When Travel Gets Tricky.

Monday, October 13, 2014

No matter how much of a planner or over planner (raises hand) you are, travel plans can take a sour turn.

You might sleep in on accident.
The airline could lose your luggage.
There could be turbulence, you could get sick.
You could lose your confirmation number or forget a document.
Weather could just ruin just about anything.
Get lost, miss a connection or reservation.
Your flight, train, or bus could be delayed or cancelled.

The list goes on.

I've encountered my fair share of travel mishaps over the years, from having to sleep on the floor of JFK airport atop my luggage to the brakes on a train in Italy going out, and my most recent addition: getting stranded at a bus station.

Catching some ZzZzZzs in Atlanta thanks to a rained out plane and no hotel compensation.

"What do I do now?" 
You want to take control of what you can. Be a proactive decision-maker. If you sit and wait for someone to hold your hand and guide you, you will be waiting a long time. You're a badass world traveler so act like one.

Okay so that might be an excerpt from the pep talk I've given myself in moments like these... But on a serious note...

Be a Tweet-er.

Brands are all-too aware of the power of social media and PR departments take their Twitter accounts pretty seriously nowadays. It's one of the fastest growing tools to get in touch with travelers because not only is it instant, it's all out in the open. In the past I'm sure it was easy to shove a complaint under the rug if it was emailed to them, but ohhh no – you can't hide an unpleasant complaint on Twitter, it's out there for everyone to see. Not good for the company's image and something they'll want to take of immediately.

Recently, I was at Victoria Coach Station in London waiting on a Megabus that I had a confirmed seat on to turn up and take me home. I was there walking in circles for over an hour, soaked from knee to toe, at night, by myself. Both of my phones were dead (see next bit of advice), and I finally decided to leave. I had been up since 4am at this point so in an attempt keep my head on straight and take hold of the situation, I hopped on the Underground to Paddington Station. There, I bought a train ticket, picked up a hot chocolate to keep my spirit up, and sat directly in front of the status board, trying to stay awake for the next train.

When I arrived home at 1am, I deliriously sent a short tweet to @megabusuk:

Not the most eloquent thing I've ever written, but I was exhausted.

By the time I woke up, they had followed me (necessary in order for Direct Messaging) and sent me a tweet. I messaged them with my reservation number as well as a photo of the train ticket I had to purchase in order to get home. Within minutes, I received an email confirmation of my entire bus ticket fare refund. They added that they would be sending me a cheque in the mail within 14 days in order to cover the train fare. An example of good customer service, indeed.

Be prepared.

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." (Benjamin Franklin)

No one can predict what's going to happen. It's much better to spend a bit of extra time preparing than to do nothing and be stuck in a serious pickle later on.

  • Have spare cash in whatever currency you will be needing, in multiple places. Every city has its criminals. I've never personally been mugged *knocks on wood*, but I have had fraudulent activity on my credit cards and had them cancelled with only $10 cash to my name. Don't let that happen to you. 
  • Have a hard copy of taxi phone numbers, addresses, reservation numbers, photo id, etc. I have multiple binders with copies of every important document. On two different continents. BAM. On a smaller scale, keep this kind of stuff with you for day trips in case technology fails. Speaking of....
  • Have the means necessary to charge your phone. (I failed majorly on this on my most recent adventure and it added to the stress.) 
  • Hold on to receipts, email confirmations, and ticket stubs until your journey is done. Had I not kept my train ticket stub, Megabus wouldn't have been able to compensate me for my purchase. And due to their error, in retrospect I came out as a winner: free trip to London and back!
  • Have snacks...or at least the means to get food. Frustation + exhaustion is enough. Don't let yourself get hangry

Be kind.

You know who wants to help a rude customer who is screaming or throwing a diva fit? No one.

^^^ Not travel-related but pretty relevant (and hilarious). Is it that poor employee's fault? No. Is it the fault of the stroller you are hitting? No. Did you turn yourself into the bad guy? Yes.

I know how frustrating it is when travel plans go awry. Exhaustion and a million other factors play into account and can send you over the edge. Keep in mind the scope of the situation (it could always be worse, will this matter a year from now, etc.) You are far more likely to receive compensation or help if you are nice and cooperative to the person trying to assist you. When talking or tweeting to an employee, don't use all caps/yell, curse words, or say anything offensive. Speaking from personal experiences working in various industries, I'd say that 99% of the time, the person getting yelled at is not directly responsible or even involved in the incident. Be firm and clear about what happened and what you would realistically like to be done, and they'll do what they can. It's their job.

Have you ever had travel plans go horribly wrong? How did you deal with it?


  1. The tip about social media is so true! Companies have customer service teams dedicated to social platforms now and you never know what you might get back unless your ask. :)

    xo Jen
    Skirt The Rules

  2. Social Media has really made it easier to get in contact with companies and get quick feedback from them. So glad to hear that company made it up to you!


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