Not knowing how to deal with sticky travel situations should they arise could derail your vacation or trip. There’s nothing worse than feeling helpless in a foreign country and not knowing what you can do to sort it out. The thing to remember is that all sticky travel situations have a solution.
1. Lost in a Strange Place
The most commonplace of sticky travel situations is getting lost. Add in the fact that you might be alone and might not speak the language and sticky becomes a little frightening. There are a few ways to deal with being lost in a foreign place: The old fashioned way is to write the name and address of your accommodation down before you venture out. Even if you can’t speak the language, the piece of paper will work for you. If that seems a little too close to home for safety, make a note of your nearest landmark and use that as your base marker instead. Of course, you could always carry a street map with you but modern technology has greatly enhanced the ways to get out of tricky travel situations. GPS functions, apps with street maps and translator apps can all help with being lost in a foreign place. I have also found that if you are really stuck, walk into the nearest hotel and ask them to help – the very least they will do is call you a cab.
2. Locked out of Your Accommodation
If your chosen accommodation is a bed and breakfast, guest house, small hotel or even a hostel, you might find yourself on the wrong side of a locked door at curfew. One thing not to do is try and bang the door down with your knocking – you need to be considerate of the owners and other guests. Knock to see if you get a response. The next thing to try is a telephone call – simple, but it may just work. When there’s nothing doing and you’re locked out, you don’t have too many choices. One is to embrace the nightlife of the area. Find an all-night café or head to nightclub. If you can afford it, check into a hotel for the night. Lastly, if all else fails, head to the waiting room of the train or bus station.
3. A Family Emergency
The call everyone dreads – someone from home gets in touch and an emergency calls you back. This is one of the sticky travel situations because at a time when you mind is preoccupied with loved ones, you’ve got to think clearly about making plans to get back to them as quickly as possible. You obviously need to get a flight, bus or train as soon as possible, but when the dust settles you’ll be happier if you have sorted out the financial side too. Check your travel insurance. Your policy may cover emergency changes or cancellations. In the absence of insurance and having to rebook a flight, some airlines are sympathetic to emergencies and may waive the flight change fees if you call them to explain the situation – they will probably require you to follow up with documentation. Depending on how quickly you have to travel, you may find the best option is to head straight to the airport and get on a standby list. With regards to a hotel you have prepaid for, if insurance doesn’t cover it, you can try negotiating directly with the hotel for a refund or asking for a rebooking at a future date for no charge.
4. Stolen Travel Documents and Credit Cards
One of the nightmare travel scenarios is to find yourself in a foreign country without your passport or credit cards thanks to theft. If you have been clever and made a physical or electronic copy of your passport, you have been smart. And you’ve also been smart if you noted down your credit card numbers and their customer service numbers. The first thing to do in both cases is to notify the local police. Then contact your nearest embassy to sort out a replacement passport. The next thing is to contact your credit card companies to let them know your cards have been stolen. To prevent stolen cards leaving you high and dry, always make sure you have enough cash for a couple of days, and also keep one card away from all the others.
5. No Reservations
While being locked out of your accommodation is one of the easier travel mishaps to deal with, not having any accommodation isn’t. You turn up at your hotel, hostel or B&B to find your room hasn’t been reserved, or due to an overbooking, there’s no place for you. It can send even the calmest person into a bit of a spin, but there is a solution. It is industry practice that the hotel you originally booked finds you an alternative, so if you are not offered it, remind them of this. It is very probable that the alternative will not be equal in quality or location, so it’s time to get your negotiating head on. There is no “take it or leave it.” Talk to the manager and get it in writing that you are entitled to compensation for the inferior alternative. Alternatively, organize your own alternative, pay for it and sort it out on your return.
6. Credit/Debit Card Not Working
If you’re in Europe for a vacation, you’ll need to be aware that most countries now operate chip and pin systems – something not yet common across the US. You fill up at an all night gas station with no attendant and an automatic pump (where it reads your credit card first) or train station to buy a ticket, your card is swiped and the magnetic reader fails. This only becomes one of the sticky travel problems if you haven’t planned ahead. Reliance on one card means you need a backup plan before you travel, so hopefully you’ll have another card or enough cash until you can get to a phone and call your card company to check your card hasn’t been frozen (did you remember to call them to let them know you were going abroad?).
7. Car Parked in a Closed Parking Garage
For whatever reason, you return to the parking garage only to find it locked and after hours, and not a booth cashier in sight. Before you panic, check the information on signage by the kiosk or exit. There might be instructions for after-hours contact or a statement that the gates do open from the inside to allow exit. If not, there’s really only 2 choices. The first is that depending on your travel plans (are you on a road trip, for example), you could actually sleep in the car overnight – but why would you want to if you have booked accommodation? The second is to leave the car and find a cab to take you to your hotel, having first written down the name and address of the parking garage.
The solution to most sticky travel problems is usually a combination of common sense and already having made a backup plan before you travel. Do tell us your stories where you travel experience didn’t quite go as intended.