The holiday high is a condition where you continue in the merry state for days after you are back. But if the holiday plans go awry at any stage, it can cause untold misery. Be it a lost or stolen passport or luggage, a travel tummy or underwhelming accommodation, each is a happiness buster. But you can still save the day, or even better, avoid these common travel problems from the word go.
1. Travel Problem: Shortcomings in services by tour operator
Beautiful images of sandy beaches, lofty mountains and dazzling cities serenade you from travel brochures tantalisingly displayed at travel agencies. During the actual trip, things could all be very well, or you could miss out on a number of promised activities. It may be a sub-standard hotel, lesser or improper meals than agreed upon, or a host of other issues.
How to avoid – No harm in succumbing to charms of brochures, but check, recheck and verify their credentials and reputation. It is best to go to an agency through a reference, or to one that is reputed. Get everything in writing and don’t agree upon anything verbally. If something sounds ambiguous, clarify and get it down in so many words.
How to deal with it – While still vacationing, try and approach the people in charge there. This could be the hotel staff, the cruise staff or the travel operator’s local contact and see if something can be done to ease the issue. If nothing satisfactory is done, collect evidence to back up your claims. Once you are back from your less than perfect holiday and itching to get even, analyse how bad the situation is.
If it was a stray incident in an otherwise smooth trip, consider if you can let it go. If you can’t or the issue was too big to ignore, approach the travel agency as soon as possible after your return. Don’t get confrontational and be reasonable to enable a smoother resolution of things. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you can complain to the head office of the agency in your town, approach an association of travel agents or take legal recourse.
2. Travel Problem: Shortcomings in privately made bookings
If you are net savvy, a bit of research on the internet can get you great deals at dreamy hotels and apartments. But there is a chance that when you arrive, it could turn out to be your worst nightmare. With no third party involved, you are left to resolve the issue on your own.
How to avoid – Go through customer reviews and ratings on reputed websites (make sure the reviews don’t all originate on the same date with similarly glowing reviews, to rule out fake reviews). As an example, Airbnb marks the most reliable hosts with a ‘Superhost’ tag. Chances of going wrong with a Superhost, should be minimal if not nil. If there is an option to pay on arrival or pay a part of the money during or after your stay is over, take it.
How to deal with it – Take it up, politely, with the owner or management. If they turn down your request, you may not even get a refund. Try to contact the local tourist office or approach agencies that rate these establishments. In times when a rave review can make your season, a bad one can break it and they are well aware.
3. Travel Problem: Missed, cancelled, overbooked or delayed flights
You got caught in traffic? Did your earlier flight get delayed? Was there a change in schedule you didn’t know about? Are your valid air tickets useless as there are no seats left due to overbooking? Travel problems like this actually happen more often that we would think.
How to avoid – Don’t miss a flight on account of waking up late or getting stuck in traffic. Always have a back-up plan in case you miss your alarm (such as a wake-up service at the hotel desk). Factor in traffic and then leave a lot of room for unanticipated security check delays and avoid travel problems. It is always good to check in online, a day or half before your flight and have a seat number assigned wherever possible. Sign up for flight alerts in apps, messages or email to keep updated about any changes.
How to deal with it – You may have to shell out some extra bucks for a new ticket. Changes in schedule can leave the rest of your program in doldrums but with canceled or overbooked flights, you can only take the alternative offered. If it was the airline’s fault, do check the rules so as to make sure that you get adequately compensated.
4. Travel Problem: Lost or stolen passport, or custom issues
It is bad, but there could have been travel problems. A lost passport or arriving at customs to find your passport is not valid is indeed worrisome.
How to avoid – Always keep your passport with you when you are travelling. If your passport is in your luggage, then stolen luggage means a stolen passport. Have a photocopy of your travel documents with someone back home. Keep a copy with you in a different place, as an attachment in an email or a pdf on the phone. Also, double check the required validity from the expiry date of your passport for your destination.
How to deal with it – Do a thorough check of all your belongings and see if you can find it. If not, contact your local embassy immediately. Apply for an emergency passport and head back home. Carry some identification with you, along with passport sized photos for easier processing.
5. Travel Problem: Lost or stolen luggage
One of the most common travel problems; it could get stolen from right under your nose as con artists abound in tourist hubs. It is easy to misplace it and remember only when you are far, far away or the airline could lose it.
How to avoid – Take a picture of your luggage before you leave for easy identification in case you need to report it to the authorities. Split up your utilities so that you are not left stranded. Label your bags well and prominently. Retain your baggage tags until you get your bags.
How to deal with it – File an official complaint at the airport if it is lost or stolen at the airport, or with the local police. You can hope for the best solution to these travel problems and wish for a reimbursement.
6. Travel Problem: Stolen cash or credit cards
Well, we all know these can be nearly impossible to recover. All you can do about silent cash is bid it a silent goodbye. Credit cards on the other hand, need to be blocked at the earliest. This makes sure you do not incur huge costs for purchases you did not make.
How to avoid – Stash your cash and cards in different places instead of all together. Good old traveller’s cheques are still the safest way to avoid travel problems. They can be replaced if you keep a record of the details. In Singapore, you can purchase them from American Express or major banks, but they are slowly being phased out. Keep jewellery and valuables safe in crowded areas, or better still don’t take them along.
How to deal with it – Get your complaint registered and then block your card. Get travellers cheques reissued and ask someone back home to send you some money by bank transfer.
7. Travel Problem: Getting sick
This is a sure shot vacation spoiler. You not only miss out on holiday fun but are stuck in a new place with no contacts and no help.
How to avoid – Be a stickler for eating only at clean places where crowds can be seen, which to an extent implies fresh food. Stay away from un-packaged water, ice cubes, raw foods, etc. Remember to buy insurance before your trip and make sure it covers illness, injury and accidents.
How to deal with it – Keep yourself hydrated, keep electrolyte sachets on you, eat light and seek a doctor at the earliest. If you have an injury, high fever or other serious ailment, rush to the hospital.
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