Travel Mishaps: Now What?

Travel mistakes, nightmares, mishaps: they happen to the best of us. Whether it’s arriving at check-in and discovering with horror that your passport’s still sitting at home in that prominent place where you wouldn’t forget it, or being the last one at the baggage carousel realising your bag is off on an exciting adventure without you, even the most idyllic getaway doesn’t always run totally smoothly.

This doesn’t always mean your holiday has to turn into a complete disaster with snaps full of sulky scowls. Here’s our guide to what to do when the worst happens, and better still, how to prevent it happening again. Take heed and enjoy your jollies!


I’ve forgotten my passport!

© Brian A Jackson

This is the one mistake that’s guaranteed to provoke the deepest of sinking feelings, and with good reason; unfortunately, you’re going nowhere without your passport, except home. Step one: don’t freak out! Step two: see if a friend who owes you a rather large favour could drop it off. If this isn’t an option, get your skates on and head home! You might still make your flight if traffic’s on your side. Failing this, admit defeat and arrange alternative flights. If it’s mislaid while you’re away, get yourself to the British Embassy post haste to sort out a temporary passport.

How can I prevent this happening?

Er…check that it’s in your bag before you leave the house? You don’t need us to tell you this, but this is your number one essential item; everything else (money, tickets) can be replaced at the airport. Check and double check! While you’re away, keep it in a safe place and don’t take it out on trips. If it does get lost or stolen during your trip, being able to produce scans or photocopies of the original will help speed up the process of arranging a temporary replacement, so come prepared.


I’ve missed my flight!

I've missed my flight
© Patryk Kosmider

The golden rule for all travel mishaps is not to panic. Easier said than done, but it won’t help and will probably slow things down further. Take a deep breath and speak (very politely!) to the airline staff, even phoning ahead once you’re certain you won’t make it. With a bit of luck, you’ll be put on standby for the next flight at a reduced fee. If the delay was the airline’s fault, you should definitely be able to wangle a new flight for free. Keep an open mind and consider all options, such as flying into a different airport at your destination, or departing on a different day.

How can I prevent this happening?

Double check your alarm the night before. Think about how much time you think you’ll need to get to the airport, then add more! Travel problems are impossible to predict, so keep an eye on traffic reports and always have a Plan B. What’s most likely is you’ll leave bags of time, will fly through your journey and arrive at check-in ridiculously early, but you can guarantee that the one time you try and cut it fine, that’ll be the day the roads/trains go up the spout, according to the Law of Sod. And please, don’t leave your packing until half an hour before you have to leave (not that we’ve ever done this).


My luggage is lost!

Waiting for luggage at the airport
© Meg Wallace Photography

If there’s one place you’re bound to look a bit grim-faced, it’s at the baggage carousel. You’re tired, rumpled and at the mercy of the baggage handlers – and very occasionally, it turns out your bag has boarded the wrong flight. Time to take a deep breath: all is not lost! Your bag hasn’t gone into the abyss; it’ll most likely turn up after a day or two, so just report it at the airport’s lost luggage desk, then head to the nearest supermarket for some emergency supplies. Airlines are supposed to cover costs of anything you need to buy for the first 21 days that your bag’s delayed. And if all else fails, there’s always nudist beaches!

How can I prevent this happening?

Sorry folks, but you can’t. After labelling your bag clearly, you just need to put your faith in the airline and go on your merry way to the gate. Having said that, you can take precautions that mean you’re not left with nothing if your case goes walkabout (flyabout?). Pop some essentials in your hand luggage, and if you’re travelling with others, coordinate your packing so each bag contains some of everyone’s clothes – avoiding days of wearing your other half’s underwear, which can only be a good thing. Otherwise, try and get away with just hand luggage. You’ll most likely save on your flight cost and won’t have to worry about your bag going astray.


I don’t feel very well!

Snowboarding accident
© Dmitry Kalinovsky

Don’t let your entire holiday be blighted by sickness if you can help it. If you’re feeling unwell, taking the time out immediately to rest and drink plenty of water could mean you recover more quickly and are back out there soaking up your surroundings in no time. Do what you would at home and use your judgement; if you have an injury that looks like it warrants a trip to A&E, get yourself down there. Accidents do happen, especially if you’re on an active holiday, so just use your common sense, and the travel first aid kit that you packed – right?

How can I prevent this happening?

Avoid a bout of sunstroke by slapping on the suntan lotion frequently, and if you’re not sure about the local water, don’t drink it and refuse ice in your drinks. A skiing holiday wouldn’t be much fun if you shied away from the slopes, so don’t be afraid to enjoy yourself – but as Forrest Gump was advised, try not to do anything stupid. Above all, make sure you have travel insurance with medical cover, and when travelling to Europe, come armed with your EHIC card which covers you for emergency healthcare. The last thing you want when you’re feeling under the weather in a foreign hospital is a lot of red tape.


I’m lost!

Businessman lost in field using map
© Ana de Sousa

It depends where you are, but you might want to consider this an opportunity for adventure, rather than a crisis. You never know what you might find round the next corner. Our advice would be to continue on your path and keep your eyes open for landmarks to help you get back on track. Ask the locals for directions and pop into a shop to pick up a map. But if you mean ‘lost’ in the sense of ‘at sea’ or ‘in the wilderness’, it’s probably best to call in the professionals – now is not the time to try and muddle through on your own!

How can I prevent this happening?

If you’re determined not to stray from the beaten track, come armed with maps and guidebooks, and don’t forget the compass on your smartphone – it was bound to come in handy one day. It couldn’t hurt to learn a bit of the local lingo in case you need to ask for directions. You’re unlikely to understand the response, but that’s where the universal language of pointing comes in. Write down the name and address of your hotel, or grab their business card, so if you are hopelessly befuddled you can be whisked back to your starting point in a jiffy.

If you’ve suffered any other holiday mishaps or if you have some sage advice for your fellow travellers, the comment box is just below!