Episode 8

HOW TO BE OKAY WITH TRAVEL PLANS NOT GOING AS PLANNED

By Ruth Clark

Counting on travel plans to go perfectly smoothly is like assuming that nice weather is going to stick around: You’ll almost always be disappointed. When I missed a train and found myself stuck in a foreign city overnight, I learned this the hard way. Despite being a seasoned solo traveler, I’d made a rookie mistake—I missed my connecting train, the last train of the day. I was crushed as I realized that my well-laid plans were now in flux.

From misplaced passports to lost luggage, missed connections to sudden sickness, we’ve all experienced travel plans not going as, well, planned. These four friendly reminders will help buoy your sense of ease and guide you through the worst travel snafus.

Plan Ahead

Call your credit card company ahead of time to make sure you’re aware of all potential benefits. Some credit card companies reimburse you if a flight is delayed and an overnight stay is required. So know the perks, just in case! And while you’re at it, set a travel alert on any cards you may be using, so your bank doesn’t freeze your accounts.

Travel apps can also be lifesavers. Between itinerary organizers, offline navigation, and last-minute hotel deal finders, downloading helpful apps before you go can be the answer to plans going smoothly. When I missed my train and was unexpectedly stranded at the train station, I used one of the apps I downloaded before my trip to help me find a nearby hotel at a great price. I was connecting trains in Toulouse, France, a city I’d never been to before where I didn’t speak the language. I was on a month-long visit to friends in Europe, and both my budget and schedule were tight. I wasn’t expecting to pay for a hotel room for an extra night or to buy a new train ticket the next day, but having apps pre-downloaded made the change of plan easier.

Prioritize Safety

Traveling in new places, especially if you’re alone or with kids, can be scary. Throw in the variables of unexpected costs, confusing schedules, and things being out of your control, and you’ve got a recipe for some stress.

Focusing on your safety and comfort right off the bat is always a sensible first step. Are you stuck at a train station or an airport late at night? Find the help desk or a nearby hotel pronto. Are you traveling alone? Stay aware of your surroundings and use your phone mindfully. Do you feel okay to hang tight and figure out a new game plan, or do you need to find help immediately? Assess the situation and always make sure safety comes first.

For me, I didn’t feel comfortable spending too long in a potentially unsafe train station late at night. There weren’t many people around and the last trains were leaving the city, one by one. I felt like all eyes were on me, as I was perhaps overly self-conscious of my large traveling backpack and my lack of French. Getting myself to the service desk and finding a nearby hotel was my first priority.

Check In with Supportive Friends or Family

Once I’d gotten myself checked into a hotel room for the night, I took a deep breath and connected to the WiFi. I video chatted with my sister, texted a few friends, and updated the person who was waiting in the next city.

In overwhelming moments, having a few supportive people to lean on can make or break the situation. Whether you’re traveling with them or not, keep a mental checklist of a few reliable folks who will be able to provide some support and help you keep your head clear.

Make a New Game Plan

Does your bank need to cancel your missing credit card? Do you need to make new reservations? Buy a toothbrush at the corner store until the airline recovers your luggage? Take a deep breath and get to business.

The attendant at the station showed me my options for the next morning, which were far more expensive than I was anticipating. I decided to think about it and checked into the hotel across the street. Instead of splurging on a hotel room and a new ticket, I found a less expensive ride through a rideshare app. I ended up meeting a kind French woman and having a lovely experience with a local. Keep a clear head and make that new plan. Who knows? It might even work out better.

Travel is a privilege and supposed to be fun, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. Expect the unexpected.

You’ve got this.


Ruth Clark
Ruth Clark is a solo world traveler, writer, teacher, and artist. She is an advocate for authentic living and has been featured in Modern Trekker and Women’s Agenda. She shares her travels and encourages others to be more mindful of exploration in everyday life.

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