10 ways to handle travel challenges like a pro
More often than not, we tend to bring back home the fondest memories of our vacations and travel experiences. However, the truth is, there are times when things can go south during travel and some unexpected problems may ruin a business or pleasure trip in a second. Sometimes, you either face challenges that are beyond your control or, on the opposite side of spectrum, encounter problems because you didn’t do proper advance travel planning. Here are a few things that might come up during travel and my quick tips on how to resolve them like a pro. There is nothing you cannot handle with a right attitude and a little bit of advance preparation work.
1. Keep an Open Mind and Stay Flexible if Things Don’t Go as Planned.
The best example in this case is a cancelled/delayed flight which might completely jack up your travel plans. Sadly, there is nothing we can do about except try to make most of the existing situation. First of all, I do my best to negotiate with the airline for the best alternative – next flight out, hotel/meal allowance or access to the lounge. Next, depending on what time of the day it is, what entertainment options are available at the airport. Singapore airport, for example, has so much to offer you could spend days there exploring. Some airports also offer free day tours of the city for passengers with long layovers – perfect if you have a few hours to kill.
2. Always Stay Cautious at Even the Safest of Places.
The general rule of thumb is to stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings no matter where you travel. Japan is one of the safest places on earth, but even here you might be subject to minor pick-pocketing. Someone once told me “remember, the locals might be trustworthy, but visiting tourists might not.”
3. Be Prepared for Emergency Situations and Have Emergency Contact Information at Hand.
On one of the Facebook travel forums a lady told a story how she got a serious food poisoning during travel and had to cancel her tours, reschedule return flights and look for a doctor. It’s always good to be ready for situations like this and find out contact numbers for your local embassy. Whether it is loss or theft or wallets, passports, or other important documents, injury, severe illness, or death (if you are with someone) the embassy is there to help you.
It’s also paramount to stay informed on security & safety with your destination country and make sure your family and friends know how to reach you in unexpected emergencies, natural disasters, or civil unrest. For US citizens, State Department offers this great guide for more information.
4. Research Visa Requirements in Advance.
With American passport we are so used to a visa-free travel that during our recent first trip to Australia none of us bothered to see if we needed a visa. My father in law saved the day (entire trip, really) by popping the question and we were all so glad he did! Apparently we do need a visa to travel to Australia! Moral of the story, never assume and always doublecheck. Make sure you double-check the information on visa requirements before you hop on that plane. You know how it goes – better safe than sorry.
5. Dealing with Lost Luggage.
I covered this topic in my other article as well – Top 9 Travel Tips & Lessons Learned. I think it definitely ranks as one of the most inconvenient things that can happen during travel, and I’m sure we have all experienced it at least once. Make sure you have all your valuables (jewelry, laptop, camera, etc.) in your carry-on. This way if your luggage got lost you’d have your loots in your possession and out of harm’s way. I also make sure I pack my make-up kit, toothbrush, deodorant, small bottle of toner with cotton pads, underwear and maybe a change of clothes in my carry-on as well. Again, if the luggage got lost or delayed you’d have at least something on hand to help you freshen up.
6. Plan Ahead and Do Some Research.
I know there are travelers that like to travel with minimal planning and “just wing it” upon the arrival at their destination. As much as I like to be spontaneous, I’m not that type of a traveler. For me, each trip is a significant investment of time and money and I want to make most of it. That’s why I meticulously research and plan things to see, do and eat (with just a little bit of wiggle room for unplanned adventures). More importantly, it’s paramount for me to figure out the logistics of the trip to avoid unnecessary stress: how to get from airport to the hotel? what transportation options are available in the city? What are the best routes for exploring the city? I was recently asked to consult on Kyoto itinerary (you can book my travel consultation services here) and it was obvious that the traveler didn’t look at the map while putting it together. He would be going back and forth between different parts of town instead of optimizing his time by focusing on each part of the city at one time. This is something that can be easily avoided by spending a little time on researching your destination or hiring someone to do it for you (if you can afford it).
7. Picking the Right Travel Partner.
I’ve done lion’s share of solo travel and it most definitely has its benefits, but having someone by your side (family or friends) to share those precious travel moments with is priceless. Having said that, not every person you love might be a good travel partner for you. I have couple of friends who I love to death but do not want to travel with them simply because our travel interests do not align. Similarly, during my recent trip to New York with my mother, I concluded that we are actually not the best travel partners. All she wants to do is shop, with a little bit of exploring. All I want to do is explore the sights and enjoy the local food scene. Now, this is not to say that I will never ever travel with my mom again. Cue my second point: be flexible and learn to compromise. Find things that you like doing together, and allow each other some “me time” for solo activities. It’s also important to be mindful and respectful of your partners’ wishes and interests. If you want them to join you on a tour, you should be ready to join them on a shopping spree, etc.
8. When the Accommodation You Booked Doesn’t Match the Advertisement.
Photos on polished brand websites can be misleading, that’s why I heavily rely on blogger reviews and social media updates to see what the place actually looks like. However, if you arrive to a completely disappointing lodging simply knowing your rights and smartly negotiating the solution can facilitate the right outcome. If you booked through a tour operator, contact them immediately and demand that they fulfill the liability and fix your issue. Similarly, if it’s an Airbnb offers assistance in finding a new place and/or a refund if they hear that the place you booked was a let-down. And in case of a hotel, assert your power as a customer and request an upgrade.
9. Getting Sick During Travel.
First of all, have a habit of packing a first-aid kit that’s equipped with medication you might need (e.g. anti-diarrhea tablets, anti-bacterial hand-wash, painkillers and re-hydration salts). In severe cases when you have to go to a foreign hospital, ask your hotel to provide a translator who can accompany you and help with all the paperwork and procedures. Also, don’t be shy to say no to certain medication if you’re certain you don’t need it. I had a pneumonia in Haiti once and had to go to a local private clinic for treatment. While they were very attentive to me and prescribed necessary treatment, they also wanted to go an extra mile and leave me in the hospital for the night. That was definitely unnecessary in the given situation, but would allow the clinic to charge my insurance company more money. And this brings me to the last point, make sure you check with your insurance provider on what’s covered and what you should be taking.
10. Losing Your Belongings.
I always make copies of my passport before I set off, and always split-store my cash and credit cards. Have a habit of looking onto the seat of the taxi before you close the door. It has saved me more than one time when an item had slipped out of my pocket/bag on the seat without me noticing.
It is hard to predict everything that might go astray during travel, and we are never safe from encountering travel problems, but I hope the tips above will help you prepare and bounce back in no time.
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