Travel is a wonderful experience, but that doesn’t always mean it’s always easy. Here are some typical travel annoyances and how to resolve them.
1. Missed flight – This has only happened to me once, but it was a colossal pain and I bet it’s also a major fear of most of you. Months and sometimes years of planning go into our vacations and the last thing we want is to miss the flight that will take us to our destination. Not only is rebooking a pain, but missing a flight lets loose a cascading chain of awfulness that can sometimes ruin an entire trip. So what to do? Well I don’t think the major concern is missing the primary flight, just leave early to avoid that. No it’s those dreaded connections that are the biggest problem. When I said I have only missed one flight, that was sort of true. I’ve missed one flight as a result of a mistake I made, I’ve missed many more as a result of a mistake an airline has made. Delays, weather, almost anything can cause you to miss a connecting flight and depending on your final destination, it can take hours and even days to fix the mistake. To avoid this first download the free TripIt app. I’ve been singing the praises of TripIt for years and it’s still my favorite app. It keeps track of all of your flight information and tells you when and where you’re going. With TripIt Pro you get automatic notices detailing where connecting flights can be found in real time. If you happen to miss your flight, the app will also give you suggested alternatives. In addition to TripIt, be sure to try to get status on at least one airline and stick with them as much as you can. It’s not necessarily fair, but passengers with status get bumped up the priority list for rebooking.
2. Touts – This is a controversial subject that I haven’t devoted enough time to here on the site, but I probably should. Touts, beggars, anyone asking for a handout can be a major annoyance while on vacation. Please don’t think me hardhearted, I’m not, but after a while people asking for money gets annoying and sometimes it can even be dangerous. I remember once when I was in Paris I saw a homeless person with a sign that read “Please help, can’t walk.” Amazingly enough I saw the same person traipsing through the park later the next day. I’m not saying everyone that asks for money is a thief and liar, but it pays to be cautious. So what do I do? I ignore them all. I walk past with determination but not speed and just don’t acknowledge them in any way. At the end of the trip I always give left over money to someone in need who isn’t accosting people, but who is asking simply and humbly.
3. Getting lost – This is a fear of many first-time travelers but hopefully over time they realize that this isn’t a problem at all, many times it’s a great way to learn more about the destination. I’m horrible with directions, so I find myself in this situation often. Sure, if I need to get somewhere I’m pretty livid if I can’t find my way. But if I’m not on a strict schedule, it’s a fun way to see parts of town you wouldn’t ordinarily find. It’s also a good way to engage a little bit with locals when you necessarily have to ask for help. As a side note, some of the best restaurants I’ve found traveling have been as a result of a lost escapade.
4. Language barriers – This is another concern of first-time travelers and one that I fear prevents many from traveling. Well it shouldn’t. First, let me be preachy. You’re traveling overseas in order to experience parts of the world that are by definition foreign and alien. You’re asking to learn, you’re asking to be pushed so when that happens don’t be surprised. But I also know full well how frustrating it can be to get your message across when there is a language barrier. First, if you speak English you can usually get by just about anywhere. While it’s not the language of the world just yet, it’s getting there and every day more and more people are learning the language. Second, before you leave home learn a few key words in the new language. Nothing complicated, just enough to get your message across. This is also a powerful gesture and shows that you aren’t just another annoying tourist who expects everyone in the world to speak English. Finally, never underestimate the power of hand gestures. It’s a fascinating study in human communication that when spoken language is taken out of the equation, one of the first things we all do is use our hands to describe our message. Most of the times it works too, so don’t be afraid to act out whatever important message you’re trying to convey.
5. Long Flight – This is totally a matter of perception, but the effects are the same. Whether you consider three hours or sixteen hours to be a long flight, it can be agony if you’re not prepared. First, make sure you do your homework before you leave home. Use SeatGuru to find the best seats on your flight and try to book them. If possible, call the customer service number to do this for you. Second, bring some key provisions. For me I always have to have a travel pillow, eyeshades and ear plugs. If I have those, I can create a cocoon of comfort no matter where I am. Finally, divide your time once onboard. If you think about how long sixteen hours is to spend in a long metal tube as it hurls itself around the planet then you will go crazy very quickly. Instead think of the time in segments. Each meal takes a least an hour, watch a couple of movies, read a book, sleep, whatever you enjoy and think of these activities in one or two hour chunks. Intellectually it’s a lot easier to digest and actually makes the flight go by much faster.
So these are just a few travel annoyances and how to deal with them – do you have any others to list?