Feb 10, 2011

Travel Disasters – When Everything Goes Wrong

Sometimes no matter how much careful preparation and organisation you do, disasters happen on a trip. The key thing to remember is something probably WILL go wrong on your trip and its outcome will depend on how well you handle it. Here are some examples of travel disasters that have happened to me and close friends and how we dealt with it. No trips were ruined!

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You Lose Your Passport

I received a nervous phone call from my boyfriend when I was in LA last year, something you never want to hear when are severely jet lagged and have been awake for 36 hours. “I think I have lost my passport”. Ok so this is every traveller’s worst nightmare, but it doesn’t mean the end of your trip (In fact this happened right at the beginning of our trip!) Unfortunately there was no Australian consulate in Las Vegas where he was and he was thankfully allowed on a flight from Vegas to San Francisco after showing various forms of ID. I met him at SF airport and we went directly to the Australian Consulate. We explained the situation and that we were flying to Canada in 4 days and had to have a new one issued by then. Several hours later and yay! Emergency passport. Now of course things don’t always go smoothly as this, and often planes are missed and accommodation has to be rearranged (this is when travel insurance comes in handy). But please remember that losing your passport is not the end of the world and certainly not the end of your trip. Just remember to report your passport lost or stolen IMMEDIATELY and high tail it to your consulate.

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You arrive at your hotel and they have never heard of you

This disaster happened on the exact same day as the above lost passport story, what a wonderful way to start a trip! As mentioned previously I was very jet lagged and had been awake for a ridiculous amount of hours. I finally arrived alone to my hotel in LA, so excited to shower and perhaps have a quick power nap. After showing the front desk my hotel confirmation (which I had paid in full for, may I add) the receptionist looked at me worriedly and said “I am sorry we never received your booking and we are completely booked out for the next few nights). I must admit I had a minor meltdown. I don’t deal with things that well when I am sleep deprived and the thought of trying to find last minute accommodation in Beverly Hills on a Saturday night was not ideal. To cut a long story short after hours of fretting and trying to call Expedia back in Australia (who were closed as it was 3am!) it turned out the hotel made a mistake and I was finally allowed to check in. Some tips to avoid this situation – make sure you have a printed confirmation of your hotel booking as well as the bookers contact details (such as Expedia). If you are really worried there is no problem in sending the hotel an email prior to your arrival. However if you are booking through a reputable booking agent (such as Expedia and may I add that they returned my call as soon as their office opened and it was not their fault!) you should be fine.

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You get really sick

There is nothing worse than getting sick on a trip. I recently got the flu on a trip and I was bed ridden for 5 days. Thankfully due to the flexibility of my travel plans I was able to rest up and not miss out on TOO much. But if your illness requires medical attention then there are a few things to keep in mind. If you are in a non-English speaking country and need a doctor, an upmarket hotel is always a good starting place to find an English speaking one. And if you are en route to a doctor or hospital BRING YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE DETAILS WITH YOU. When I was a travel agent a colleague told me of the time she was injured at a summer camp in the USA. A staff member drove her 40 mins to the hospital bleeding profusely and upon arrival she was promptly asked for her travel insurance details. Of course they were back at the camp, 40 mins away. Her friend had to drive back to camp to get the forms and the hospital left her there clutching a bloodied tea towel to her hand. They refused to treat her until they received her travel insurance details. Now I know this is a worse case scenario and the USA is notoriously difficult, but don’t push your luck. Insurance companies often give you a card with the insurance details on it, put it in your wallet!

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Your flight is cancelled

During the recent snow storms in Europe and the UK thousands of flights were cancelled. We were flying in and out of Heathrow, Munich, Paris and many other airports faced with huge delays and cancellations. By some huge stroke of good luck we managed to get where we wanted to go without too many delays. But if you are less fortunate and your flight is cancelled, make sure you obtain the correct documentation from your airline stating that your flight is cancelled. If the cancellation means you are forced to alter travel plans and stay an extra night, you will need all this paper work to lodge a claim with your travel insurer upon return.

What travel disasters have you encountered on your holidays?


2 Comments

  • Great tips, thank you!

    • Thanks Laura, you’re welcome!

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