Be prepared! Surviving summer travel will take some patience. After two years of travel restrictions, people are heading out. For some, the vacation they hoped for is more of a nightmare as they face higher prices, canceled flights, uncooperative weather, lost luggage, and more.
I just returned from a two-week trip to Europe, and while most of my trip went well, the return home was anything but smooth. We spent about 28 hours out of 36 in either airports or airplanes. British Airways forced us to check our carry-on luggage and proceeded to lose it somewhere between Basel and Chicago. Four of five of our flights were delayed. We missed our home from Chicago to Tampa (the only flight that was on-time) and had to divert to Charlotte and spend the night there.
Everything ended on a positive note. We made it home. Our luggage eventually showed up on our doorstep in the middle of the night. We’ve caught up on most of our sleep. And, our blood pressure is back to normal.
The US Travel Association estimates that 60 percent of Americans will take at least one trip this year. If you’re one of them, here are a few tips to help you survive.
Don’t expect travel to be the same as it was in 2019. The pandemic changed everything. Prices have gone up; service levels have gone down. Your flight may change or, like thousands this summer, be canceled. Know your options before you have to call the airline, hotel, or rental car agency. And, if you have to call a travel provider, know that it may take time to get through.
When you leave, be it by plane or car, give yourself enough time. Lines at airports are long due to the shortages of TSA agents. Even with high gas prices, cars pack the roadways especially through larger cities. Making sure you have enough time to wend your way through crowds will keep you less stressed.
One big thing you might consider is padding your vacation time. In other words, add a day (or two or three) to the beginning of your vacation in case your outbound flight has problems. The cruise my husband and I were on left on a Thursday, but we arrived in Amsterdam on Monday just in case. I know of several cases where people had flights due to arrive the morning of embarkation, and because the airlines canceled them, they missed one or two days of the cruise.
Let’s Talk Luggage
A woman on our cruise spent the entire week with one set of clothes while her luggage sat somewhere in Schipol Airport. Another couple told me that their son’s luggage didn’t make it to Amsterdam, and he was without his medication.
Luckily for the first lady, the Viking crew collected her outfit every evening, cleaned it, and returned it to her by the morning. The couple were able to pick up medication for their son and bring it with them.
Hint: Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on luggage.
Better hint: Do not pack medication or anything valuable in checked luggage.
Best hint: If you can, avoid checking bags. I’ve done months in Europe with just carry-on. It takes time to plan what to take, but it saves hassles at the airport. Understand, though, that some airlines will even make you check carry-on luggage if the plane’s overhead bins are small. That happened on our trip home and is why our luggage was lost.
If you are going to travel this year, you must realize that as much as you like to think you are in control, you are not. I am a pretty patient person, but combine fatigue with travel woes, and I can lose it. Our adventure coming home from our recent trip tested me more than I like to admit.
After waiting to speak to a British Airways representative for more than 45 minutes to report our missing luggage, I was not in the mood for his excuses. I had to keep repeating to myself, “It’s not his fault. It’s not his fault.” I was able to calm down enough to talk politely—but firmly.
If you let the hiccups bother you too much, you are only hurting yourself.
Buy Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is your friend. As long as you haven’t left on a trip, you can purchase travel insurance. Hopefully you won’t have to use it, but if your trip falls through, your luggage goes missing, or you get sick, travel insurance will help recoup your costs.
I should point out that COVID is still with us, and some destinations require proof of insurance that covers COVID. You can find the list here.
Very importantly, check your policy to make sure it covers lost luggage. If you end up with no luggage and have to buy clothes, you can end up spending a lot of your vacation dollars.
If your expectations are in line with what is going on this year, you will have a great trip…and that is the important thing.