How to Cope With Vacation Disasters

June 14, 2012 by

Musings from Viator's Founder, Travel Advice & Inspiration

Bad things can happen to good people, including you. Sadly, they sometimes happen on vacation. That can make things seem doubly bad, seeing as you’ve paid good money to enjoy yourself, not to hassle with goodness knows what problem fate has decided to drop on your head.

So it’s a good idea to have a strategy, or at the very least least a mindset, that will help you cope with problems on the road. Here’s four ideas to get you started developing that mindset:

Ice on plane

Bad weather? Try to fast forward your mind to catching another flight.

1. Put things in context right away

You missed your flight and now you won’t make the cruise departure? Your wallet has been stolen? Your hotel is a construction zone with 24-hour jackhammers? No matter how bad they seem at the time, most travel disasters pale in comparison with life’s real tragedies. Thinking “It could have been worse” may seem trite, but in fact it’s a good first step towards developing a positive outcome and enjoying the rest of your trip.

2. Fast forward

Take a moment to picture what the end of your crisis is going to look like. That might mean checking into a new hotel, meeting the courier who brings your replacement credit cards, meeting your cruise ship at its next port, or picking up a new rental car to replace the one you crashed. Whatever it is, picturing yourself enjoying that resolution will help brighten your spirits and give you the energy to work through the steps needed to get the problem dealt with.

3. Postpone the post-mortem

There’ll be plenty of time later to figure out exactly why whatever happened happened, and spending time on that now won’t help much. Instead, focus your energy on helping your traveling companions deal with the problem. Your positive attitude is the best starting point for helping them overcome the blues.

4. Stay calm, and take the blame

Remaining cool and assuming all the responsibility will make you look good, and lets others off the hook at the same time. OK, maybe it was your partner who screwed up the reservation and now you’re stranded… but they’ll love you more if you take the blame, and they’ll take a cue from your calm attitude if you can save the screaming until later. By then you may have forgotten what there ever was to scream about.

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Rental car

Buy insurance when you rent a car! Photo credt: Stig Nygaard via Flickr

Avoiding crises in the first place

The very definition of a crisis suggests we’ll never be 100% certain of eliminating them. But there are some steps we can take to help reduce risks, mitigate the downsides, and generally make life easier. Here are three suggestions, from someone who has experienced most travel disasters first hand, and knows that doing at least these things will go a long way towards your reduction/mitigation goals:

1. Suck it up: buy the insurance

Travel insurance, the extra car rental insurance, home insurance… whatever it is, buy it. It’s only expensive when you don’t have it.

2. Make copies

Of your passport, other IDs, credit cards, itinerary, whatever. And keep them somewhere else, like on a memory stick that’s not where what you copied is! You’ll probably never use them, but they are unbelievably useful in the event of… well, you know.

3. Do research… and listen to the advice

An extra hour spent checking sites like Trip Advisor, government travel advisories, travel guides like Lonely Planet and Frommers can sidestep all manner of problems, but only if you heed the warnings. (Stepping out of a cab at a Sunday market in Madrid, the driver warned my traveling companion to keep her handbag safe from pick-pockets. We smiled. Later, so did the pick-pockets.)

You’ve heard all this before

There’s a reason why: It’s all good advice, and it’s both needed (and unheeded) hundreds of times every day in every part of the world. Your vacation is a big investment of time, money and energy; try following some of our advice for a trouble-free experience. Or, at worst, a well-managed disaster!

– Rod Cuthbert



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