How to Prepare For Potential Travel Tribulations

by Elizabeth Hall
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An airplane, ticket, and suitcase surrounding a large checklist that reads Travel Tips.

Imagine you’ve just booked a long overdue vacation to a dream location. You’re eager to sit back, soak up the sunshine, and venture out on the town. You expect everything to be smooth-sailing along the way, only to run into a “Murphy’s Law” situation. Well, you wouldn’t be the first! With so many things out of our control during travel, the best we can do is be prepared for possible travel tribulations. Read on and pretty soon, you’ll be a master at thinking 2-steps ahead AND kicking old “Murphy” to the curb.

Let’s tag along with Micah and Marvin as they navigate their way through very different travel experiences. 

Delayed for a Day

Where Micah went wrong:

Micah books his travel like he plays roulette. He jumps right in and hopes for the best, never leaving enough time between flights for layovers. Tight layovers leave no room for unexpected delays. This causes Micah to be in a mad dash through the airport. It’s a high-stress situation that can almost always be avoided by planning ahead when booking.

Where Marvin went right:

Marvin, on the other hand, takes the no-panic approach by leaving optimal time between his flights for layovers (around 1-2 hours for domestic flights and 2-3 hours for international). This gives him extra time in case there’s a delay and he can kick back, relax and read a book or watch a movie while waiting.

But what happens if the plane “cancels its plans” altogether?

Marvin plans ahead and books flights for days and times that experience less cancellations and delays, such as Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. But, travel woes can happen to anybody at any time, so he also knows the steps to claim compensation and rebook his flight, which are most quickly done through the airline’s app, if available.

The Department of Transportation requires airlines to reimburse passengers in the event of a cancelled flight, so submit a complaint if you feel you’ve not been properly reimbursed. You can also request a transfer to a different flight or airline to get you there faster. Mr. Marvin Savvy Traveler over here!

A Bag Lost at (gate) C

Where Micah went wrong:

Uh oh, Micah arrives at his destination and waits at the carousel to claim his luggage, only to watch all other passengers get their bags while his never arrives. What’s he going to do? He didn’t think to keep his portion of the luggage tag, and now all his necessities are “lost at sea.” The easy solution would be to only pack a carry-on, but that’s not always possible. Between full flights and many days away from home, a checked bag is sometimes required. Having taken no other steps to prepare for this situation, Micah will undoubtedly be stressed at the baggage desk, and may go days before he sees his toothbrush again. 

Where Marvin went right:

In contrast, Marvin is a guy who is rarely separated from his toothbrush. First and foremost, he always keeps his portion of the luggage tag safe in a designated spot in his wallet. If his bags don’t show up, he’ll locate the baggage desk that last handled his luggage, submit a lost baggage claim, and receive tracking information. If this happens, it’s important to exchange correct contact information and to get the desk’s direct phone number for follow ups.

Besides being travel savvy, Marvin is also tech savvy. He uses an Apple air tag to quickly locate where his bag is. So even if his bag is delayed, he knows where it is. It also never hurts to ask if the airline will offer a small reimbursement or an overnight kit for the trouble of losing your bag, and to make sure that baggage delivery is compensated for.

A Ding In Your Rental Car

It’s always bad to see that dent in your car, but it can be really stressful when it’s a rental and you know you’re going to be immediately on the hook for repair costs. 

Where Micah went wrong:

To protect yourself against inaccurate damage claims by a rental company, it’s a good practice to document the car’s condition before AND after your rental period. Micah doesn’t take the time to inspect the condition of the vehicle when he picks it up, which puts him at risk of being charged with existing damage that may have been overlooked BEFORE his rental.

Where Marvin went right:

Marvin uses his phone to take full-coverage photos of the car, in addition to documenting the damage on the check-in and out forms. And, he knows that if you’re charged with damage claims you didn’t cause, it’s best to try and get the charge refunded by your credit card company while you fight the claim with the car rental agency. If you rented through a third party, contact customer service, who should get in touch with the rental company. It’s all about documentation!

Looking for Lodging?

Large cleaning fees and surprise extra guest charges? Who wants those?! While short-term lodging rentals might be a better option for some (such as an Airbnb or VRBO rental), getting hit with unexpected fees that can add up to nearly an extra night’s cost can be frustrating.

Where Micah went wrong:

Micah doesn’t take the time to research his various available options or look into all the possible extras that he may be charged for during his stay (want to run the A/C? That’ll be $30 more per day!)  He books as-is and accepts the price (including those pesky fees!), without looking for a better deal. He also doesn’t keep track of his booking confirmations, so if he runs into a lost reservation, he’s in big trouble!

Where Marvin went right:

An Airbnb host isn’t supposed to ask for more money after the fact, so if they do, Marvin always visits the host company’s help center. Before he books, he also browses other sites to see if he can find the same listing at a lower cost, and also considers contacting the host about pricing flexibility or paying them outside of the app to lower fees.

Hotels are another option. But what happens if they lose your reservation or overbook their available rooms? Marvin knows it’s a possibility, and to stay organized before his travels he makes sure to download a copy of the hotel confirmation and calls ahead to double-confirm the reservation. He also knows he might be entitled to a comped room – take note, Micah!


Preparing yourself to be a smart traveler will come in handy when faced with travel tribulations. So when a sudden flight delay, a lost bag, or an unexpected travel fee or expense comes your way, you can confidently say “I’ve got this, and I know what to do next time!”

Looking for more travel tips? Check out our budget friendly getaway series on our Financial Living page.

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