Travel Mishap 1: Late
Travel mishaps happen to everyone, especially me. I don’t think I can count the numerous times I have been running late when traveling. It’s probably pretty close to the number of TV shows I’ve binged. I know myself and that I tend not to even start getting ready until the time I was supposed to leave (which leads to more travel mishaps) .
My roomie will attest to this evidenced by the many times she’s had to haul me out of a binge session. In order to counteract this trend I try to get ready extremely early for travel so that when I am nerveless “late” I’m actually on time.
This helps a lot since having a student budget means that I often end up traveling either very early in the morning or late at night. From all my mistakes I have learned a plethora of tips for your reading pleasure. Please enjoy my mishaps, I know I did.
Planes, Trains, Buses, and Car-shares
Despite preparing in advance not to be late sometimes you are nevertheless late anyways. When this happens, depending on method of transportation you are utilizing there are a few ways to minimize the effect on your overall trip and mental well-being.
Most airlines now allow you to check in online and this can help you avoid that big check in line at airports especially if you only have carry on baggage. Some airports also have curb-side check in which usually has a shorter line and allows you to quickly check your luggage for a small fee. If you get stuck in a big check in line ask the people in front of you or the attendants if you can skip to the front of the line. Explain the situation politely and they will mostly likely comply.
This goes the same for the security line. It depends on the airport but many have a sign that lets you know which gates are closing soon and that the corresponding passengers may bypass the line in order to reach their flight on time.
Due to security reasons many train stations only post the platform number about 20 minutes before the train departs. If you are rushing look out for a station official to quickly ask the platform. They can either recite the platform or direct you to a board that will have it posted. Then especially if it’s a long train, you should run.
My first train ride was from Paris to Bordeaux along with all the stuff I had backed to begin my study abroad. My friend and I had accidentally gotten on the wrong car and the man who had helped us put our bags on that car looked at his watch then said “You can totally make it you have 5 minutes!” Well, we made it, but just barely. Our car was about a quarter of a mile back and the train started moving around 30 seconds after we got on. Whew, it was such a relief.
I have literally been late to just about every bus I’ve taken. It’s always turned out OK. Bus drivers have to check everyone’s tickets or/and ID’s so it is usually around 10-30 minutes after the supposed departure time when they actually pull out. Of course this depends completely on the driver. I once had a driver going from Amsterdam to Brussels that refused to even start boarding passengers until an hour after the scheduled time because he was on break. Another driver stopped down the street from the pickup in order to let on a late passenger running after the bus. Usually as long as you get there before the bus leaves the station you’re golden.
The only experience I’ve had with car shares is using the European company, BlahBlahCar. With this platform you have a message system in the application or website and you are usually provided with your drivers phone number and email. So whenever I was running late I would text or call the driver to update them on my location and how late I would be. Because car-shares are usually more individual they allow a bit more flexibility than the more structured methods of transportation.
Travel Mishap 2: Too Late
Sometimes whether by your own failings or the mystery of destiny you don’t get there in time. When this happens the first thing to do is not to panic. My big failing in this department is the time I missed my flight out of Brussels.
The friend I had been staying with warned me to double-check the airport but I naively ignored her and somehow thought that there was only one airport servicing Brussels (there are three). I realized this right after I got on the bus for the airport, with me in it. I then had forty minutes to have a slight panic attack, research if this had happened to anyone else (it had), and figure out what to do when I got to the airport.
I only had about 40 minutes when I arrive to get to the other airport across the city. I talked to some cab drivers and negotiated a price. About 5 minutes into the trip I changed my mind and had the cab driver drop me off at the nearest tram station. From there I headed into the city and found a cafe to crash in for a moment. Then I researched alternative ways to get back to Bordeaux. It turned out the cheapest way was to take a bus, as it usually is. This would also get me back the night before my next scheduled class. So instead of a nice 2 hour flight I took two 8 hour bus rides since there was not a route straight to Bordeaux I had to go to Paris and change. It was definitely a lesson for me. Always double and triple check what place you’re going to, just in case you have a moment.
Other resources when you miss your transportation, whether plane, train, or bus, are the tourist office or the office of the company your traveling with. They have a better estimation and knowledge of the immediate options than yourself or even sometimes the internet.
Travel Mishap 3: Lost
Being in a new city or area can be overwhelming. Especially when you have to think on your feet. Whether you’re direction-ally challenged as I am, tend to lose or leave your possessions everywhere as I do, or simply are at a loss as what to do in new places I have some tips to help you land on your feet.
All cities, countries and neighborhoods are different but as they are all inhabited by humans they often have similar structures and patterns that you can take advantage of. As a highly direction-ally challenged person (I can’t find my way to save my life) I have had my fair share of blunders. I’ve learned to love getting lost; but, it is a bit easier to get back to where you started when you have general idea of where you are.
If you have an internet connected phone (as most people do these days, except for me at one point…..but more on that later) you can use Google Maps which usually as public transportation and walking routes integrated. However some cities such as Vienna do not have public transportation on Maps. When this occurs you will have to read an actual map (the horror!).
When trying to locate your starting position on a map I find it is helpful to ask a local to point it out. Otherwise you might be staring at it for half an hour or walk half a mile in the wrong direction; both examples were tested by me. Try to locate the nearest subway station to your hotel or hostel. This way you know general where you have to go. Jump onto any bus or train and get to a central station where you can figure out an easier route to your intended location.
There are also offline maps that you can utilize on your phone. GoogleMaps has an offline function and another reliable one is called CityMapper.
I don’t have a good track record of keeping track of my stuff. I’ve been losing things since I’ve had stuff to call my own. In order to combat my absent-mindedness I’ve developed a few tricks to curb my habit. I have a list of packing essentials in my reminder app that contains around 15 items that I can’t travel without. It contains obvious things such as my phone and wallet and other less obvious items such as an umbrella and blister band aids.
Another trick is to buy insurance for your more expensive items. For example I have insurance on my phone which allows me to pay a premium when I lose it instead of having to pay for a whole new one. This came in handy in Toulouse when I got pickpocket on the subway.
Speaking of that instance another trick is to look on the bright side. I feel that I could be so hard on myself for not being on top of things more but sometimes you got to just let things go. When I lost my phone I saw it as an opportunity for adventure rather than a complete disaster. My friend and I used the Find my iPhone app to chase my phone all across Toulouse. It turned a day that could have been lazy and boring to a fun real life man hunt. In the end I didn’t get my phone back but I did have an amazing adventure with a great friend that I will never forget.
Getting acquainted with new cities and places is why I travel. However its hard to know what is worth doing when you don’t know the place yourself and have a limited time frame. That’s when google comes into play. Taking ten or fifteen minutes before starting your adventure can allow you to scribble down a few must do’s, must eat’s and must see’s. The three categories of sightseeing. This way you have a list that you can pick and choose off of rather than going from a pre-conceived itinerary. Below are a few must’s I always have on my list.
In any city I go to I always try to be in a good position for sunset. Whether at a penthouse bar or a hill-top park; I am in awe of the beautiful colors dancing across an unfamiliar skyline. Dusk is also the perfect time to snap a few shots as the lighting has softened.
Authentic food is a treat. The place that you are visiting is known for a food or a specific restaurant that you can’t miss out on! In Spain its tapas and Sangria, in France it’s duck and wine. Of course I’m generalizing per country, each region and even town has a specialty that is uniquely their own and delicious to take part in.
My last tip on new places is to be OK with being lazy. Take an espresso and sit on a patio for a couple of hours with a good book or some good people watching. Don’t feel bad for sleeping in or not packing your day to the brim. Yes we travel to immerse ourselves but we also travel to be re-energize and that’s not going to happen if you don’t take time to experience the moment.
Travel Mishap 4: Delayed
Having your plans delayed when it’s through no fault of your own is one of the most frustrating things about traveling. There really isn’t much you can do expect knowing your rights and accepting the situation. I had to deal with this when I was stranded for a night on my way to London. I had planned to go see the Nutcracker the next day but unfortunately missed that as the plane did not take off until the day after it was supposed to depart. Thankfully EU regulations mandate a $250 rebate on all shorter flights if they are delayed over three hours. While it doesn’t give back time it does help ease the financial burden
Whether you are late, lost or delayed we all have travel mishaps. I hope that my tips and stories have helped you think of the less joy some parts of travel with less reluctance. In the end what matters most is the experience, and it is your choice whether to make it a good one or bad. Have an amazing trip!