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?
18 thoughts on “Five Travel Annoyances and How to Deal With Them”
Hey! I have said it on my blog before and I’ll say it again, I love negative posts!!!
Well, that came out wrong. What I really mean is that I enjoy posts that are not all butterflies and rainbows about travel. The reality of it all is alluring…so naturally, I loved this post. Let me share some of my opinions.
1) Once, on my way back from a trip in Lijiang (25 Celsius in the winter) I was delayed in Beijing, on a Sunday, when I had work on Monday, for three days…….in -25 Celsius weather………and I am a Californian who had never experienced a real winter before :(… The weather was terrible, an the whole airport was shut down. (maybe I should blog about this?^^)
2) I totally feel you on this and while I mostly do the same thing, in Cambodia, I had children 6-8 years old begging for water. I simply can’t ignore that. It was heart breaking. In most advanced nations where welfare is so good, I actually can be quite heartless too.
3) Is the picture Hong Kong? I actually had the idea of WALKING down from Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. Bad idea! My gf and I were lost for hours.
4) This is so funny that you say this keeps many people from traveling. It is so true, and out of all the possible pitfalls, this has yet to be an issue.
5) I can sleep through almost anything, or entertain myself otherwise. However, on a long haul direct flight from Amsterdam to Seoul (where I live) last summer, I had Korean hikers (if you live here, you know what I am talking about) literally standing, drinking, and leaning over in front of me for the entire 13 hour flight. The flight crew at KLM were really nice, but had little control :(.
Thanks Julio, fantastic points!
I got caught up in industrial action on my last trip to France. On a day-to-day basis, that wasn’t a problem, just a few friendly demonstrations. However, as I tried to move around the country, it became a nightmare of changing pre-booked train trips and pre-booked hotel accommodation – all done last minute. All the emergency formulating of Plan Bs got tiresome. The upside – the hotels I ended up in through desperate, frantic, last-minute booking. One had the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept on (if I could have tucked it into my backpack and brought it home, I would have). Another had the most amazing bathroom and provided tea/coffee making facilities (almost unheard of in France and after such a horror day, most welcome). So for all the negative aspects of travel, there is always a positive.
Can I add scammers to your point 2? They are really annoying.
YES! LOL, scammers are a definite must-add item
Entirely agree on touts. It’s one of the things I enjoyed in Myanmar. There are people selling but they aren’t as agressive as in other countries.
Great list! I have found that bringing your own food helps with long flights. Nothing like being able to take out a nice salad or sandwich from home while they are passing out trays unidentifiable slop.
Sometimes the biggest travel annoyances make some of the best travel stories (particularly with air travel). Everyone loves to talk about the big snowstorm that caused nightmare delays or the epically long flight from hell.
Great idea about the food!
I’m also hopping on the “jkfdsjaisckzxn touts” bandwagon. I succumbed to a total meltdown in Mexico at the impressionable age of 17 during my first experience. Things have definitely gotten better since then, but my reaction still borders on uncomfortable/aggravated. All the more reason to keep trying to get used to them!
Yeah, I tend to get frustrated/angry quickly when constantly hounded.
The beggars situation is indeed a very sensitive one.
I used to do like you: walk by, ignore them and move on. Specially with kids, because I didn’t want to contribute to begging mafias, knowing that many people are begging not because they personally want to, but because many times they’re forced into it. After spending months in India, though, I’ve changed. One would think with so many beggars around I’d become even more desensitized towards it.. but somehow it was the opposite. I had this mental debate: if I give money to the kids I’m contributing to this unsustainable (and many times violent) system. These kids might even look deformed because they are actually hurt on purpose so that people feel sorry for them… Shit, I don’t want to contribute to this! But then on the other hand, I realized: I’m not changing the system and, right now, at this very moment, these kids have no other option than to take some money home, or to their “boss” or whoever is behind this whole scheme. So if they don’t get money, they might her hurt even more, or killed.. or simply not have a meal on that given day.
If only this situation was more straight forward!.. As it isn’t, right now, I’d rather go with my gut and sometimes help those who seem legit, mostly kids, handicapped people and elders who can’t get a job anyway.
Great points on what for me is a very complicated issue.
Great post! Like you I have rarely missed a flight, even a connection. I generally book at least 2-4 hours for a connection to be sure I get it. For some crazy reason, I actually enjoy the transit experience, because it’s one of the only times which I have very few distractions. This time is used for day-dreaming, planning, reading, and just plain relaxing!
When I began traveling getting lost actually scared me quite a bit, now I try to get lost on purpose. I think I read that in the “Tao of Travel.” Usually I just carry a business card of my hotel (in the native tongue) and remember where the taxi stands are in case I get deeply lost. Oh, and a map of the area of course. It is so rewarding when you find your way back on mass transit and on foot though!!
The language barrier is probably my biggest challenge. Without fluently speaking a language it is hard to really get to know somebody outside of just exchanging common pleasantries. It’s difficult to pick up on each others humor and personality. Fortunately most of communication is visual (so they say) and you can still have very enjoyable interactions with very little mutual language ability.
As far as additional travel annoyances I have to say my biggest are disrespectful passengers who get drunk and talk loudly on international flights. Especially if I have a meeting on arrival and need the sleep!! Not to fond of screaming babies either, but at least that sound is constant and you can almost make a melody out of it with the right attitude : )
Fantastic suggestions and thanks for sharing your points of view! (Going to read that book now) :)
Great post and great comments. When I think of the word “tout”, I think of agressive sellers- trinkets on the beach, costumed picture posers at famous attractions, slimy salesmen of timeshares, excursions, etc. I’ll never forget arriving at Versaille and being swarmed by aggressive men pushing cheap plastic wares in my face.
In Africa, I would usually buy whatever the local market fruit was (guava seemed to feature a lot) from a group of women or elderly sellers. Of course, you can never buy just one piece of fruit, it was sold by little heaps. So when I was approached by beggers, I would hand out the fruit. I figured it was healthy, I was helping more than one person in this cycle, it cost me just pennies. Of course, I didn’t do this all the time, just now and then.
When I lived in Malawi, the kids who chase after me all the time yelling “Give me Kwacha!” (the local currency bills). When I would smile and say no, they would laugh hysterically -I’m not sure they knew what they were saying and laughing at me seemed to be a treasure all in itself! I remember one kid on Likoma Island tried a new approach: “Give me tambala!” (the name for coins instead of bills). Now,he was either trying to undercut the competition or was just trying a novel approach. Either way, his ingenuitity was rewarded by a handful of coins, each worth only a fraction of a cent to me, collectively worth a few good meals to him.
Thanks Vanessa and thanks for sharing your experiences!
Great post! I too have a challenge with begging. You do not want to come across as insensitive but in some regions its part of the culture. Just recently in Mexico, the children are daring enough to walk into restaurants, bistros and bars begging for money or selling candy/trinkets. So what I do is give to these children when they are ‘not’ expecting it or begging. Being selective in the proper place and time is key.
My husband and I play Yahtzee on long flights. It helps pass the time. We also do post mortum of our previous destination. What we liked and disliked most.
I love the idea of doing a post mortum, great way to pass some time.
I have a problem with touts especially in China. During a walk on the Great Wall, there were three of us, me, my guide and a tout, a woman, who followed me from Jinshalng to Simatai (10 k) with her bag full of souvenir books. Once we reached Simatai the guide told me to buy something from the woman and I did. I felt sorry for her walking 10 km in her heels with a bag full of heavy books.
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