When Bad Luck Hits: Common Travel Misfortunes and How to Overcome Them

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Bad luck (or whatever you want to call it) isn’t just limited to Friday the 13th.  It can happen to anybody, and when problems arise during traveling it can spoil a vacation.  Take a deep breath and don’t let it ruin your day.  Here are five common travel misfortunes and how to work around them.

Your Luggage is Delayed

First of all, don’t panic.  Most of the time, luggage is merely delayed and not entirely lost.

Make your first mission finding an airline representative to talk with — having someone in person can clear up a lot of issues more easily than a call center.  As you talk with the representative, keep your cool.  The people who are helping you find your luggage are not the ones who lost it, so there is no point in taking your frustration out on them.  Stay polite and be friendly.

If you have to fill out a claim report, provide as much information as possible in case your luggage tag was broken or misplaced in transit.  Think about any identifiers that will help your black bag stand out from the crowd: maybe it has a red ribbon tied to the handle.

>>>>> Related Post: How to Find Your Luggage at the Airport — Easily

If you’re just starting your travels, leave your hotel information with an airline employee so your suitcase can be delivered to the appropriate location as soon as they find it.  A cell phone number is helpful to share as well.

Lastly, don’t give up.  I’ve only had a delayed bag once, and it was delivered within 12 hours, so all in all it wasn’t a big deal.  The airline was very good about giving me status updates when they found it and made arrangements to deliver it to me.  If they don’t provide updates, be proactive.  Call with your official claim number to stay on your case.

Be Prepared:

  • Not checking a suitcase is one way to avoid this problem, but even carry-ons get gate checked sometimes on regional aircraft.
  • Make sure you have an ID tag on the outside of your suitcase, but also keep your name and contact information (perhaps even an itinerary) tucked inside each suitcase just in case your tag is separated from your luggage.  It won’t keep your luggage from being delayed, but it can help find it more quickly.
  • Cross-pack when you travel with a companion.  Put half of your clothes in each others’ bags, so if one of you has a delayed suitcase, you’ll still have some of your things until the rest of your belongings are delivered.
  • Pack a small carry-on with at least one change of underwear, any medications you need to keep with you, and anything else that is imperative for the first day or two of your travels.

Read More: How to Avoid Airline Lost Luggage

Your Flight is Cancelled

Canceled flights are always a pain, but they’re the absolute pits if it’s the beginning of a trip you were really looking forward to.  Unfortunately, no solution will be as good as your originally scheduled flight, but hopefully you can find a suitable alternative.

Start by keeping some perspective.  The airline has no control over weather, which is the cause of a significant amount of cancelled flights.  Remember that aircraft heads all over the world in any given day, so even if it’s clear weather where you are, it could be bad weather at your destination or anywhere inbetween, or even at an entirely different airport where the aircraft was  coming from.  And if your flight was canceled because of mechanical reasons, be thankful they discovered it now instead of at 30,000 feet.

Get in line immediately to work out other arrangements.  That doesn’t mean you physically have to stand in line at the gate — you can get in line on the phone as well.  There are probably only one or two agents at the gate helping out 100 people who need to make alternate plans, but on the contrary, there can be hundreds of phone agents who only need to help 1 or 2 customers.  Call that 1-800 number!

Be flexible with alternatives.  Waiting for the next available flight is usually not the only option.  Maybe you can connect through a different city to get home if the weather at your layover airport is the issue.  Perhaps you can switch to a partner airline.  Maybe you can fly from an entirely different airport (i.e. LGA instead of JFK) to still get to your destination in a reasonable amount of time.

Related Post: 8 Secrets to Coping with Flight Delays

Be Prepared:

  • If you know there’s a good chance of a weather cancellation, be proactive.  Often, an airline will let you switch to a different flight simply by calling and asking when a weather advisory is in place, which could save you headaches down the line.
  • Prep your cell phone by having the airline’s phone number programmed as one of your contacts.  If you’re an elite member, use the designated phone line for faster service.
  • If you need to talk to someone in person, try a customer service desk or in the airline club lounge rather than at your specific gate.  They may not be quite as busy (especially if it’s a cancellation that only pertains to your specific flight and not a weather issue) and a short walk could save you time compared to standing in line with 200 other passengers.
  • Schedule your flights in a way that minimizes the possibility of problems.  Try to avoid tight connections or late-night flights which can be outright canceled if they’ve been affected by a cascading effect of earlier delays.
  • Build time into your schedule.  If you have plans to meet up with a group tour or cruise that leaves at a set time, try to fly in a day early.  Having 24 hours in-between your arrival and the group’s departure will help minimize the effects of setbacks (and keep you less stressed and jetlagged, too!).

It’s Midnight and It’s Too Loud to Sleep!

Hotels with paper-thin walls are annoying enough as it is, but when you have unruly neighbors it can be a nightmare.  A good night’s rest is important whether you have a business meeting the next morning or if you are simply vacationing to relax.

If it’s late and you’re settled in bed, the last thing you want to do is pack up and move to a new room, so use your best judgment.  If your neighbor is in the middle of a noisy cell phone call, wait it out for fifteen minutes and the problem may solve itself.  If it’s a bigger issue, call the front desk before it gets worse.  Although you may be tempted to politely knock and ask a neighbor to quiet down (they may not even realize how the sound carries and be happy to comply), calling the front desk establishes a record right from the start in case the issue escalates.  Plus, your neighbor is more likely to listen to a staff member who has more authority in matters like this.

If the noise continues, request a different room.  If the hotel’s not full, you can probably be moved.  Is it inconvenient?  Yes.  Is it worth it to get a better night’s rest?  Probably.  If the hotel’s full, ask again in the morning as some guests check out so at least you can get a quiet room for the remainder of your stay.

You should never wait until check-out to let them know of the issue (there’s nothing they can do to ensure a comfortable stay at that point).  However, at the end of your stay, you can ask for a comment card.  Hopefully you can commend a staff member for their help in remedying the situation, but in a worst case scenario, this ensures that management is aware of the issue.

Be Prepared:

  • At check-in, ask for a quiet room.  Adjoining rooms can let in more noise and rooms near elevators may have more passerby traffic.  Hotel staff know which wings of the hotel are less booked or are further away from street noise and accommodating you in a quiet room from the start means you won’t have to move in the middle of the night.
  • Do some research before you show up.  Know ahead of time if a hotel is at a busy intersection or near a construction zone where daily work can interrupt naps (or sleeping in!) and choose a hotel that fits your needs.
  • Pack earplugs.  Of course you’d rather get a good night’s sleep right from the start, but you’re better safe than sorry.

It’s Raining

Paris in the rain
Paris on the least rainy of all our days.

Sometimes bad luck hits and there’s not even anyone to complain to!  Here it is, you booked a vacation hoping to spend glorious days outside and instead – it’s raining!  First and foremost, remember that even though the situation is not ideal, weather is a temporary condition.  Your plans may be rained out at the moment, but for all you know, it could clear up in an hour.

The best tip here is to simply be flexible and consider alternatives:

  • Juggle your plans around a little.  If you were planning on spending the day outside hiking but the next day you were going to visit a museum, simply switch your days around to go with the flow.
  • Take a day trip.  It might be raining where you are, but an hour away the weather could be perfect.
  • Eat!  Food can be one of the most lasting impressions of a culture and taking the time for a true meal experience is a great way to pass the time with your companions.
  • See a show.  Being a spectator at an event can be a really fun way to spend the afternoon, whether you choose performing arts or an indoor sporting event.  Ask the hotel concierge for ideas.
  • Take a nap.  If you’re well-rested today, then tomorrow you can hit the ground running and make up for lost time.

Be Prepared:

  • Pack a rain jacket or other outerwear that protects against the weather.  There’s no rule that says you have to stay inside (barring treacherous weather), and a lot of outdoor activities can still be done even during moderately bad weather.  After all, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”.
    >>>>> Related Post: How to Hike in the Rain
  • Research climates ahead of time.  While you can’t avoid bad weather entirely, you can do your best to avoid things like hurricane season.
  • Build an extra day or two into your trip.  By having extra time, if you have to skip out on a day’s plans, you won’t be disappointed since you’ll have another chance to squeeze it in later on.
  • Create a list of rainy-day activities ahead of time so you’re not caught offguard if bad weather strikes.  Every destination has indoor activities, you just have to know where to find them.

And by the way…if on vacation you ever find that your pants are still damp (washed them out in the bathtub the night before?), pull out that hotel hairdryer.  Ten minutes and you’ll be good to go 😉

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Have you ever had bad luck while traveling?  How did you overcome it?

2 thoughts on “When Bad Luck Hits: Common Travel Misfortunes and How to Overcome Them”

  1. Our bad luck story is having a phone stolen on a very crowded Mexico CIty metro train. we had become very complaisant about leaving the phone in an outside pocket. Our fault! Fortunately everything else (passports, money, credit and debit cards) were in secure inside pockets or money belt. I was able to deactivate the phone by logging into my Google account on my iPad and following their instructions. All very annoying but live and learn!

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