A Girls Guide To :: Navigating The Low Points of Travel (Pt II)

Welcome to Part II of this guide! These low points are the tougher ones and many go back to the importance of having insurance when you travel – it’s something I personally never travel without. Sure, it can cost a little extra on top of your trip – but rather than thinking of it as an additional cost, try to look at it as an investment. Not only serving as peace of mind, it can help you out of a sticky situation or two and end up being a pretty welcome lifeline when you need it (potentially saving you hundreds if not thousands of dollars).

Missing a Flight

Something that is fairly common in the travelling world, you’re bound to know at least one person who’s been through it! It’s certainly happened to me. I’ve always prided myself in being pretty punctual for flights. Knowing the check-in process involved, and the last minute changes that can sometimes happen, I like to be at the airport with plenty of time to spare. However, on one occasion while leaving Madrid, all of those good intentions were trumped.

I completely underestimated the travel time on the metro. I’d overspent during my few days there and so didn’t have the cash to put down on a taxi (the airport is miles out from the city centre) so underground I went! I caught the first train for the day…but hadn’t realised I needed to catch about three or four different trains to get to the airport. I also forgot about the number of steps inside the metro, and dragging 24kg of luggage behind me up and down staircase after staircase while in a mad panic and race against time was not a fun experience! I raced to the check-in desk only to discover I was 5 minutes late and check-in had closed. That’s all it takes!! *cue 10 hours in Madrid airport until the next available flight*

So what do you do if you miss your flight, or want to avoid it happening?

  • When you book your tickets, pick your flight time wisely, and research transport to the airport in advance! If you can’t find that out before you get there, your hotel/hostel will be able to help;
  • Another tip is to book flexible or semi-flexible tickets where possible. If there’s not too much difference in price to the budget fare, paying those extra dollars is worthwhile should you need to change your flight;
  • See whether your airline and flight allows for online check-in. This usually opens around 24-72 hours before the flight, allowing you to lock yourself in online so you only need to check your bags in once you get there (even better if you don’t have anything to check in);
  • If you’re staying a fair distance from the airport, it could be worth checking in for an overnight stay at a hotel by the airport before you fly out. This will mean you can get up, get organised, get fed and still check in on time. No stress! Or if you have an early bird flight, you could always sleep at the airport (if you’re up to it). Check out this website for more on this;
  • Always, always keep emergency funds! They can come in handy for many different reasons and this is one of them. Finding yourself stranded on the other side of the world, missing your flight and without the cash needed can be a little unsettling (trust me);
  • If you’ve missed your flight and can’t immediately book another, or the cost is through the roof, check to see if there are other options that will get you to your next destination, such as a train. It could mean a longer journey, but if the wait time for a plane is just as long it can be worth it;
  • Should your flight be delayed or cancelled, and your pockets are lighter as a result, get in touch with your insurer! If the airline isn’t putting you up in a hotel or you’re up for additional costs, your travel insurance should help to cover what you can’t (like meals and a night at a hotel)!

Lost Luggage

Possibly one of my biggest fears about flying isn’t leaving the ground in a giant metal tube, travelling at high speed up in the air – it’s the chance of the airline losing my luggage. Perhaps it has something to do with having familiar items with me in an unfamiliar place, perhaps it’s the money I’ve invested into said items as well as the sentimentality attached to some. It’s also the added stress of figuring out what to do at your destination when you find yourself sans luggage/clothes/toiletries/etc.

That very thing happened to my sister when she and her partner travelled to New York a couple of years ago. They waited and waited at the bag carousel but her bag never came…theirs is a story with a happy ending however, with her bag showing up two days later and being safely returned to her!

This sort of thing is beyond your control, but should it happen, there are a few things that can help (while you cross your fingers that your belongings will show up):

  • Ensure you’re travelling with insurance! Important for so many reasons, replacing lost luggage and the items inside can be a costly exercise, so having insurance on stand by is going to help cover some of what you lost (if you don’t get it back);
  • Report it straight away to the airline (or Police, if it’s been stolen). They’ll then do what they can to track it down. They’ll also take down your details to keep you updated and get your bag to you should it turn up. Be sure to obtain a written report to give to your insurer;
  • When you get to your hotel/hostel, tell reception what has happened and ask whether there are essential items you could purchase from them or from somewhere nearby. There’s a good chance they can supply you with items such as deodorant, toothbrush, phone/laptop chargers, clean underwear, pyjamas and sometimes even a clean set of clothes! At times, you might even find they wave a charge for some of these things. It’s times like these you’ll be forever thankful the bathrooms usually have shampoo, basic toiletries and hairdryers;
  • Pack your important/expensive items in your hand luggage/carry on! I always take my phone, laptop, chargers and cameras on board with me. It’s also a good idea to back up your images/files on an external hard drive and keep it safe in your handbag/carry on, in the event that your tech devices are stowed below or are stolen during your travels.

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Weather

One thing that ain’t nobody able to control is mother nature, and she doesn’t always play by your rules. On a trip to Niue, I experienced that first hand, when our last two days on the island were rained out. There wasn’t a break in those clouds and it poured steadily for more than 48 hours. This put a stop to our much anticipated hike to Vaikona (too dangerous) and further snorkelling along the reef. With no shopping malls, cinemas or sheltered sights we reverted to movie marathons on the couch and an incredible full body massage (from a masseuse that did home visits) – the rain may have dampened our plans but we were going to make the most of our time off to relax. From volcanic ash stopping flights, to long delays due to blizzards or poor visibility, or a monsoon raining out your tropical escape there’s never anything you can do but sit back and wait for things to pass. In times like these, it’s incredibly helpful to have travel insurance under your wing, so that in the event your flights, accommodation or activities are cancelled you can claim back any financial loss.

Theft

A new city will bring along with it new experiences, memories, thrills and adventure! But it will also bring with it the chance for scams, bribes and theft. There isn’t a sure fire way to avoid running into this while abroad, however there are some precautions you can take that should lessen your chances:

Luggage locks, RFID pockets/wallets, and extra copies of personal documents are a few important items to have with you and do a lot for peace of mind. It’s also best to leave any special jewellery or keepsakes at home. Choosing the right bag to have with you every day is also important – backpacks and handbags (especially one’s with pockets at the front) aren’t always the best choice. They make for an easy steal for pick pockets with light hands! You can’t see somebody getting into your backpack when it’s behind you and a handbag is both easy to pull of your arm and leaves your belongings exposed should it be left open. A small satchel that zips shut, that you can wear across your body and have in front of you is your best bet!

Other things to put into practice include:

  • Organising a travel card before leaving on your trip, to use in place of any credit or debit cards. These not only have fewer fees when it comes to withdrawals and purchases, but you will usually be supplied with two cards. Keep one somewhere safe, in a different place to the one you’ll use each day. This will come in handy should one be stolen! Many don’t display your name and aren’t linked to your personal accounts;
  • Should your passport be stolen, contact your county’s closest embassy to arrange for a replacement. If other forms of ID were also taken, you’ll usually need to prove your identity through an interview, and have copies of your ID sent through from family/friends back home (it’s useful to give these to them before you leave, just in case);
  • Use a secret compartment/pocket in your clothing for your cash;
  • Make copies of your ID, cards and travel documents prior to travelling and email them to yourself, so you can access them from anywhere should you need to;
  • Keep a small amount of cash hidden somewhere in case of emergencies (you could make use of a hotel safe – they’re usually free and will give you peace of mind);
  • If you find yourself out of pocket and out of sorts due to an unfortunate run in, having travel insurance under your belt will help to cover what was lost. Also be sure to immediately contact your bank/financial institution back home so you can have any stolen cards cancelled. 

Injuries & Illness

Whether you’re looking to drive scooters in Bali, ride the rapids in Arkansas, try a somewhat questionable local speciality in East Asia or simply explore a city without the thrills and spills, your well being and health is important and should you put that first.

I’m not one to tell anyone to stop living, or to pass up exciting opportunities or experiences. So when travelling, I say jump into everything and anything you think you can handle, even something that you know will challenge you! It’s these kind of experiences we learn and grow from – and also head home with some incredible stories to tell, of course! But I think in every situation it’s important to judge the risk, assess your own capabilities and at all times look after yourself and your health. This goes right from keeping hydrated on the road and getting as balanced a diet as possible as you eat your way around new cities through to having things in place should any of your travels or experiences go awry. Be sure to pack a first aid kit ‘just in case’ with the bare essentials – bandages, gauze, strapping tape, pain killers, antacids, tweezers, antiseptic wipes/cream & motion sickness tablets. And lastly (but most importantly) if you don’t already have health insurance, or yours doesn’t cover you while abroad, having travel insurance that includes medical assistance/cover is important! Medical and hospital fees aren’t normally something that is in everyone’s travel budget (and certainly not in their travel plans) and so having the appropriate cover in place is a definite life line. Your insurer can also help you with things such as finding an English speaking doctor or provide assistance should you need local legal help.

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If you’re planning your own trip and are in need of insurance, I can’t speak of Cover-More highly enough! Head to their webpage for an instant quote or contact them directly and chat to one of their helpful staff! It’s travel insurance you can trust!

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N.B. This is not a sponsored post. I have offered my personal opinion and suggestions after my own experiences.