Ten common travel disasters and how to fix them

Here’s how to deal with 10 common travel disasters.

older woman dealing with a travel disaster

Travelling comes with its fair share of risk. From losing baggage, credit cards and passports to car crashes and incarceration, here’s how to deal with 10 common travel disasters.

1. Lost luggage
The first thing that you should do is take a deep breath, then file a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) with your airline. If your luggage doesn’t show up, you’ll need to make a claim with your airline to confirm that your baggage was permanently lost. If you have travel insurance, you’ll need to attach a copy of the PIR and the claim along with a list of your bag’s contents. If you don’t have travel insurance, you can still be compensated for just over A$1000 per passenger.

2. Lost passport
If you lose your passport and you don’t have the recommended document photocopies in your bag or with a family member or friends, then you can obtain an emergency replacement passport from an Australian embassy for around $127. If you’ve left copies with someone back home, have them email or fax them to your hotel. At least you’ll have proof of your existence until your replacement passport is arranged.

3. Lost credit card
If you’ve misplaced your credit card, or think that it’s been stolen, immediately call your credit card company and cancel the card. Depending on where you are and where your credit card provider is based, you can arrange to pick up a card from a branch or have one couriered to your hotel the next day.

4. If you get lost
If you’re in the wilderness and you lose your way, the first thing to do is find shelter from the elements. Then build a fire to provide warmth, ward off wild animals and give you some light. Then think about how you might be rescued and make arrangements to improve your chances, such as building a bigger fire that can be seen from farther away, looking for some kind of mobile phone signal or going the old ‘SOS’ with rocks route. The most important thing to locate is a water source – then food. You can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water.

If you’re lost in the city, stick to the main streets and eventually you’ll find someone who can point you in the right direction. You could pull out your smartphone and use GoogleMaps or you could just enjoy wandering about if you’re not feeling concerned.

5. Stuck in the airport
If your flight has been delayed or cancelled and you have to spend a night in the airport, contact your airline and see what facilities they can provide. Many have hidden sleeping quarters that they may make available to you if you make the right noises. If you must sleep in the gate lounge, keep clear of high traffic areas and air conditioners. Remember to stock up on food before the restaurants close and, in the meantime, enjoy a drink at the bar.

If you’re stranded for extended periods during the day and the same newsagent over and over just isn’t appealing to you after the third hour, you can still head out of the terminal and explore the surrounding area. Just remember to allow enough time before your flight to go through the security checks upon your return.

older man asleep at the airport

6. Rental car accident
If you’ve crashed a rental car and you made the smart move of not paying for insurance through the car-hire company, check with your credit card, as most of them have ‘secondary insurance’, or review your travel insurance PDS, as it too may cover you in case of accidents.

You’ll have to file a police report, get witness statements then fill out an accident report with the rental company. Then you’ll need to get copies of all that, add them to the standard insurance forms and send them to your credit card or travel insurance company. Basically, it’ll take a day to fill out forms and you may not be able to use your hand the next day, so it’s best to drive extra carefully if you hire a car.

7. Booked a bad hotel
Believe it or not, if you’ve booked a bad hotel within Australia that doesn’t match the description provided, your consumer rights are protected. So, if your accommodation is not up to par, contact the ACCC and express your concerns. If you book a hotel overseas, then you’re at the mercy of that country’s consumer protection rules, but the hotels in which you book will also have guidelines that protect your rights to refunds and room swaps.

8. Medical emergency
If you have a serious medical emergency while overseas, you’ll need to consider whether it’s best to stay and take your chances with the local hospital or take the pain and head back home. If you’re ever in this situation, whip out your phone and check out International SOS and its Health Risk Map to see where you can access nearby quality emergency medical and dental care nearby.

9. You get locked up
Should you ever be on the wrong side of the law and incarcerated, the first call to make is to the Australian embassy (or the country of your citizenship). The embassy will help you find local representation and ensure that you’re being treated fairly. SmartTraveller also provides valuable information that will help you if you’re arrested or imprisoned.

10. Death
The worst travel disaster of all would be death, but you won’t be the one who has to deal with it. Your family will need to contact the Australian embassy, but there’s a limit to what it can do. For more detailed information about the process, head to the SmartTraveller website.

What travel disasters have you had to endure? How did you handle them?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    14th Jan 2017
    Thanks Leon. Just what I needed to read on the verge of heading off. There certainly are pitfalls to travelling. Fingers crossed but we all need to be aware of your list.
    14th Jan 2017
    Have a safe trip MICK and hope you get lots and lots of great snow.
    14th Jan 2017
    Not doing our homework well we once made the big mistake of flying from Fort Lauderdale to LAX instead of going back to Miami and flying out of there.

    If you fly from Fort Lauderdale you go through Chicago and we flew straight into ice storms dressed in tropical clothes. We were there 18 hours before the de-icing worked and the storm abated.

    Could not go out of the terminal as it was freezing outside.

    Now I always carry a coat, gloves, scarf and beanie when travelling in the North from around October to March just to be on the safe side. I learnt the value of layer dressing on flights.

    I also once had to buy a thick wool jumper in Scotland in August as a very cold storm blew in.

    Always carry a coat in San Francisco. The temperature can drop by 20 degrees in minutes when the fog rolls in even in July.
    14th Jan 2017
    Can relate to Chicago Rae. We were stranded on the tarmac 7 years ago on a flight from Canada to LAX. They took over an hour to hose the plane down with salt brine before we were off. 18 hours sounds a bit harsh but then it's Chicago.
    Yeah, you never go to America in winter without the cold weather gear. Chicago airport was pretty cold from memory so you would have done a few laps to stay warm I'd be thinking.
    Tom Tank
    14th Jan 2017
    It is always wise to have a Plan B for emergencies sitting at the back of your mind.
    We had a problem with our visas for China and were refused entry into the country.
    We were flying British Airways and they picked up the problem that we were likely to have at Beijing when we booked in at Heathrow. They booked us onto a flight to Hong Kong from Beijing some hours after we were due to arrive in Beijing to provide an option for us. (B A were very considerate and bent over backwards to help.)
    We certainly needed that onward booking as the Chinese were very inflexible and escorted us around the airport and through to the departure lounge.
    The funny thing was they did say that since we had an onward flight booked we could travel into Beijing for an hour or so as long as we were back in time for our flight that day.
    It does pay to recognise the politics and culture of the country you travel too as China is very bureaucratic and rigid. We just accepted it and went on to Hong Kong.
    It has given us a good yarn to tell tho' about the time we were kicked out og China.

    14th Jan 2017
    We went on a P&O cruise and it was a disaster from start to finish - unvacuumed cabin, very mediocre food, dirty dining tables, TV with movies 10+ years old and bad video and audio reception, amateur entertainment, etc. Never again!
    14th Jan 2017
    Love the picture of the fellow asleep on the seats, presumably at an airport. Unfortunately these days most airports (including the one in my capital city) now have fixed arm rests between the seats, thus preventing transient people from setting up "camp" there but also denying the genuinely delayed traveller from benefiting; especially if the airport is nearly deserted it would be a nice touch to allow people to benefit from resting like that.

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