travel mishaps

Travel Mishaps: Embrace the Unexpected When Things Go Wrong

No matter how much you plan ahead for your trip, things can go wrong. I’m talking about those unforeseen issues that happen due to circumstances beyond your control. One thing going wrong can throw you off your game and lead to further problems. Dealing with these travel mishaps can be incredibly frustrating. It can drain your energy and test your patience.

It doesn’t matter if you are a newbie or a seasoned traveller. When things go wrong on the road, chances are your vacation has just become a lot more expensive. Not only does that put a dent in your wallet, but it can also damper your experience. Finding yourself in these types of situations is never pleasant.

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I’ve had my share of travel mishaps and have learned that no matter how well you plan things, travel mishaps will happen. How you deal with the unexpected thrown at you makes a difference. Here are my tips to help you navigate the unexpected and make the most out of any situation.

Most common travel mishaps

Whenever things go wrong while you’re on the road, it might seem like the end of the world. To give you some perspective, travel mishaps can happen to anyone, even seasoned travellers.

While avoiding every mishap may not be possible, being aware of what can go wrong can help you take precautions and handle any obstacles more effectively should they arise. Here are some of the most common travel mishaps that can happen to you:

  • Lost or delayed luggage
  • Flight, train, bus, ferry delays or cancellations
  • Booking errors or accommodation issues
  • Theft or loss of personal belongings or documents
  • Health-related problems, such as illnesses or injuries
  • Transportation mishaps, such as missed connections or lost tickets
  • Serious injury, bodily harm or robbery
  • Falling victim to travel scams
  • Money-related issues, including currency exchange problems or credit card complications
  • Natural disasters, unforeseen events, or weather conditions
  • Cultural misunderstandings or misinterpretations
  • Language barriers and communication difficulties
travel mishaps
Travel mishaps happen to us all

Tips for staying sane during Travel mishaps on the road

Travelling can be an exhilarating adventure filled with unforgettable experiences and new discoveries. However, unforeseen crises or unexpected challenges can arise, putting a strain on even the most carefully planned trips. During such moments, staying calm, focused and maintaining your sanity amidst the chaos is crucial. Whether it’s a natural disaster, political unrest, or personal emergencies, it is essential to have strategies to navigate travel mishaps and crises while travelling.

1. Stay calm and assess the situation

While this might seem like a bit of obvious and even ridiculous advice, staying calm is the key to dealing with any situation. It’s natural to feel the panic rise inside and tears fill your eyes when travel problems arise, but that won’t help you deal with a crisis. In fact, it can make things worse. Keeping a level head will help you make better decisions. Focusing on details and problem-solving can also help you stay calm to find the best solution.

Take a deep breath and remain calm when faced with a problem on the road. It’s okay to pause and regroup before you do anything else. Assess the situation objectively to help you understand the severity of the problem and potential solutions. Do you need medical assistance? Need to file a police report? Figure out what you can control and what is out of your hands. This process will help you find a solution.

travel mishaps

I recently missed my flight from Rome to Athens because my train was two hours late. I was stressed out and frustrated, trying to find another flight and then looking for lodgings in Rome since I couldn’t get another flight the same day. It felt like everything was super expensive, and I would have to spend my evening and night at the airport. Taking a quick mental break and regrouping my thoughts enabled me to find another flight the next day and a hotel for the night.

2. Figure out the next steps

Once you have assessed the situation, you can decide what to do next. What that looks like will depend on your particular situation. Travel mishaps that include missed flights, trains, ferries and so on can usually be solved by buying another ticket. When it comes to lost or stolen documents like bank cards, passports, etc., you might have to file a police report and contact your country’s embassy or consulate. 

Your travel insurance might cover the extra ticket you buy because of the missed connection, depending on the reason. Make sure to read the fine print carefully before you leave on vacation, just in case. Also, notify anyone at your destination who might be awaiting your arrival. That can include anyone from the hotel you’re staying at, the driver picking you up or the organizer of the tour you’re going on. 

travel mishaps

I’ve missed trains, ferries and flights in the past. I’ve also mistakenly booked the wrong flight, which was all resolved by having to buy another ticket. On my last trip to Greece, I thought I had lost my bank card when it turned out that the machine had eaten it. I froze my card using my banking app and used a digital alternative until I could return to the bank the next day. Turne out the machine had a problem with keeping cards, and I got mine back after showing my ID. 

3. Follow local authorities and guidelines 

Staying updated on the latest information and guidelines local authorities provide before you travel is a good practice. This is especially crucial if you’re travelling to a place with local unrest or other potential hazards. However, you should always follow guidelines and instructions once you’re at a destination and adhere to any safety protocols or travel advisories. This will ensure you stay informed and make informed choices.

I learned this lesson first-hand when I was on a train from Rome to Catania, and Italy decided to shut its borders because of Covid. The news came as I was about to disembark in Catania, and I had to quickly figure out what closing the borders meant for me. Luckily, Italy allowed foreigners to leave, so I booked the next flight out the following day and got back to Canada before it shut its borders.

travel mishaps

While I made a lot of smart choices on that trip (you can read about it here), others were not so lucky. If you ever find yourself in a situation where evacuation is necessary, contact your country’s local embassy or consulate for information and instructions. It’s generally a good idea to familiarize yourself with where those offices are in the country you’re visiting.

4. Stay in communication with friends and family 

It’s always easier to deal with travel mishaps when travelling with someone else. Unfortunately, travel problems can arise when you’re on your own, which can be even more stressful, especially in a foreign country. When you’re in a place where you don’t speak the language and don’t know anyone, it can make dealing with any situation more challenging. 

travel mishaps

Keep your loved ones informed about your situation and well-being. Regularly communicate with them to provide updates and seek support if needed. Their encouragement and reassurance can go a long way in maintaining your sanity during challenging times. Sharing your predicament is comforting and might lead to unexpected solutions, as you never know who might have a connection or a way to assist when you need help. 

5. Seek local assistance

If you require immediate help or advice, contact local authorities, emergency services, or travel agencies. They have experience dealing with crises and can provide you with appropriate guidance or necessary support.

Local assistance can also come from the people you meet on the road. Don’t underestimate the proverbial kindness of strangers that can make a massive difference in dealing with travel mishaps. That can be anything from a kind word in your language to someone helping you find your hotel in the middle of the night or taking you to the hospital when you’re sick.

travel mishaps

Many years ago, I got very sick in Brazil and thought I had pneumonia. As I didn’t speak or understand Portuguese, I had to rely on a local business contact to get me to a hospital and get treatment. Similarly, when I left my jacket at a hotel in Greece, the concierge at the next hotel helped me contact the previous one and track it down.

6. Adapt and be flexible

During a crisis, plans may change unexpectedly. Embracing flexibility and adaptability to accommodate shifting circumstances is the key to making the best out of a bad situation. A backup plan or alternate routes can alleviate stress and help you navigate the crisis more effectively. Making decisions in stressful situations is also an excellent skill to have or develop as you deal with travel mishaps.

Sometimes the best way to deal with a disaster on the road is to change your perspective. It’s not a skill I was born with but one I developed over time. One thing that has helped me deal with travel problems is approaching each situation as a problem-solving challenge rather than a sky-is-falling debacle. It’s made a huge difference in how I approach any difficulties on the road.

7. Don’t neglect your well-being

When you’re hungry, thirsty or exhausted, making good decisions is harder. Add the stress of something going wrong, and you have a recipe for disaster. Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being is crucial to staying sane during a crisis. Get sufficient rest, eat well-balanced meals, hydrate and engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Prioritize self-care even in challenging situations.

travel mishaps

When I missed my flight from Rome to Athens, I was exhausted when I got to the airport. I also haven’t eaten as I expected to do so while hanging around the airport for a couple of hours. In the chaos of running to the airport from the train, dealing with the rude staff at the counter and stressing over booking a flight and lodgings, I left my backpack with my laptop and drone at the airport.

I realized it was missing when I was on the train from the airport to the city centre. I was mad at myself for leaving it, which made things worse. I had to go back to the airport and miraculously found it on the bench where I left it. This would have been a worse story than it was, but in the process, I learned that there is a police station at the airport where you can report lost or stolen property.

8. Keep track of all documentation

When the unexpected happens, you will need to make other arrangements and incur additional costs. This can include paying for new flights or medical treatment received abroad. If you have travel insurance and the travel issues are covered, you’ll still need receipts to submit your claim later.

travel mishaps

Documenting incidents and collecting evidence might also be necessary for insurance or replacing your documents. If anything was stolen, having a police report can help you get a new passport or bank card or file insurance claims. Keep all the paperwork or digital receipts safe till you can deal with them when you get home or to your next destination.

What travel mishaps can teach you

Travel is one of those things that can teach you many things, including survival skills and how to deal with stress under pressure. While travel mishaps can make you feel vulnerable and powerless, they can also provide valuable lessons and insights.

  • Resilience: Dealing with travel mishaps requires resilience and the ability to bounce back from setbacks. It teaches you to adapt to unexpected situations and find alternative solutions.
  • Problem-solving skills: Travel mishaps often require quick thinking and solving unexpected problems on the fly. You will learn how to think on your feet, evaluate options and come up with creative solutions.
  • Preparedness: Travel mishaps highlight the importance of being prepared. They teach you to anticipate potential issues and take preventive measures, such as packing essential items, having backup plans, and obtaining appropriate travel insurance.
travel mishaps
  • Patience: Travel mishaps often test your patience as you navigate challenges and unexpected delays. You’ll have to learn to remain calm, patient and understanding in difficult situations.
  • Cultural understanding: Many travel mishaps can arise due to cultural misunderstandings. Use this as an opportunity to learn and gain a deeper understanding of other cultures’ different customs and communication styles.
  • Independence and self-reliance: When faced with travel mishaps, you learn to rely on yourself and trust your instincts. This can help you develop a sense of independence and self-confidence as you overcome challenges on your own.
  • Flexibility: Travel mishaps teach you the importance of flexibility and adaptability. When things don’t go according to plan, being open to change can lead to new and unexpected experiences.
  • Appreciation for the journey: Travel mishaps can make you appreciate the smoother parts of your trip. They remind you to be grateful for the positive aspects of your travel experiences and to cherish the moments when everything goes right.

Prepare for the worst before travel

While being prepared doesn’t guarantee you’ll avoid travel mishaps, it can help you better deal with potential problems. By thinking about what could go wrong and having a backup plan, you’ll be better prepared for what might come your way.

travel mishaps
Travel insurance for dealing with travel mishaps

Get insurance 

Travel insurance is the first step to covering yourself in case of emergencies and travel mishaps. Make sure to read the fine print to know exactly what is covered and what isn’t. Your credit card might also offer additional protection in case of illness or trip interruption

Keep copies of important documents 

Keep electronic copies of your passport, ID, travel insurance and itinerary, and other important documentation. I usually keep a copy on my phone and send myself an email with the documents attached in case I lose my phone. 

travel mishaps

Save contact information 

Keep important contact information, name of your accommodations, car rental booking and necessary addresses on hand. The same goes for contacts for your bank, embassy, consulate, etc. 

Leave plenty of room for travel

Allow enough time to get from one place to the next and give yourself some buffer room in case your flight is delayed or you have to deal with unexpected traffic. 

Get a first-aid kit

Include any medication you might need while you’re away, and include additional things like painkillers, allergy meds or bandaids. Customize it according to your needs, destination and activities. 

travel mishaps

Bring portable chargers and adaptors

Keep a set of cables, chargers and adaptors handy in case your phone runs out of battery. There are many travel-designed accessories for your phone, so make sure you have one handy. 

Don’t forget about money

It’s always a good idea to have cash on you in the currency of the country you visit. While many destinations offer digital payment options, you don’t want to be surprised when you need a cab late at night, and it only takes cash. Make sure to bring more than one form of credit card and keep them separate in case one gets lost or stolen. 

Final thoughts on dealing with travel mishaps

I know that it’s easy to get caught up in the moment when things go wrong. Sometimes it might even feel like bad luck is following you, especially when bad things keep happening. It takes one lousy problem to throw off the whole trip, and if you dwell on it, you’ll be thrown off your game, leading to more mistakes. I know because I’ve been there.

Travel mishaps are not uncommon, as they can happen to anyone. Embracing challenges is part of the travel experience. As the saying goes, “It’s the journey that matters,” and in a way, that can be more life-changing than the destination itself. By adopting a positive mindset and approaching travel mishaps as opportunities for learning, you can transform setbacks into memorable moments that shape your travel journey. Travel, after all, is an adventure.

Travel Resources

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Check out my travel resource guide for more resources to help you plan your trip.

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