What To Do When These 20 Travel Nightmares Happen

Even seasoned travelers have their fair share of travel nightmares! From car accidents to lost children, these are the worst things that can go wrong!

Lost credit card? Car accident? Sudden injury? Canceled flight? Even seasoned travelers have their fair share of travel nightmares! Being abroad in a totally new culture that possibly doesn’t speak your language can come with its share of challenges. The good news? A bit of preparation and presence of mind can go a long way, even if luck isn’t always on your side.

We rounded up the 20 most common-sense fixes for the nightmarish disasters many travelers faced. Take note, my friends!

20.) You Need to Cancel a Plane Ticket

travel nightmares plane

Thinking about canceling a flight sends shivers down my spine. Not only do you need to answer the incessant question “Weren’t you supposed to leave yesterday?,” but you’ll also need to figure out how to get a refund on your ticket. As you may suspect, refundable tickets are more expensive than nonrefundable ones, so you might wanna check in which category yours falls.

If it’s the first, you’re in luck; call your airline to explain the situation. If you purchased a nonrefundable ticket, you will need to put in a little bit more effort. For example, some companies allow you to change or cancel your flight in the 24 hours that follow your booking; others allow changes and cancellations made at least 60 days before your trip.

19.) Typo in Boarding Plane Ticket

travel nightmares ticket

I remember vividly when I noticed that there was a typo in my name on one of my plane tickets, only a few hours before my trip. I felt like I was in a horror movie. If the same happens to you, remember to stay calm. Directly call your airline or go to one of their agencies; it’s more effective than reaching out to a third-party booking platform.

Ask them to correct it in their system, print you another reservation with the typo fixed, and highlight it on the document. Keep their phone number in case you need them once at the airport. The day of your trip, bring your two documents, the one with the typo and the one that’s fixed.

18.) Skipping Travel Insurance

travel nightmares paperwork

You might think that you don’t need insurance, but let me assure you that you do, especially if you travel with your family.

Don’t skimp on insurance; you’re never sure what might happen once you put your feet in a foreign land.

Insurance will help you cover trip cancellations, airline issues, around-the-clock assistance and much more, depending on your travel purpose and conditions.

17.) Missing Your Flight

travel nightmares: missing a flight

Oh no! Missing the train or the bus is one thing, but missing a plane puts people at a new level of despair. This is one of the most common travel nightmares, but don’t worry, there are solutions. The first thing to do is check whether your airline has the “flat tire” rule. In case of an unforeseen delay (like in the event of a flat tire on your way to the airport), the airline can bump you on the next available flight, fee-free.

If you fly with American, Delta, Southwest, or United, you’ll be happy to know that this life-saving rule applies, each with its own conditions.

16.) Canceled or Delayed Plane

travel nightmares: delayed flights

Eagerly waiting in the terminal only to notice your flight status change to “delayed” or “canceled” instead of “available” is truly unsettling. The good news is you can get reimbursed for your troubles from the airline company. The bad news is, well, sometimes you gotta fight for it. Airlines can give a compensation for a canceled or delayed plane, especially if it’s a long-haul flight, and even offer accommodations if you’re waiting until the day after. But a quick look on the law cases settled (or unsettled) against airlines will show you that this isn’t always the case.

Be prepared to go through the not-so-caring customer care process (ugh!) or to use your travel insurance plan to be reimbursed.

15.) Mishandled Or Lost Luggage

travel nightmares: lost luggage

Losing your luggage and having it mishandled is one of the most common travel nightmares. According to the SITA Baggage Report 2017, 5.73 bags per thousand passengers were lost in 2016. It’s true that it’s less than the years before, but the risk is still there.

If your luggage is delayed, goes missing or gets damaged, act right away. Go to the airline desk before leaving the luggage reclaim hall and make a claim. Ask if there is a form to fill, and keep a copy of it. Contact baggage services at the airport and the airline’s central department. Also, remember that you have a reference number you can use to track your luggage, by using the online baggage-tracing page.

Keep in mind that many times you may get a higher compensation from your insurer than from the airline, so check their policy on this matter beforehand.

14.) Canceled Hotel Reservation

travel nightmares: canceled hotel reservation

You have been thinking about your nice, clean hotel bed since you boarded the plane. You’re looking forward to stretching your body after hours of being stuck in an economy seat, but as soon as you reach the hotel reception, the receptionist hits you with a “Sorry, we can’t find your reservation.” Your dreams crumble instantly. However, don’t take your rage out on the employees.

Be nice and remain calm; civility is important. Hand them your printed reservation or show it to them on your cell phone; it might be a data entry error. You can also try to call the online booking service you used and get them to double-check. If nothing comes out of this, ask the staff of the hotel if any accommodations are available nearby.

13.) Stuck in the Airport

travel nightmares airport

Stuck in the airport? Definitely a travel nightmare. Welp, your hot shower and a comfy bed will need to wait. If your phone and computer are fully charged, you might be able to work or entertain yourself for a while, but if not, you’ll need to get creative.

Read a book if you brought one with you, head to the nearest bar or food court and try to make some international friends, write some of your thoughts in your dairy, doodle a bit or even try to sleep, just make sure all your baggage is secured.

12.) Lost Item On Plane

travel nightmares plane interior

You put your diary and charger in the back seat pocket in front of you and forgot to double-check it on landing? Don’t worry, airlines are used to lost items on their planes.

Contact the baggage service in the airport you arrived at to see if someone has turned up your items. If nothing comes out of it, file a report online. The airline should get back to you ASAP.

11.) Your Place/Hotel Is a Wreck

travel nightmares home

Coming to a horror-like hotel room or Airbnb apartment is a cold shower to any traveler.

If you’re dealing with a hotel, take pictures of the room and head to the front desk to explain why you need another room, or ask how you can get a refund. Take your complaint to higher management if need be, but never be rude; it will only make things worse.

In the case of dealing with a hellish Airbnb experience, you can request a refund from the website, providing you contact them within 24 hours of check-in with pictures to support your claim.

10.) “We Don’t Speak English”

travel nightmares tourist shop

It’s true that English is widely spoken in many countries nowadays; however, it won’t always be the case, especially when dealing with local authorities.

If you’re caught in a never-ending conversation with someone who doesn’t speak English, try to get help from Google Translate. you can even use the audio feature in case the other person can’t read. In case it’s an official business or you have to deal with local authorities, call your embassy to ask if they can provide you with a translator.

9.) Lost Your Wallet

travel nightmares: travel wallet

Oh no! Your papers, cash, receipts, credit cards, all of it is gone. What should you do?

Act fast, but don’t panic. Call your banks to cancel your credit or debit cards and call or visit your local U.S. embassy or consulate. They will help you reach your emergency contacts and fill out a police report if you don’t speak the local language.

If your money is gone, too, ask someone you know to transfer you some cash. However, to prevent this from happening in the future, don’t put all your money in one place.

To prevent things from getting too messy, make sure you carry a copy of your identity pieces and keep the real documents somewhere safe.

8.) Lost Your Passport

travel nightmares: lost passport

We’ll start with one sentence: Take a picture of your passport or make a copy of it, now!

If you lose your passport overseas, you will still need to replace it before returning to the U.S., and guess what? The documents required include a copy of your passport. They also include photo identification, evidence of U.S. citizenship, your travel itinerary, a police report—if available—and two filled forms you can request when applying or download from the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Contact the nearest U.S. embassy for assistance and speak to the Consular Section to report the incident.

7.) Robbed Abroad

travel nightmares: robbery

Arg! Getting robbed or duped abroad is one of the most distressing travel nightmares one can face. You are lucky enough if you get out of this situation without an injury; however, regardless, you need to report the incident to the local authorities. If there is a problem with the police or if you don’t speak the language, call your nearest embassy.

No matter what happens, remember to keep a copy of the police report. You will need it as proof to make a claim to your insurance company. Some of them will cover the value of your lost items and can also cover the treatment for injuries caused by mugging. It’s nothing much, but it still counts.

6.) Credit Card Not Working

travel nightmares: credit card

You may find your credit card declined when shopping overseas. Cards are sometimes declined, and can even be blocked from future use, if the transaction is deemed as prone to being fraudulent. This can especially happen if you’re visiting a “fraud-prevalent” country.

No matter what the case is, call your card issuer to clear up the misunderstanding and confirm your attempted purchase was valid. In all cases, always try to keep some cash on you to be prepared for any bad surprise.

5.) Sudden Illness or Injury

travel nightmares: illness

Ouch! Does your insurance cover the sudden stomachache you got from eating unconventional local food? In case of a sudden illness or injury, there are two things you need to do. First, reach out to your embassy to get a list of recommendations for good and English-speaking hospitals and doctors. Second, check your travel insurance.

Every travel insurance offers a distinct package, depending on your conditions. Whether you travel solo or with your family, whether you’re visiting a long-distance family member in Scotland or you’re bungee jumping in India, you will find a suitable package for you.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to act. It’s always better to cover your back beforehand than to shell out hundreds of bucks in case of an injury.

4.) Car Accident

travel nightmares: car accident

You rented a car abroad, looking forward to an epic road trip, but instead got tangled in a car accident. Not fun. First things first, don’t leave the accident scene and check if there are any injuries on either side. Call the police and write down the contact information of any other involved party.

There will be two documents for you to complete: the accident report, at the scene, and the accident statement form, from your insurer. Rule of thumb: Never sign anything you don’t fully understand!

3.) Lost Your Kid

travel nightmares: child screaming

Losing your child can be one of the top travel nightmares we can think of. You might feel like you’ll lose your mind along the way, but try to remain as calm as possible. Immediately contact the qualified authorities, such as the security guards of the place you’re visiting and the police officers.

It is always advised to take a picture of your kids before leaving for an outdoor activity; they will be easier to recognize in a crowd with their distinctive features and clothes.

Always remember to provide your child with an ID card and/or write your phone number on their wrists or on a wristband.

2.) Arrested Overseas

travel nightmares: prison

There are mild travel nightmares and there are full-on horror situations, and being caught in jail abroad is one of them.

If you’re arrested for drugs, illegal possession of an antiquity, or any other crime, immediately contact the U.S. consulate or embassy. They won’t take you out of jail with a snap of their fingers, but they will still make sure the legal procedures are well-observed.

Always research the laws of the country you’re visiting. Like Singapore with its chewing-gum policy or the no-toilet-flushing rule in Switzerland, some countries have peculiar rules everyone must obey.

1.) Natural Disaster

travel nightmares: natural disaster

Earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, avalanches, wildfire, erupted volcanoes… When Mother Nature unleashes her powers, it doesn’t spare anyone, not even the peaceful traveler. To us, this tops the list of travel nightmares!

If you find yourself in one of these situations, do what everyone does: Obey the local authorities.

Stay informed about the situation via the news and the State Department’s website and social media. Ask your family and friends if they have additional info, and try to remain calm.

Have you ever encountered one of these travel nightmares on one of your trips? And what do you do to stay protected? On another note, what insurance formula do you think is best for you? To learn all there is to know about travel insurance, make sure you read our Travel Insurance 101 article by clicking “Next”!