Even in the most ideal travel circumstances things can still go wrong. Oh and they will go wrong. Trust me.
For example…your dream hotel doesn’t meet your expectations, the cab driver gets lost on the way to the airport (yep, that happened to me), you lose your concert tickets, you forget your phone charger, a migraine strikes while in the most undesirable location, your ‘ocean view’ room is actually a view of a sandy dune or my personal favorite – buses and trains you expected to take just don’t arrive and no one knows why or when the next one will come. Just a few weeks ago in LA the car rental company made a mistake in forecasting their car inventory so after waiting for an hour to get a car, the best option was to take a minivan. That’s right, I was cruising around LA in a minivan.
These circumstances are just a fact of life when you travel. Coupled with this, Americans are accustomed to a high-level of customer service and efficiency that doesn’t always deliver in more laid back foreign countries.
Below are three common travel mishaps: losing your luggage, getting lost and losing personal belongings (or getting robbed) and a few tips for preventing these mishaps from happening and what to do if its too late for prevention.
*Note: many of these tips assume you do not have access to your Iphone and/or data while traveling, which is often the case!
Losing your luggage:
If you’re the last person standing at baggage claim here are some tips for what to do:
- File a claim at the airlines baggage office, which is generally in the baggage claim area. Share as much information as you have about where you’re going, the address and phone number of where you’re staying, communicate how long you’ll be at that location and then where you’re going next. Be sure to get a luggage tracking number and exact details on how to get more information/contact someone if the luggage doesn’t arrive. This all gets a little more tricky if you’re in a foreign country so be sure to ask lots of questions while you are standing F2F with an airline representative.
- You’ll likely need to buy a change of clothes, maybe a handful of toiletries, etc. Find out what the rules are for the airline to reimburse you for the expenses. Also ask who you should contact at the airline to file a complaint.
Tips for preventing this situation:
- If possible carry-on your luggage vs. checking-in your bag. If you need to check a bag be sure to pack in your carry-on at least one change of clothing, toiletries, medication and any hard-to-replace items such as swimsuits, hiking shoes, etc.
- If you do check a bag be sure to look at the baggage tag before the airline takes the bag to make sure your correct final destination is indicated on the tag.
- Avoid taking flights that require a change in airlines. There are so many opportunities for your bag to get lost in route if the bag has to quickly move between terminals.
You’re lost in a foreign city:
If you find yourself in this situation don’t panic! Here are a few tips to find your way (assuming you don’t have an iPhone to guide you home):
- If you find yourself in an uncomfortable area stay on the bus or in the taxi and talk to the driver to figure out where you are or how to get where you need to be. Don’t start wondering the streets asking strangers for advice if the area doesn’t feel safe.
- If your walking around and lost find a restaurant, gas station or hotel – places frequently visited by tourists, to ask for a map or get help. Also be on the look out for other tourists (who might be carrying a map) or a police officer to get help.
Heading out to a new city? Here are a few tips to prevent getting lost:
- As soon as you get off the bus notice your surroundings. What landmarks do you see? Take photos of the area or street signs. Better yet, ask the driver before you get off where you go to catch the same bus back, and find out what the timetables are for the route.
- Be sure to have the address of where you are going/where you are staying written down.
- If you’ll be taking cabs be sure you can recognize what a ‘legit’ cab looks like. There are always scammer cabs, especially in big cities, looking to take unsuspecting tourists for a ride. Ask your hotel for advice on recognizing what the city-sponsored cabs look like.
- If you won’t have data while traveling during the day look at maps on your phone before you leave your hotel (and while you’re on wifi) and take screen shots of maps you think you’ll want to reference during the day. The screenshots will be in the photo folder on your phone.
“Where did my __ go?”
You realize you have lost a personal belonging and/or suspect its been stolen:
- If you think you have been robbed or your rental car has been broken into be sure to file a police report. Your hotel can help you find the local police station. You’ll need an official police report if you plan to file a claim on your insurance to cover the loss.
- Notify your hotel ASAP if you think something was stolen out of your room. If you think you left belongings somewhere immediately call the restaurants, theaters, museums, etc. you visited to report the missing item.
Best practices for keeping your valuables secure:
- Put your valuables in a safe. If there isn’t a safe in your room put your valuables in your luggage and lock your bag with a standard luggage lock.
- Don’t leave anything exposed in your rental car. Rental cars are easy targets because most have stickers/license plate to indicate its a rental, which make rental cars easy targets for thieves.
- Don’t put your bag or purse on the open seat next to yours while at a cafe or restaurant. Its too easy for someone to quickly grab it and run out the door.
- Just like my grandma used to put her name on every piece of tupperware, you should put your name/phone/email on valuables when you can. For example, I have a business card tapped to the bottom of my laptop. Its easy to assume someone would just steal it if I accidentally left it on a table, but there is always room for an honest person to find it, and because you left your contact information, they can find you.
Check out these blog posts for additional travel tips:
- The Dollars & Cents of Pursuing a Dream to Travel
- The Secret Sauce of a Great Road Trip
- Dont’ Let Hotels Kick Your Vacations Butt
- A Travelers Workout
- Top 10 Ninja Travel Tips