There comes a time when even the best-planned travel can go wrong. And it is usually not your fault. When travel chaos happens, remember to focus, resolve and resume.
Last month’s column said to expect the unexpected, like missed connections, lost luggage, stolen items, hotel mix-ups and tourist traps. It happens. The difference between a dream trip and a lost dream trip depends on how you react to the travel adversity. It is not what happens, but rather what you do next.
- Focus. Above all, take action but don’t panic. Be very specific on what you need to do now to resume your trip as planned. Don’t get distracted. Resolution or viable alternatives will be your mantras.
- Lost or stolen credit card? Cancel it now. You are not liable for charges made after you cancel your card. If you don’t know your credit card number (who does?), don’t worry! The credit-card issuer can find it for you by asking you questions, including your Social Security number. Don’t know the number to call? Google it. You just need to know the bank’s name that issued your credit card, like TD Bank or Citibank. Credit cards offer more protection than debit cards. Your credit card can also offer lots of perks in travel drama like lost-luggage protection, overnight-card replacement or referrals to reputable businesses.
- Missed airline connection? Get on the next available flight. If you are waiting in line to talk to an airline customer-service representative, call the airline on your cell phone. The main goal is to get to anyone who quickly can rebook your flight ASAP. Airline seats are hard to find since flights are flying full. If you wait in a long line of pesky travelers ahead of you all trying to get to the same place, you will lose time to snag that last seat.
- Hotel doesn’t have your reservation? Take a printed receipt of your confirmation from the hotel or take a picture of it on your phone. Like airlines, hotels can “oversell” and may want to “walk” you to another hotel. “Walk” is an industry term for when the hotelier intentionally oversells its hotel with the expectation that some people will not show up and the hotel can keep the rate. Insist on being “walked” one night only and to a hotel that is equal or better than the one you book. Immediately post your experience on Trip Advisor. Right now! Hotels are afraid of negative reviews. Be specific and not emotional in your review.
- Airline lost your bags? Airlines are going to lose your luggage. It is the most personal thing that you travel with. And who isn’t mad when you don’t have fresh underwear? Don’t pack items that you will need immediately, including medication, passports, credit cards or valuables. If you are traveling on a “code share” airline ticket — meaning you bought your airline ticket from one airline but you’re flying on another carrier — chances of mishap skyrocket. But remember, unless you are carrying the Hope Diamond, you are likely going to be able to replace everything in your bag — eventually.
Take a lesson from my friend “Timmy.” He bought an Emirates Airline ticket but flew on Jet Blue from Los Angeles to New York on his way to Milan, Italy. He then took a train to Venice so he could depart on a weeklong cruise to Montenegro and Croatia. He made it to Europe, but his bags didn't. Still at the airport, he filed a claim. Then the airline was silent and he had nothing to wear. Being that he was going on a gay cruise, he was able to beg, borrow and (hopefully not) steal replacement clothes. He booked his cruise with a group-tour operator, so he enlisted the help of the cruise line and the tour leader who are “well connected” in the tourism industry. He went about his cruise and let the solutions come from the cruise line and tour operator. Eventually, he had to go to the airport in Montenegro to get his luggage.