Power Tips for When Travel Plans go Awry

Trevi Fountains Rome Italy

Being in control was my way of asserting power over my life or at least I thought so until I realized the illusion of being in control of your life. You may control your temper, your attitude, or your eating habits but you do not control circumstances and situations at large or the poor strokes of luck that show up unannounced and unwelcome. You can, however, plan to meet them with patience, preparation and presence of mind.

Do not be caught ill prepared when things go awry during your travels.

Just as with life, your travel plans may go astray once in a while and if you are not prepared to handle them, they will change your experience — and that, my friends, you should not allow. Guard your travel experience as you would a precious work of art; these memories will warm your heart in the years to come and these stories will serve you well in your golden years so refuse to let a few mishaps even slightly taint them.

There is disquiet in uncertainty and that feeling grows by leaps and bounds when you go away from home. You can argue the many good reasons some people rarely leave home but in my eyes none are good enough for the memories and experiences you negotiate in exchange.

Yet it is important to take heed of your particular discomfort — be it with your diet, your intolerance for the weather, your worries about things left behind at home – and prepare well for your time on the road.

What do you do when things just don’t go as planned?

How do you manage when your train is delayed, when your flight is canceled, when the phone doesn’t work (as the phone company promised it would), when you get sick, when you lose something, when your luggage is late or when you just miss home more than you imagined?

Things will go wrong during travels, but you can avoid some of it. Sometimes, you need to offset things by choosing your battles. With preparation, you can manage to work around problems,, minimize the impact, pick up the pieces, learn from them and prepare better for next time. Here’s hoping we never meet misfortune on the road but should it show up, you can use my power tips below to face them.

Atop Brunelleschi's Dome in Florence

How to best prepare for and face these setbacks on the road?

1. Losing Things

It is dreadfully frustrating when you lose things and yet it’s bound to happen now and again when you are on the go. Here are ways I could have lost fewer things. Remember to always check back pockets of airplane seats, backseats, trunks and all compartments of rental cars and trains, under your table and chairs in restaurants and cafes, every single drawer and closet and inside the shower in hotel rooms for your stuff. Have a routine such as never taking your phone out on a subway or never putting luggage behind you in your blind spot or always tying your sweater to your luggage. Stick to smart habits in ways you carry and organize and especially unpack and then re-pack your belongings.

2. Getting Harassed

Being harassed by gypsies (Rome and Paris), persistent beggars (San Francisco and Boston), over-eager sellers (Hong Kong), can ruin your mood and bring you close to creating a public scene (or is that just me?). Here are ways to minimize it. Show super confidence in your walk and your sense of direction and purpose. Do not linger in places where these offenders hang out. Do not make eye contact or engage in conversation when in an uncomfortable environment. Be wary of those approaching you to offer to take your picture (forget that I said I do this for others out of sympathy!). Do not fall for their tricks or offers of lost money or “free stuff”; just walk away. Be firm, be vigilant, and be smart.

3. Getting Mugged

Thankfully we have not had this experience but it’s only because we are too cautious. You must always know the nature of the environment in any city or country you visit. Pickpockets are plentiful in parts of Europe and they are good at what they do; you just have to be better at their game. Choose to store your wallet or cash in your front pocket rather than back pocket. Be discrete, be careful, be consistent, and be wary of where you reach in to take money out. Watch out for a group of people where one distracts you while the other mugs you. Be very selective which ATM machines you use at what time of day and above all, use your common sense.

4. Getting Lost

With the advent of technology and electronic devices, which carry maps and GPS, Yelp and yellow pages, there is no reason to get lost. Map out your route before you leave for the day. Set aside your pride and ask for directions and ask reputable sources like a major store or your hotel concierge. Carry your lodging’s exact address and number with you. Understand general subway maps by taking two minutes to study the routes. Carry the small schedule booklets for trains and other modes of transportation. Be wary of street safety at night and know the acceptable taxi colors especially in South America.

5. Getting Separated from Your Travel Partner

Next to getting lost, getting separated from your partner or your group is the worst frustration and it can happen easier than you think. One second, you are all on the subway or train, the next second, one person never got off before doors shut tight. Have a plan B. Ours is for the “person still in motion” to get off at the next stop and wait until the other person makes it there. Have a way to contact each other. With cell phone usage so expensive in other countries, look at options like Google voice or Skype over WiFi. In the city upon arrival, have an agreement on your plans if you get lost. Maybe agree to meet back at the hotel or the main train station. My husband and I spent a good anxiety-driven 30 minutes looking for each other inside Paddington Station due to a small error in communication once, no fun!

6. Getting Sick

If there were one wish the travel Gods could grant me, it would be to never again fall sick while on the road. I remember curling up into a ball in a corner of a giant hotel suite wishing only for my bed at home when the company’s cafeteria food (never again!) made me so violently ill that I was sure I would not survive the night. I remember when my husband had to be hooked up to IV in the ER and dropped 10 pounds in 2 days in our Caribbean cruise (also never again!) after eating something suspicious. Getting sick can put a huge damper on plans and this is the one about which you should be most vigilant. Know your allergies and your food tolerances. If you have doubts, ask about the ingredients. Eat at reputable places; use Yelp to read reviews or ask your concierge. Do not overindulge and stay away from alcohol. Always carry simple crackers, some first aid medication and some tea bags. Know the whereabouts of the hospital and the closest pharmacy. Form a relationship with the hotel manager, a driver, or someone trustworthy so that you can ask for help.

7. Getting Delayed

Delays are the most common occurrence especially with train, plane and car travels. You are a safe bet if you are walking! I think this one is mostly psychological and you learn acceptance over time. No matter how well you plan, planes and trains will be delayed, traffic will meet you along the way and you must learn how to pass idle time without thinking it wasted. Read. Take a walk in between flights. Have a conversation with others. Make plans for later. Return phone calls. Accept that some circumstances are outside your control but this is where good attitude pays in abundance.

8. Having your Luggage Delayed

If you know me, you know the first tip is to never check in luggage. If you must, however, make sure it is clearly tagged as yours and never check in your electronics or jewelry or other valuables (for me, my tango shoes!) along with the luggage. Know how to describe it well to others. Keep electronic copies of your important documents online in a service such as DropBox, accessible from any computer in case of emergency. Always carry your toiletries and a clean set of clothes in your carry-on. In some countries, you may be expected to “tip” if they find your luggage so be aware of the culture and at that point, be willing to abide by the norms. In general, travel light, have copies of your passport and credit cards and reservations handy, and keep reserve cash in a secondary location.

9. Feeling Homesick

This is the emotional weariness of the trip and usually it meets me towards the end. I miss my house, my bed, my pillow and my closet full of clothes. I miss my food and my routines at home. It is usually the best mishap to have happen to you especially if you are home bound soon. I think having something familiar from home, a favorite shirt, a journal, a scent, music or favorite pajamas, can set you in the right frame of mind for a happy return home.

Have you experienced other travel mishaps? Do you have tips I did not share here for these mishaps? Please share your fabulous thoughts in the comments below!

Paris the Seine and Eiffel Tower

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  • http://productivewriters.com John Soares

    Excellent tips Farnoosh. I spent nearly a year hitch-hiking through western and eastern Europe in 1985. Of course, delays are part of the game with hitching.

    I did leave my sweatshirt on a bus in Poland, which was a definite drag because I didn’t replace it until I got to Sweden a week or two later. I really like your advice on minimizing the possibility you’ll lose something. In hotels I always keep all my stuff in one place, and I never use their drawers. And when I leave a restaurant, coffee shop, etc, I have a habit of turning back one last time to be sure I have all my belongings.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hi John, so nice to see and hear about your hitch-hiking adventures (very brave of you and yes I hear it was a safer world back then). Amazing you still remember the sweatshirt and It is the same with me – yet I bet if we hadn’t lost our particular items, we would never remember them years later (losing makes them important somehow!) and would you believe the day I put up this post I left my (expensive) bottle of water on the Frankfurt train? 😉 thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  • http://kikolani.com/ Kristi

    My original flight to Blog World was cancelled. Fortunately there was an earlier flight that had some room so I was able to hop on that. I was glad I packed the night before, otherwise, I would never have been able to leave the house two hours earlier than planned and jump straight on the plane.

    I would also say that the best bet if you have to check luggage is to keep your valuables and unreplaceable things in the checked luggage, and irreplaceable things + 1 – 2 day worth of clothes in the luggage you carry on. That way it’s not 9pm at night the day before a major conference and you are stuck with no outfits.

    I’ll definitely keep these tips in mind for when my hubby and I travel to Australia next year! :)

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Thank goodness you were packed, Kristi, for our sake and yours!! Thank you for the double great tips on checking luggage – and you wouldn’t believe that we also are planning a trip to Australia early next year! Let’s hope we cross paths – please keep me posted on details as I would love to see you again if only for an hour or a few! :) thanks so much for stopping by and by the way, I am sending you all this from Berlin on my iPad!! Hope you get yours soon!!!

  • http://www.shakeoffthegrind.com Joe Wilner


    Thanks for the helpful tips! I have had near perfect travel experiences as well as dreadful ones. My last travel experience was fraught with plane delays and other time constraints. It certainly led to an attitude change that examined all the things that should have been done differently or what I would do different next time. In retrospect, it provided a wonderful chance to develop patience and really work toward changing my focus and attitude to more positive aspects. In the end, the trip was very pleasant and an enjoyable experience. I agree when things are out of our control, we have to make the best of them.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hi Joe, great to see you here and to hear about your travel experience! You know, my attitude was beyond repair at times when things went haywire and in hindsight an hour or two delay is never worth a sour mood. Patience is our best friend, you have chosen your lessons in retrospect very wisely! Here is to trouble-free travels and patience-abundant attitude when things go awry!

  • Sandra Lee


    These are insanely useful tips! I’ve gotten sick and delayed and have lost things. I always worry about losing track of my travel partner too. I will be sure to read these useful tips again before any trip. They are a treasure. And thanks for the link!

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      My dear Sandra, you are so welcome! I tried to come up with really useful tips which have saved us some serious time and frustration. I am so happy you found it useful! And it looks like you already have a new post up. Can’t wait to read. Thanks for stopping here as always!

  • http://blog.self-improvement-saga.com/ Nea | Self Improvement Saga

    Hi Farnoosh. I haven’t traveled outside of the country nearly as much as I want to, but it’s nice to have such awesome tips on hand. I know you always say to avoid checking baggage, but I’m pretty compulsive about having “my stuff.” If there’s any travel mishap that I’m vulnerable too, it’s definitely the one about losing baggage. That would suck!

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Dear Nea, how lovely to see you here – I hope you travel often outside the country when the time is right for you. It truly is wonderful even if it is below expectations; in the end, I am always happy to have made the trip. Darling, I KNOW what you mean about having your “stuff” with you. It is never easy for me to part with so much at home but it gets easier I hear. Just read mine or Kristi’s tips on losing luggage, safe travels and thanks for your comment!

  • http://www.kaizenvision.com Aileen

    Farnoosh, this is fantastic! It’s truly wonderful that you can share your travel wisdom! Travel can be fun, exciting, adventurous but it can be high anxiety as well – the tips you offer really help to prepare – and reduce anxiety. I love your advice about being separated from your travel partner – your plan B is fantastic.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hello darling Aileen, I am so happy when I share tips or talk about traveling wisely and efficiently! In fact, I am pondering an ebook on travel next- what do you think? The plan on separation is all from hubby mastermind but I love getting the credit! 😉 thank you for the comment!

  • http://www.howtomingle.com/blog/ Parker Lee | howtomingle.com

    Hey Farnoosh,

    i really enjoyed this post because i can relate to so much of it! I think something that always happens to me is getting harassed, i swear it’s like i’m some kinda beggar/gypsy magnet.

    also, this is sad but even w. the help of my iphone’s gps–i still get lost!

    getting a human(local) to point the way always works best for me (:

    have a happy thanksgiving!

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Dear Parker, hi! Too funny, so why do you think you attract them so? Have you tried to find a pattern in your behavior or manners? And I get lost do often in my own home town, it is beyond embarrassing for me too but preparation and backup plans always ease the worry and somehow, with a backup, things go wrong much less often! Thanks so much for your comment!

  • http://experienceandgrow.com Tom Sorhannus

    For me it´s more about feeling awaysick than homesick :-) I love travelling and could be on journey all the time if I had the opportunity. When I´ve been home for a few months I feel I just have to go away somewhere.

    Of course we don´t want things to get wrong during travelling, but some times it still happens. Just as you say Farnoosh, we can´t control everything. On the other side it is often when things go wrong we learn the most. I was in Nairobi in Kenya a few years back, travelling alone, and got both robbed and food poisoned. Although it was not fun when it happened, afterward I felt I had got a rich experience because I learned about how both the polices and the hospitals works in Nairobi. Something I would not have known hadn´t these things happened.

    And I learned about how important it is to get to know new people, because without a Brazilian doctor staying at the same place as me I wouldn´t have known how to take the medicine I was ordered.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Tom, what a great story and lesson you shared here, thank you so much! Yes indeed, in hindsight we appreciate even our travel mayhem. I don’t think I would look back fondly on ever getting robbed though; something about the personal violation will be so hard to recover from. I am so happy you survived the misfortune and have a richer experience on which to look back. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  • http://10stepstofindingyourhappyplace.blogspot.com/ Galen Pearl

    I took my daughter on a Greek cruise last summer, along with my sister and two cousins. We flew into Venice to spend one night and board the next morning. My sister’s luggage did not arrive. Not only that, but the airline couldn’t even locate it. That night my cousins and I loaned her some clothes and necessities. The next morning, we raced to the store to buy some things before getting on the ship. I was so proud of my sister. She was clearly stressed, but she soldiered on with a good attitude. We all pitched in to assure her that we would take care of whatever she needed. Lo and behold, just after we sailed, her bag magically appeared at the cabin door. It had a tag on it that said overnight courrier but with no information about where it came from. So our first cruise photo was one of my sister hugging and kissing her suitcase!

    I have had the good fortune to live in several countries and to travel to many more, so I have encountered all the travel challenges you listed, except, thank goodness, getting mugged. I think the Dalai Lama has the best travel (life) advice. If you have a problem that you can fix, then there is no need to worry about it. If you have a problem that you can’t fix, then there is no need to worry about it.

    Thank you for a post full of practical advice.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Dear Galen, your fantastic story and the closure by one of my own favorite quotes just makes my day (which was filled with traveling to Europe for 24 hours…). If you ever figure out how airlines magically find lost luggage, please write and tell us about it. As with many other things with them, it is a mystery! And so nice that you saw your sister’s handling of stress and were of course proud of her great attitude. Great story, thank you for sharing! Now I am dreaming of a Mediterranean vacation!

  • http://SourcesOfInsight.com J.D. Meier

    Beautiful tips and I like your pragmatic insight. I’ve had more than my fair share of things going horribly wrong on my various adventures. But I guess I’m lucky to still be here and write about it.

    My favorite one-liner reminder that gets me in the right mindset is:
    “Stand strong when tested.”

    It’s simple, but it reminds me to focus on the challenge at hand, get resourceful, and respond by making the best move I can, with whatever I’ve got.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hi J.D., your one liner is now mine if not more than just mine! It is really interesting to look back on our travel mayhem – sometimes, I do think we too have been lucky things weren’t worse! I really like your super smart andcsimple strategy for when trouble comes around. Thank you so much for being a loyal reader here.

  • http://www.poweredbyintuition.com Angela Artemis

    These are wonderful useful tips.
    My parents sent my sister and I to Greece when we were teenagers. We’d taken a day trip by boat to the island of Corfu and gotten very lost. Luckily we spoke Greek and after a while found our way back – but the boat we came on was pulling up anchor! We screamed and ran as fast as we could and they put the gang-plank back down for us. Boy, were we scared! I was 17 and my sister 15.
    We learned a valuable lesson about paying attention to our surroundings at all times and the necessity of wearing a watch!

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hi Angela, I have yet to make it to Greece but I don’t envy the anxiety and scare you two lived through for losing track of time – whatever would you have done if the ship had sailed? :) Anyway, I think you have now made keeping track of time an imperative for us! Thank you so much for sharing this with us!! It was so nice to see you here!

  • Lizzie Manuel

    These tips are great. One thing I also learned about how not to lose things is that when I travel, I try not to bring a lot of stuff. I always try to bring things that are necessary for my travel. Love this article . Thanks!

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hello dear Lizzie, not bringing a lot is fundamental to losing less and being so much more care-free! Bravo for a suggestion I truly believe in! Thank you for your comment here dear Lizzie!

  • http://www.backpackingmatt.com Matt

    Excellent tips Farnoosh – all good things to remember. For me, I just do my best to take the bumps in the road with a grain of salt. It’s always difficult to understand, but I think the bumps happen for a reason and ultimately add something to the experience. You may not see it at the time, but looking back perceptions of the original experience always seem to be clearer.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hi Matt, it is so so nice to see you here – I love following your adventures and as you may know, we were in Bali in late September so seeing you there right afterwards has been reminiscing of our fantastic time! You know, it is hard to see how all these bumps may play out in the long term as they are happening and I am sure we would all rather avoid them but yes, if the hand if destiny wishes otherwise for us, then we might as well learn from them! Thanks so much for a comment in this space!! Hope to see you here again!

  • http://www.dancingfirs.com/ Mary Robson@ White Rock BC Hotels

    Great post. I will surely keep these tips in mind next time I go traveling! I have a friend who went to Greece recently and lost his camera in the hotel room. If only he had your tip in the back of his mind, it could have been avoided. Thanks for sharing.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Dear Mary, welcome to prolific living – I am so glad you enjoyed these tips. It’s such a shame your friend lost his camera; I’d be in tears for weeks. One small error on our part and we usually pay so heavily, sigh. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and happy safe travels to you! Hope to see you again here!

  • http://gutsywriter.com GutsyWriter

    Farnoosh, I just found you via Annabel Candy. I love to travel, and have lived in Europe, Africa and, Central America and now California. Jet-lag is a major headache for me, as I usually only stay a week in Paris, where my dad lives. Also I did get my camera stolen at Fiji airport, when I checked in my bags. Can you believe the airlines stole it? Sad, as it was our Anniversary present to go there. Great advice. Thanks, Sonia.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hello dear Sonia, what a great title. You are one gutsy traveler to have been in all those places – I have yet to make it to Africa but the wild life will persuade me sooner or later for a visit. It’s very sad that you too (look at the above comment!) also lost your camera. I find it so hard to believe the airlines stole it, although I believe some countries have less “ethics” and regulations around their airports and I’m very sad you were a victim. I think when I look back at things stolen, I am always regretful but a bit grateful that something happened to one of my possessions rather than to me; it’s some silly Persian omen that helps you look at things from an easier light. Here’s hoping you get a killer camera next! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • http://brite-talk.com Andrea DeBell – britetalk

    Hi Farnoosh!
    As usual these are all great tips from a seasoned traveler. When traveling, I totally release control and let grace guide the way. If mishaps happen, I accept the lesson they teach me and the wisdom behind the situation. I can’t argue with “what is” because I’m pretty sure I created it in one way or another. :-)

    Your tips are very detailed and well-thought off. It shows that you’re a pro on the subject. Thanks for this wonderful post. Loving blessings!

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Dearest Andrea, always lovely to see you here. And thank you for calling me a “seasoned traveler” – sometimes, like right now, after taking the very long way to Europe and back for a 4 day trip makes me think I must be crazy but a day later, I am ready to do it all over again….it’s great that some of this advice can help others along the way! Of course, I knew you would have the wise and brilliant approach, from all your amazing tweets and perspective on life. Thank you for sharing. You are a dear friend, thanks Andrea!

  • Rebekah

    I would love to hear about the experience and reasoning that led to the “The one in motion stays put until…” strategy, which was clearly perfect for the metro. How did that weigh against “Return to the last jointly known position”? I wish I could say Peter and I have developed strategies based on reading a good article like this one and not based on bumbling about :) Our last gaff involved Saint-Germain des Prés vs. Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois. Enjoyed reading this, and enjoyed knowing you were out and abroad for T’giving!

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Rebekah, my dear dear friend, I am thrilled every time I see you here on the blog sharing your unique thoughts. So yes, on the rules, it’s always Andy’s idea. He amazes me with his travel insight; you can put him in the middle of Tokyo’s maze of metro system and he will find his way to his destination. You and Peter must make sweet travel companions – and oh yes, the small errors in the exact location can be quite the catastrophe. So glad you enjoyed this and hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving too!

  • Gina

    All excellent tips!

    • http://www.prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Thanks Gina!!

  • http://eastofparis.blogspot.com Jasmina

    Delays will happen. But, I’ve learned that by keeping a good humor and being nice to the airline staff (who are surrounded by complaining passengers) gets results, even upgrades. I once got upgraded to first class on a flight from NY to Moscow just because I was nicer then the person in line in front of me — instead of complaining about the flight delay, I gave the ticket agent a smile and said “Tough day, huh?”

    • http://www.prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hi dear Jasmina, you are SO right about that – we have had upgrades like that by being sincerely and truly nice and genuine to the poor airline staff who get the brunt of everything from wary travelers. Oh that long flight upgrade must have been so nice for you! Thanks for sharing your great story here with us!

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  • http://www.katewalling.com Kate Walling

    Excuse my tardy arrival to the conversation. I was sent your blog via email, and in looking around, I came across this awesome post. I really appreciate all of these tips. My husband and I do a lot of traveling, and I have learned to expect the best but prepare for the worst. I agree with Jasmina – a good sense of humor is so important!

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hi Kate and welcome to prolific living! There is no such thing as being late to conversation where blog posts are concerned so I am happy to have your thoughts here….And very happy to hear of another traveling couple! How exciting and brave for you – Would you be so kind as to take my side-bar 30 second survey? I’d love your perspective or better yet if you did it on behalf of others in your life who may have fears or doubts around travel….And I am so happy you enjoyed this post! Thanks for your comment!!

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