Worst Case Travel Scenarios – Five Disasters and How to Deal with Them

Travel is an exciting, enriching experience that millions of people around the world enjoy. It’s not always puppies and rainbows though, sometimes disaster strikes when we least expect it. With a little preparation and information though, you can make the best out of these true travel disasters.

1. All money/passport stolen – This is one of the greatest fears we all have when we travel. Whether it happens by accident or as a result of a robbery, being stranded in a foreign country without any cash, cards or ID is a frightening idea. I’ve never had my passport stolen, but I was cut off from access to money while traveling in Israel thanks to identity theft. In retrospect, I should have had a plan in place, it would have saved me a lot of angst. In that situation, Western Union came to the rescue as my partner wired money from home. Now whenever we travel we make sure we have a Travelex preloaded card in case our debit cards are frozen. We also make sure we never carry all of our cash/cards in the same place. In order to prepare for a lost or stolen passport, make sure you make copies of the photo page before leaving on your trip. Either carry these copies with you or email them to yourself. If you don’t have any identification, visit the nearest consulate or embassy for assistance. Even though it seems like the worst thing in the world, State Department officials are pros at verifying your identity and issuing temporary travel documents.

 Grizzly bear

2. Charged by a grizzly bear – Don’t laugh, this happens more often than you think. In fact, there was a recent occurrence in Alaska when tourists on a sightseeing trip in Katmai National Park were surprised by a charging grizzly bear. Many of us love getting out in nature and exploring the amazing places graced by Mother Nature, but we do so at our own risk. So what should you do if a grizzly bear attacks while you’re on vacation? First, always make sure to carry bear pepper spray with you whenever you head out into the backwoods. In the event you don’t have pepper spray, or if it doesn’t work experts all agree that there are certain things you should and should not do. First, don’t run, the bear will just think you’re prey. After not running, drop to the ground, curl up into the fetal position and cover your head. Lastly, play dead and do not move, no matter what. If the bear doesn’t perceive you as a threat, it should leave you alone. It will be hard to fight human instincts to scream and run, but if you can keep your wits about you and follow these steps you’ll have a much better chance of surviving a grizzly bear attack.


3. Plane crash lands in the Andes – You’re traveling around South America when the unthinkable happens; your plane crash-lands in the Andes Mountains. Assuming you survive, there are some key tips you should heed in order to stay alive so you can sell your story to HBO. First, do not eat your fellow survivors. It’s rude and adds a rather morbid component to your story.  Before your plane even takes off, you should acquaint yourself with the aircraft, always taking note of the closest emergency exit. I always glance around on every flight, just in case. Also be sure to wear comfortable but sturdy clothes. This means no pajamas; you won’t last long in the Andes without pants. Once you’ve crash-landed, stay calm but evacuate as quickly as possible. After you’ve escaped the plane, get as far away from it as possible in case of fire or explosion. Once you’ve gathered up the remaining survivors, build a camp complete with fire. This will be important to attract the attention of rescuers. While it will be important to forage for food and water, stay in a centralized area. Hopefully first responders will know that your plane went down and will start searching for wreckage. You don’t want to be too far away once they’ve located the damaged plane.

 World Nutella Day

4. Paris runs out of Nutella – This may not be everyone’s greatest fear, but for those of us who love Nutella it certainly is. I can’t imagine visiting Paris without even having the opportunity to order a hot Nutella crepe, or to lather the choco-hazlenut spread over a baguette.  Don’t worry, there are precautions you can take in case this ultimate worst-case travel scenario happens. First, always carry with you a small jar of Nutella as a backup. Not only is it great just in case Paris runs out of Nutella, but it’s convenient to have for random snacks while traveling. If it’s too big to include in your carry-on bag, then buy some of the smaller, single serving packages available throughout the world. Be careful though, if Paris does run out of Nutella, people will start to get desperate and you will be in danger. Never take it out in public for fear of mob attacks.

 Cruise ships

5. Cruise ship runs aground – My day job involves water safety, so this is something I know a lot about. Cruise ships have to abide by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Among many other details, the convention mandates that vessels must take certain safety precautions (like having appropriate number of lifeboats and life preservers) and that passengers must receive appropriate instructions for what to do in the case of extreme emergency. Even though many cruisers take these instructions seriously, many do not and that indifference could cost them their lives. As with most things, precaution is important in making sure you stay safe during an emergency at sea. Know where your life preserver is located and how to put it on quickly. Make sure you know the quickest route to your assigned lifeboat muster station. Be sure to walk it a few times so you don’t get lost in the chaos of an onboard emergency. If an emergency occurs, pay attention to all announcements and above everything else, follow crew member instructions. They are professionals and will know the full extent of the emergency and how to best protect you. Once you’ve successfully (hopefully) escaped the cruise ship via lifeboat, stay calm and continue to listen to crew instructions. Depending on your location, you shouldn’t have to wait long until rescue by the Coast Guard or other first responders.

These are my tips on how to deal with some of the worst case travel scenarios imaginable. Do you have any tips for dealing with disaster on the road?


By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

17 thoughts on “Worst Case Travel Scenarios – Five Disasters and How to Deal with Them”

  1. Bula @ The Irreverent Traveller

    Ah, have you seen the movie Alive (referring to your Andean plane crash)? And while grizzlies are quite ferocious, nothing would set me into more of a panicked state than no Nutella. Shaking from withdrawal, I would just have to buy a bag of sugar from the grocery store and rub it into my gums, twitching.

  2. I love the Nutella one, you really make me laugh. As a French personn I feel depresed when I travel and I can’t find any Nutella in SM, doesn’t happen ofte, thank god :)

  3. We dont have grizzlies here…worst animal you would be attacked by in the NZ bush is a possum. However there is always tourists that get lost in the bush. I nearly yelled at one in Franz Joseph, he was wandering off the track to take photos. Never wander off the track. If going bush be prepared for every eventuality and take an emergency beacon.
    I love your list tho…Im stunned to think that there are ppl out there who don’t follow number one.

  4. Haha, some of these definitely had me chuckling! Very thoughtful of you to advise against eating your fellow plane crash survivors.

    But I think we’ll all agree on the most terrifying scenario – running out of Nutella! ;)

  5. It’s still amazes me how few travelers actually take #1 seriously, ie not making copies of key documents. Emailing info to yourself is a great idea. Good idea for passwords (that you will eventually forget), too.

    And thanks on the ‘don’t fly over the Andes dressed in pajamas’ tip. :)

  6. “Crash landed” and “stay calm” do not go together! Nor do “charged by a grizzly bear” and “don’t run”. Both are great advice but easier said than done :) Great fun post on very serious (nutella???) subjects. Is that nutella I see in the corners of your mouth?

  7. Ha nutella. I’m living through a real worst case scenario right now: laptop died. I’m on my iphone trying to distract myself while I wait for the official diagnosis and more importantly, the time it will take to fix it. Hmmm at least Im not stranded in the Andes.

  8. Entertaining list. The Andes crash is a bit harsh but I understand you were going with humor. But I can’t help but think of those Rugby players who were faced with a slow death from hunger if they didn’t eat their dead friends…

    But on a bright note. No nutella in any city is a problem but in Paris it would be considered a global crisis.

    I would also like to point out if Argentina ran out of steaks and malbec I would personally be hanging on a thread.

  9. I don’t think point 4, Paris running out of nutella has ever happened so can we be sure of the consequences?

    All the others have and thankfully people have survived. Like the boy scouts say “be prepared”.

    Some great suggestions made in this article, thanks for sharing.

  10. So, but what if you crashed in the Andes with a grizzly bear on board and no nutella in your backpack? Now THAT’s a nightmare right there! ;-)

Comments are closed.

I help you experience the best the world has to offer!

Please enter a valid email address.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.