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Avoid Travel Mishaps - Your Guide to Preparing for Those Unplanned Travel Setbacks

by Char Kernen on August 10, 2023


Your Guide to Preparing for Those Unplanned Travel Setbacks


Picture this, your vacation is planned, you are packed, and the countdown is at zero, and you could not be more excited to go on your next adventure. This is me every time I travel. It is the best feeling, anticipating that next adventure. So, the last thing you want is to think about the possibility that something may go wrong. Am I right? Could not agree more. Let’s face it though, travel can sometimes bring unexpected problems, and those challenges are the last thing we want to get in the way of our vacation.

In some cases, planning ahead may avoid these mishaps all together. Knowing your options in advance will help you get on the right path, especially when traveling abroad.

Listed below are common travel problems/mishaps that can happen more than we would like to think about while traveling. We have included ways to solve or ease these problems if any of these things happens to you.


Cancelled flights

Transportation Delays or Cancelations

Let’s be honest, having your flights, train, or bus delayed or worse cancelled, is a terrible feeling. Especially if you have a close connection in another city, or you may be going on a cruise, and you could miss your ship. In any scenario this is frustrating, and in some cases could require you to change your travel itinerary, and/or it could cost you more money.

Unfortunately, no matter where your travels take you, travel hiccups and delays are a possibility, and in many cases, are largely out of your hands, and may not be avoidable.

So, what do you do if this happened to you?

  • First, research your options before traveling. Talk to your travel agent, airline, credit card company, and ask what your options are if you experience delays. Have customer service phone numbers handy so you can start resolving this delay.
  • Second, rule of thumb, consider there could be delays when booking connecting flights. Don’t book a connecting flight within an hour of your first flight. That is tight even without delays. Give yourself time to get to your next gate that could be a bit of a walk, know if your luggage is checked through to your final destination, or if you need to go to baggage claim and then go through security again. Planning and knowing all this information can remove undo stress, and in some cases a small delay won’t be a problem.
  • Also, if you are taking a cruise and flying to the port destination on your own (meaning you did not book your flight through the cruise line) ALWAYS fly in the day before. So many things can happen, weather, flight delays, etc. and the cruise ship does not have to wait for you to arrive. Unfortunately, I personally know two people this has happened to, and in both cases the ship left, and it cost them additional money to meet up with the ship the next day.
  • Thirdly, if your flight has been cancelled (for any reason) make sure you understand in advance what you’re entitled to as compensation for the airlines cancelling your flight. In many cases, you are entitled to accommodation vouchers, food vouchers, airline vouchers for a future flight award ticket, and they should be paying for the rebook no matter the cost. Knowing this in advance will help you to speak with the airline and get rebooked as fast as possible.


Lost Passport Travel Treasure Box

Lost Passport, Visa or Travel Document

This is a tough one, and I hope it never happens to you. However, there are some things you can do in advance to prepare for such a problem.

  • Before leaving home, ALWAYS leave a copy of your passport/visa at home with trusted contacts. Secondly, make a copy of your passport and put it in a safe place, email it to yourself too, just keep the copy away from where your actual passport/visa is. Having a photocopy of your passport pages will make getting a replacement easier.
  • Contact the nearest embassy or consulate immediately to report that your passport was lost/stolen. They can provide advice and start the replacement process. Research this information prior to departing for your trip and keep it in a safe place.
  • If you have travel insurance (which I strongly recommend) contact them right away. Many policies cover emergency passport/visa replacement assistance. Make sure to have the insurance companies contact info available.
  • Contact your airline/hotel or restaurant you could have lost it at, retrace your steps and call to see if anyone turned in a passport. You can also use your smartphone to pinpoint your last known locations.
  • If you are overseas, go to the local police station to file a report right away. Doing this will help with the replacement process.

Although this is not something you ever want to experience, needing to get a replacement passport/visa can happen smoothly if you have backup copies and are following the right steps.


Medical Emergency While Traveling Travel Treasure Box

Requiring Medical Attention while Traveling

Ok, I don’t mean to sound like Debbie Downer here, but these are real problems that could occur anytime while traveling and this one is close to my heart.

Before I explain, here are some tips on getting medical care when sick or injured while traveling, this is especially important when traveling abroad.

  • Check your health insurance to understand your global coverage and what steps you need to take. Many plans provide emergency care abroad, but some do not.
  • Bring copies of your passport, insurance cards, and prescriptions in case you require care.
  • Know the emergency medical numbers and protocols for the country you’re visiting.
  • Always bring a basic first-aid kit with bandages, antibiotics, pain relievers, etc.
  • Consider purchasing travel insurance with medical evacuation coverage to get you home safely if you become extremely ill (again close to my heart).
  • Communicate with your hotel concierge or, if cruising, your ships medical facilities. Also, American consulates can assist with finding medical providers and transfer home if needed.

Staying healthy is always what we strive for when traveling, however, if something unexpected comes up, these steps should help you find quick medical attention.

On a personal note, I am a huge believer in purchasing travel insurance. Why? Because I experienced the benefits of it firsthand. A few years back my husband required medical attention while on a cruise. We ended up having to get off the ship and go to a local hospital, then fly home the next day. It was a crazy and scary 48 hours, but everyone was so accommodating, changing our flights, transportation, booked accommodations for us, even had a sea plane on standby. My husband is fine and is healthy as ever, but having that insurance made a difficult experience a little less stressful. I NEVER travel without it!


Lost Luggage Travel Treasure Box

Losing your Luggage

Unfortunately, if you travel enough, this eventually may happen to you or someone you know. Below are some helpful tips on what to do if your luggage is lost while traveling.

  • Report the lost luggage to the airline immediately. Provide your luggage description, including brand, color, etc. Take a picture of it and have it on your phone. Also make sure to keep your baggage claim ticket you received when you checked it.
  • Fill out a lost luggage report before leaving the airport and get a copy for your records. This will be needed for any compensation claims.
  • Let the airline know where to deliver your bag when found.
  • Keep all receipts for any essential replacement items purchased because they may be reimbursable. Note, if delayed more than 24 hours you can submit a claim for compensation to the airline according to their policies.
  • Check your luggage policy coverage through your credit card. Many like American Express can help you, and offer some type of insurance coverage.
  • Avoid leaving valuables, electronics, or medication in a checked bag to minimize loss. Add these items to your carry-on. Also, pack an extra outfit in your carry-on just to be safe.
  • If you are traveling with someone and checking 2 bags, consider putting half of your clothes in one suitcase and the other half in the second suitcase, and do the same with your travel companion. This way if only one piece is lost you still have some of your items while your lost luggage is located.
  • Add a luggage tag with your name and phone number on the tag. I would not add your address, you can communicate that information with the airline directly.

Staying calm and acting quickly to report you missing luggage are key. With a proactive approach, lost luggage is often returned within a few days if not sooner.


Overbooked Hotel Travel Treasure Box

Hotel Overbookings

Fortunately, I don’t hear about this happening too much, but it does happen. So, here are some tips for handling an overbooked hotel situation.

  • Always bring your confirmation number with you and double confirm your stay prior to traveling. Check dates, confirm amenities and cost. This can help avoid overbooking errors.
  • If possible, arrive early, if you cannot do this contact the hotel and let them know your arrival time. Travelers are most vulnerable to overbookings when checking in late.
  • If the hotel is indeed overbooked, try not to get angry. Ask hotel staff or management about options. Maybe they can reserve you a room at their sister property at no extra charge of course.
  • Ask for upgrades like a junior suite or executive level room at no cost to you. Request amenities like free breakfast, parking, resort fees, etc. If they can’t move you ask for a hotel credit.
  • Check your credit card benefits, as some cards provide compensation for stranded hotel guests.
  • As a last resort, search hotel sites for accommodations close to where you are, if found ask if the hotel could offer transportation to the new location for free.
  • If you paid in advance and have to move hotels, make sure the hotel credits your card prior to leaving. Even ask them for a future free night for the inconvenience.

Again, staying calm and knowing your options and rights as a traveler in advance will help as you resolve the problem. Staying firm and respectful with staff can often yield the best results in this situation.


Avoid being Pickpocketed Travel Treasure box

Being Pickpocketed or Mugged

One of the things you hear about when traveling is to be careful of pickpockets. This can happen anywhere. Here are some important tips to help you avoid getting pickpocketed or mugged while traveling.

  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Avoid distractions like staring at your phone when in a foreign country.
  • When traveling, wearing a concealed money belt under your clothing is a great way to deter pick pocketers. However, carry a small amount of cash and a credit card in a wallet in your front pocket or in a crossbody purse that stays in front of you. This way you won’t have to access the money belt while in public areas like train stations, airports, etc.
  • Don’t wear flashy or expensive jewelry and try not to carry electronics if you can.
  • Stay in well-lit areas. Crowded areas are also good, but keep alert, and hold on tight to your belongings.
  • Avoid isolated streets or deserted areas, especially at night.
  • If possible, use anti-theft bags/purses with RFID blocking material. Keep bags closed and secure always.
  • Be aware of people crowding or distracting you in tourist areas as it could be a setup for pickpocketing.
  • If possible, use hotel safes to secure passports, excess cash, and valuables when out. Only carry what you need.
  • Being aware and staying one step ahead is key. Being cautious can help deter criminals looking for easy targets.

So, there you have it. I know these are not things we want to think about while planning that bucket list trip. However, being prepared is key, and knowing how to approach these mishaps if they were to happen should make you feel a little more at ease.

Personally, when I travel, especially abroad, I have one envelope with all our documentation and information listed above. I include our travel insurance info, passport copies, copies of our medical cards and license, etc. Once at our destination, I place the envelope in the safe and hope that I will not have to access it again.

I hope this was helpful. I would love to hear from you. If you have any other information that could help this community, please comment below.

Happy Travels!


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