Traveling Disaster: 6 Unfortunate Mishaps And How to Deal with Them

Traveling Disaster

Happy “Everything You Think is Wrong Day” dear reader! :-) This unusually named event doesn’t seem to have much ‘official’ descriptions, but the common descriptions seem to be “a day when nothing goes right.” So to celebrate, I thought I’d share some “worst case scenario” travel disasters and traveling mishaps, and how to deal with them. 99% of the time, none of these things will happen to you. But how would you handle it if it did?

Something’s Wrong with Your Reservations – and the Staff are Less than Helpful

Ugh, we’ve all been there – that sinking feeling of dread when you come to the realization that something is very, very wrong with your travel reservations.  It’s never good and it can totally wreck your travel plans, not matter whether it was your screw up or the airline/hotel/tour operator.  A few sage words of advice for when this a-little-too-common type of disaster strikes:

  • Always Take the High Road.  Being a total jerk doesn’t do anybody any favours, and usually works against you.  Remember, it isn’t usually the employee you’re dealing with who caused the issue (and even if it was, still…).  Be firm and friendly.
  • Get on the Phone.  If you’re stuck in long queues (esp at the airport), get on the phone as sometimes a phone agent can be easier to reach and can get you a manager to authorize off-policy changes.  It is better to deal with someone in person though, so use the phone option as a backup.
  • Accept what you can’t change.  When the weather or mistakes or whatever means that you just aren’t going to get home on time, or you’re going to miss out on something special, try to find the inner peace to accept it.  Yeah, it sucks, but if you let that negative energy fester it can spoil your entire vacation.

You’re sick while away from home.  Really sick.

I hate being sick, and I just recently got smacked with a nasty bout of the flu while on a trip.  It’s no fun, even if the sheets at the hotel are high threadcount.  Here’s my advice, which worked pretty well last month ;)

  • Prevention is Better than the Cure.  I always take multivitamins, including a Vitamin C booster, before I leave home and during my trip.  Airplanes, airports, trains and buses are all bug havens, esp. if you’re in a foreign land where every bacteria is a strange threat to your body.  Take the vitamin boosters all during your trip.
  • Sometimes you need to lose a day.  If you’re really feeling it, sometimes it might be worth it to just call it a sick day, sleep and stay in bed, in order to recover enough to enjoy the rest of the trip – otherwise it could just drag out and make you miserable the whole time.

Something Happens Back at Home.

It can happen any time – a massive water leak in your house, or death.  And some times, damn the luck, it can happen while you’re away.  Sometimes far, far away.  My thoughts on this issue, which has happened to me once (I travel a lot so statistically….)

  • Get ahold of your local contacts for damage control.  You can’t do everything on the phone, so figure out who can be your contact on the ground to do damage control and figure out what arrangements need to be handled immediately.
  • Decide where’s the line for when you have to cut it short and head home. Obviously this depends on the scenario, but you need to decide what is the criteria for when you just stay and finish the vacation and when you will have to make a break and head home.
  • Try not to let it ruin your vacation. Not to be insensitive because clearly certain issues can be very emotionally damaging, but if you’re going to stay, try to enjoy what’s left of the trip.  That’s why I suggest you pass off responsibility to someone back home so they can be on point, and you check in each day to see what’s up.

Riots or Civil War breaks out where you are visiting.

This seems like an unlikely scenario, but in the past year perhaps we’ve been reminded that some parts of the world just aren’t as stable as they are back home.  Getting information when in these situations can be difficult, and often the most easy-to-access resource – TV – isn’t the most accurate.  I was just talking about this in our travel newsletter, and my suggestion is to get multiple pieces of advice, and then go with your gut.  Your hotelier, tour operator, or local guide should be able to provide practical recommendations on what you need to do.  Your safety is of utmost importance, so ask your gut:  are we safe?  It can be hard to know for sure, but I always say your gut has very good instincts.

You get lost.  Really Lost.

With smartphones and the tentacles of tourism reaching out into far away lands, I find it hard to believe that people could get lost anymore.  But it does happen – particularly when you’re going off the grid where phones won’t work.  Some recommendations:

  • Have someone expecting you if you’re going off the grid.  For example if you’re planning on going hiking for the day and it’s snowing, you’d be best telling the hotel or someone to check on you by dark to ensure your safe return.  If nobody knows you’re missing, nobody will go looking.
  • Bring phone numbers and addresses with you – in the foreign language. This is a good tip esp if you’re traveling somewhere like Russia or China – just print off the hotel’s details and slip them into your bag.  Hotels in large cities or off the beaten path will often have business cards with directions in the local language exactly for this purpose – to give to a taxi driver to get you safely home.

You are personally threatened with violence.

Violence, whether it be knives or guns or anything in between, can happen at home just as likely as it can on the road.  The problem comes on the road when you aren’t familiar with the territory and don’t have a good sense for where is safe and where isn’t safe.

My advice for when faced with violence abroad is to remember the two most important things that you have: your life and your personal documents.  Everything else can be replaced (and yes, documents can be replaced to, but not as easily), so if giving up some cash to save the other two things is an option, take it.

I know I talk a lot about gut feelings, but if you try to look past the overwhelming fear and adrenaline rush and ask your gut to decide what is the most practical reaction here, your gut will know the answer.

Happy Everything You Think is Wrong Day!  Travel safe!

Have you deal with mishaps and disaster abroad? How’d you cope?

Photo Credits: RachelH_the italian voice, dh, effervescing elephant, pinguino,muir.ceardach

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