Destinations

Tips for when your travel plans go awry

Peta McCartney - AAP

Whether it’s fog or mechanical problems, natural disaster or human error, sometimes the planets just don’t align and your well-organised travel plans can suddenly turn into the tour bus from hell.

Most of us set off on holidays without a care in the world, highly anticipating our latest adventure, hoping to take better selfie stick shots than our friends and making everyone back home jealous with updates and posts on our social media sites.

We want amazing sights, unbelievable food and awesome experiences and most of the time the travel gods are pleased and hand us just that. We arrive home rested, excited to share our travel stories and with our next destination already in the planning stages.

Occasionally, there are glitches and it’s how we deal with those pesky problems that can colour the whole landscape of our time away from home and turn the adventure into a battle ground. All that’s needed is patience. Sometimes a lot of patience.

Here are some helpful hints and strategies for getting through those problems from the slightly awkward to the downright impossible.

1. Have great travel insurance

While it is time consuming and a total pain, reading the fine print really is essential if you want peace of mind.

Not all things can be covered – that bad haircut or tattoo you could later regret – but a good insurance policy should cover you for most of the normal glitches. As someone famous once said, “Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.”

2. Research, research,research

Recommendations from friends aside, make sure you know what to expect from your destination. Travelling outside peak times may be easier on the budget, but experiencing cyclone season or travelling into potential conflict zones or being unaware of social etiquette in unfamiliar areas can land you in trouble.

There are enough websites, online forums and travel guides nowadays for this to be unnecessary. Make this part of your travel journey, which can build anticipation and excitement ahead of your departure date.

3. Book and pay ahead of time where possible

Prepaying for accommodation and tours locks you in to a particular time and place giving you certainty and helps budgeting. Many attractions are more expensive on site, so paying up front does save dollars. Also, a well-planned itinerary saves you precious time and allows for flexibility.

4. Keep calm

Try not to lose your temper. While our first reaction may be to rant and rage at airline stewards, hotel staff or tour operator, a cool, calm approach could turn a disaster into something bearable. If the problem you’re facing is unavoidable, a patient, considered approach can sometime win friends and get you upgrades ahead of an angry mob.

Generosity of spirit in the face of adversity may not win any Nobel peace prizes, but when you’re accommodating and understanding you keep your blood pressure down and win admiration.

Think about all the great travel stories you’ll be able to dine out on when you get home!

5. Pack for emergencies

Be a pessimist and pack a carry on bag for the worst case scenario.

Travelling light is what today’s explorer does best. Long gone are the days where two suitcases packed with an outfit for every occasion was the norm. However, bags often go astray and occasionally they never return.

This is why it’s so important to make your carry-on luggage count. Make sure you pack an emergency change of clothes, plus toiletries in your carry-on. If you are unfortunate enough to lose your luggage for a few days, at least you won’t have to wear the same set of undies the next day.

6. Carry emergency funds

Not long ago a couple of volcanoes blew their tops, disrupting the travel plans of thousands of people. Make sure your travel budget has enough backup to cover extra accommodation and living expenses.

Whatever you don’t use can always go into the kitty for your next trip, but if you’re caught out, you could end up in worse debt than you planned, especially if your travel insurance (see first point) doesn’t cover you.

7. Leave home safe and secure

There is nothing like returning home to a disaster. The power went off and your freezer smells like the inside of last month’s kitty litter when you walk in the front door. Or worse still, you’ve been burgled while enjoying the sun beside your five star hotel pool.

Tell neighbours and friends what your plans are and get someone to collect the mail, take in the rubbish bins and give the place a lived-in look.

Getting a house-sitter may be an option, but if not, a few simple precautions will avoid any home disasters.

8. Children have different needs. Be organised

Small children often react with tantrums when they’re tired. Or hungry. Or both. Or bored. Or all three.

Many families resort to electronic devices nowadays to soothe the travel process. Insist that your children only get the use of these devices while in transit or when dealing with delays or their use could not have the distraction effect you’re after.

Other options include books, colouring activities, or keeping a diary of their travels. Keep some fruit, snacks and/or sandwiches and plenty of water for the sudden hunger pangs. Also have a warm jacket and their favourite toy for the times they need to sleep.

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