
While you can’t predict if your Passport will get stolen or lost, you can make some preventative measures. Keep your Passport on you at all times. Use a money belt or use the safe in your hotel to keep it secured while out and about. Always make a copy of your ID and Passport before you travel. Having both a paper and digital copy will be incredibly helpful if you’re in a pinch.
5. Medical Emergency
If you find yourself abroad and in need of medical attention, you may be stressed about how to pay for your services. For one, before you depart, find out what your insurance covers. If your insurance covers you abroad, be sure to carry your health insurance card on you. Many companies will pay for "customary and reasonable" medical expenses, but no medical evacuation travel home. Medicare does not cover healthcare abroad.
If you are in need of medical services, contact a consular officer from the U.S. embassy who can help you locate appropriate medical services. They can also help notify your family and friends. If needed, they can also help transfer funds from the US.
6. Getting Robbed
While this has yet to happen to me, there are countless stories about tourists getting mugged and robbed of their belongings. If you are stripped of your ID/Passport, wallet, etc. you may really be in a lurch. Travel insurance will likely not cover theft, and you’ll be left scrambling to figure out your next steps.
Report the robbery to authorities and contact your banks immediately. It may take between 24 hours to 3 days to have a replacement card ready for you, or you may need to have cash wired to you.
In order to avoid theft, you will want to be cautious and store your valuables in a money belt or distribute your valuables throughout your luggage so if one thing is stolen you at least have a backup credit card hidden elsewhere. If you carry a purse, have it be a cross body bag which is more difficult to grab off your body. Bags (or even pants/shorts) that have zippered pockets can make it more difficult for pickpockets to grab a hold of your wallet. Don’t be an easy target. Be hyper aware of your surroundings and avoid commotions/distractions as they may be an elaborate way of parting you from your valuables.
Have you ever dealt with one of these issues?
How have you coped?