The Smart Traveler: When Things Don’t go as Planned

Things do not always go as planned on a trip. You can travel with as much planning and care as your mother would approve of, and still the unexpected happens. Travel surprises can occur on every trip, but the smart and experienced traveler can always find a solution, and return home that much more a savvy traveler.

Odd things can happen that have never happened before on any trip. Like a taxi on the way to the airport breaking down and nobody necessarily trustworthy (like a recognizable taxi) being able to provide a lift to the airport. Or you discovering at the last minute at the airport that luggage weight restrictions are much lower than anticipated and you mis-read the luggage scale at home.

The list is of course endless as to what can possibly go wrong on a trip. Fortunately for most travelers, these issues do not ruin a vacation. They may create a mild misadventure or two, but certainly nothing that cannot be salvaged and laughed about later. So here are a few things to think about as you plan your next trip.

Leave plenty of time for potential airport misadventures

There is no such thing as leaving too early for the airport. In terms of checked luggage, the airlines may not take your luggage any sooner than 4 hours before the flight (2 hours in many major cities overseas), so give yourself at least that much time. The scenario about a car breakdown on the way to the airport really happened to me (photo above), so plan for the unexpected and build in time to sit and have a coffee. You may need that time for other things. Of course, connecting flights do not always connect the way they should, so build in time for long connections, especially on international flights. Planes depart late and can take time to land due to weather or airport traffic control conditions. The legal minimum of 55 minutes for a connecting flight barely applies anymore, especially if you have to go through security again. A two or three hour connecting time is a more realistic minimum these days.

Use common sense in potentially dangerous situations

In the circumstance mentioned above where the taxi broke down on the way to the airport, the only solution was to use common sense. Waiting for another taxi is the appropriate solution of course, but if one never stops because they are all full going to the airport, use your best judgment in terms of people who stop by. Your gut may tell you more than your head will. A simple act of kindness or gesture from a stranger offering a ride may speak volumes about that person. Are they also trying to help the stranded taxi driver? Are they making phone calls to help the situation on the driver’s behalf? Those acts of kindness signal more that he or she is a Good Samaritan.

Be flexible, creative, and keep a sense of humor

Above all, be flexible. Unpredictable situations are exactly that and require both flexibility and creativity to get out of the jam. You may find yourself pitching items along the way to accommodate airline weight restrictions you had not anticipated. Or you may find yourself with no luggage at all upon arrival, and needing to buy new luggage and clothes until your checked bags arrive. Whatever situation arises, as long as it is not one that will endanger you, it will provide some good laughs at the end of the day. And surprisingly enough, it may provide some great photos and memories about an adventure you would not otherwise have experienced.

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