Using my control freak methods for planning and organizing, you can preempt many problems that can arise on the road, but things can still happen… How you deal with situations that arise divides the savvy traveler from the rest.
The first thing to do is remain calm. I guarantee – and you know this – that you will get better assistance if you’re calm and nice and display a sense of humor than someone ranting. In many cultures, ranting is considered so heinous that the person you’re dealing with will shut down immediately and you will not get what you need.
Whenever possible, speak only to the person who can really help you. I don’t know about you, but the more I have to retell a story the more irate I become. Save yourself aggravation and ask to speak with someone in management immediately. Give the intermediary person only the information they need to convey your situation to the manager.
Be sure to have airline/hotel phone numbers/email addresses readily available. When you arrive at the airport to discover no flights are leaving that day for a particular reason, instead of waiting on lengthy lines for a likely harried customer service agent, call the toll free number. Have a way to contact your hotel to tell them you are delayed. Often they will waive cancellation fees if you inform them you’re stuck due to weather or other uncontrollable incidents.
Embrace Twitter. Although I haven’t personally done this, there are many first-hand reports on Tripadvisor of travelers having situations quickly resolved by communicating with airline personnel via Twitter when they were unable to reach anyone via telephone.
Have a back up plan. When I went to Paris in October, the official strike had ended, but there were still unofficial strikes impacting the rail route from the airport into the city. Knowing this, I researched several possible alternatives so that I could avoid paying 60-70 euros ($84-98) to take a cab from the airport. For the return trip I booked a recommended shuttle service due to an unexpected sprained ankle, but when the shuttle didn’t arrive I was already prepared with the location of the nearest cab stands, and buses to the airport.
Have back up money. It amazes me how often travelers on Tripadvisor ask what the departure fee is, because they want to be sure to have the $20 available. Do people really go overseas with no cash? I understand that most of these are All-Inclusive/package travelers, with most of their trip prepaid, but travelers are better prepared when they have back up cash and several alternative means to get money.
In addition to an emergency supply of cash, and your ATM card, it’s always a good idea to have a credit card or 2 with a pin number. If you can’t access your bank account, or the ATM card is lost, stolen or eaten by the machine – you have options. American Express can also assist card members overseas in emergency situations.
If you know you’re the type who spends money freely on vacation, it may be a good idea to put aside money for your departure fee and transportation home early in the trip, if cash is necessary.