Common Travel Problems (And How to Avoid Them) Part 1

Travel is one of the greatest experiences you can do. However, there are many pitfalls you can get yourself into. Sometimes the simplest problem can turn an otherwise wonderful trip into a disaster. That’s why it’s important to understand common travel problems. If you know how to handle these simple problems, you’ll be ready for just about anything.

Before the flight:

What to Bring

There really aren’t many items you have to bring with you. All you really need is: money, one set of clothes, prescription medication, a passport (if you’re traveling internationally) and a backpack. That’s it. If you forget your toothbrush or toothpaste, you can buy them when you arrive. The same goes for clothes, medication such as Tylenol, shampoo and other toiletries.

A guidebook is also recommended especially if you’re traveling overseas, but this is another thing you can probably pick up when you’re there. Many hard-core travelers carry so little with them that they fit everything into a backpack as their carry-on luggage.

Missed Flight Departure

Somehow you missed your flight, remain calm. Maybe you overslept or traffic delayed you. Either way, you need to check in with your airline. Tell them your situation and work with them to find a different way to your destination. Be open to later flights or other airports to fly into. Also, be prepared for a rebooking fee. Be polite with the airline agent and eventually they’ll get you to where you want to go.

Flight Delay or Cancellation

There isn’t much you can do to prevent this. Most of the time, flight delays or cancellations are a result of the weather or mechanical issues. You can minimize this by scheduling direct flights to your destination. If you need to make a connecting flight, try to make the layover between flights longer so that any delays won’t make you miss a flight.

If you’re bumped from a flight due to overbooking, than check in with the airline since you probably can get lodging and food compensation. If the flight is cancelled due to weather or mechanical issues than you don’t receive anything and have to wait. Just keep up to date with the flight schedule and make changes as needed.

After the Flight:

Lost or Damaged Luggage

Unless you’re a hard-core traveler using only their carry-on backpack as their source of luggage, you’ll face the chance that your luggage will be lost. About 1 in 150 travelers will experience lost luggage. If your luggage is lost, report it immediately and fill out a form. Keep all your documents including airline tickets, forms, baggage claim checks and any correspondence. Make sure to check if there is any compensation you can receive for delayed luggage. Most luggage is found and brought to you within a few hours to a few days. The airline will typically bring it to you so you don’t even need to go to the airport to pick it up.

In total, of all the luggage lost only 2% is never found. If that happens, most airlines will reimburse you. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for damage. Most airlines won’t reimburse your for any general wear and tear; however, if you feel the damages are substantial, make sure to report it to them right away.

All permanently lost luggage in the United States ends up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. It is eventually sold off for a profit.

Car Rental Cancellation

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, your car rental place might assume you’re not coming. In that case, they may rent your car to another person. To avoid this happening, make sure they know your flight number so they know about delays. Also, keep their phone number and confirmation number with you so you can call them and let them know if you’re going to be late.

Finding A Place to Stay Once You’ve Arrived

This is a big concern among first time travelers especially if you‘re traveling overseas. In reality, it’s not difficult to find a place to stay as long as you’re in a touristy area. If you have a guidebook, then pick a place that sounds good to you and take a cab there. If it’s full when you get there, just walk around and find another place. There will be one nearby. You can also ask if there is somewhere nearby you can stay at.

Jet Lag

You can minimize jet lag several days before your trip. Adjust your sleep schedule a few days before you go and you won’t feel the jet lag much after you arrive. Drink plenty of water and get lots of exercise. That will reduce jet lag’s effect.

Check out part 2 about what to do when problems happen during your trip.

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  1. No matter what I’ve done, I’ve never been able to avoid jet lag. I’ve tried every trick in the book and when I fly from east to west, I’m fine, but from west to east, I’m done!

    • I’ve heard that going west to east is harder when it comes to jet lag. It’s never affected me more than east to west. For me, it’s more about how long I’ve been flying. It was worst when I flew to China. 12 hours later, I was dead tired.

  2. AA lost my luggage when I flew to London. I was so ticked off! Our plane was “too heavy” on the flight from JAX to MIA and we were told that some of the luggage was moved to another plane and that they ensured it would make it to London when we did. Of course, it didn’t. I was in London and my bag was in Chicago. I ended up washing my socks and underwear in the sink of my hotel room and walked around in the same clothes for 2 days. You better believe I’ll be a carry-on only girl for my next overseas trip!

    • That’s horrible. If the plane was too heavy they should have just sent your luggage on the next flight. I think in your situation I would have bought a pair of socks, underwear and a shirt just so I could change them out.

      I’ve never had luggage lost on me, but I thought I did once. I had to check a suit I bought in Thailand since I had no room whatsoever in my carry-on for it. It was oddly shaped so it took an extra hour for it to get off the plane.

  3. This is a great post. I’ve had some unique travel circumstances this year, that have turned out in the end OK but result in a lot of confusion and hard feelings at the time. But it seems that all of the problems are a result of the fracturing of job responsibilities and roles.

    The first is how to overcome when airlines partner on flights. It’s really difficult then if you miss a flight cause your original flight is delayed to be able to get the problem resolved in just one conversation. The agents have tended to lay blame with the other airline and send me to talk with them. Then I talk to the other airline and they say they can’t do anything cause the information is stored and locked in the other airline. And then I get to start the conversation all over again.

    The second is when I’m taking a domestic flight to a city to board my international flight. The agent on the domestic flight was unable to handle questions relating to the international flight even though it was the same airline.

    I’m hopeful these are isolated instances specific to me, but with partnerships increase I keep running into this more often.

    • This would be really frustrating. I can imagine dealing with two different airlines that keep sending you to each other would be confusing and difficult. Personally, I think the fracturing of job responsibilities is a good thing. It makes things more efficient and cheaper. However, there’s always a chance for error and confusion like this. Hopefully, with time, they’ll iron out errors like this so it won’t happen anymore. I’m glad that you got it taken care of though.

  4. It’s funny that my anticipation of travel problems is always worse than the real thing. Sure, unexpected things come up, but somehow I cope much better and think much faster than I think I will.

    I usually always have a place to stay the first night though… I can’t relax on the flight if I don’t know where I’m going to…

  5. Hi Steve. Very informative post. I love it when airlines hold connecting flights if my flight is delayed. This happened, yet again, when I was traveling from Australia to the UAE. Our plane was struck by lightening and had to be held and checked over for 2.5 hours in Australia before we boarded. We ended up landing in Kuala Lumpur for my connecting flight at exactly the hour and minute it was supposed to be taking off. I rushed to the gate to discover that, because there were several people on that Australia flight who were also on the flight to the UAE, they held the plane for one hour just for us. That was a big relief!

  6. As you said, it’s always important to be polite when you request something that has been caused by your fault – sure, the situation sucks but yelling at the poor attendant will not get you any further. In all cases, remain calm!

    Although I disagree with the first tip – I always, at all times, carry a small emergency kit that contains advil, gravol, decongestive pills, band-aids, nail file and such. I only take a few of these items and make it fit in a tiny pencil case, so I keep everything handy if needed.

    I think the key is to control the things you can actually control (car & accommodation cancellations and such) but for delays and lost luggage, there simply isn’t anything you can do. Just deal with the situation – nothing can be perfect.

  7. Hello Steve really a good post.The post provide a good information and the knowledge of the common problems which are generally faced during time of travel.thanks for reminding me such common problem, i don’t even think about them during my travel.

  8. My friend and I played it by ear when we traveled to Rome from Venice. We ended up going to 2 different hotels looking for an open room. The second was nice enough to make a few phone calls for us and found a room. We ended up with a really nice room and a great story. I think travel has definitely taught me patience and optimism lol.

    • Hey Liz, I love stories like that. Someone people wouldn’t do travel like that, but I do that all the time. I’ve never gone without finding somewhere to stay. And usually I end up with a great story to tell about it.

  9. Hi all, I’d like to express to us a bad experienced traveling in Brazil, exactly @Rio de Janeiro, you should have a lot of take care with your credit/debit card, the most of people pay with them to each store/loya/market/bar even on the beach if you want to buy some sodas, water, snacks, so pay attention and don’t lose sight the card to anything, you card could be cloned, is a common problem there.

  10. akansha says:

    Really nice post. I have faced the similar issue while travelling to Florida. I lost my documents folder. Had really bad time. After that i came across Zoomlee App. The best and helpful app i have come across. It stored all my documents in it and i don’t have to carry my documents everywhere i go. It has made my life much more easier. Check it out on :

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