7 Unexpected Travel Problems and How to Fix Them

There are a lot of things that can ruin a trip, but some snafus tend to crop up more than others. Here’s my list of unexpected or surprise travel problems, and how to fix them.

When you’re done with these, tell me about your unexpected travel problems – on our Facebook page.

1. Airport traffic delays

Ask anyone heading to Los Angeles International (LAX) and you’ll hear how they always add extra time to their trip on the 405 freeway because of traffic accidents, brush fires or – well, sometimes the whole darn freeway gets shut down.

How to fix this: Leave extra early, every time, but if you are stuck in traffic – call your airline immediately. They won’t hold the plane, but at least they won’t give your seat away to a standby passenger until the very last minute. Most important: if you do not call and the flight leaves without you, you get nothing for that ticket you paid for. It loses all value.

The 7 Screw-ups of Summer Travel

2. Wearing the wrong clothing

An American Airlines passenger missed a flight last week because her T-shirt had the F-word on it. Airlines have wide latitude when it comes to free speech on planes and if they think something will make other passengers uncomfortable, they can and do keep offending passengers off planes.

How to fix this: Use your common sense. Wear non-controversial clothing or at least a jacket so no one else can see it. You can make your case after the flight.

3. Weather delays and cancelations

This shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but folks who don’t fly much think winter weather is worse than summer but usually the opposite is true.

Bad Weather: Summer vs. Winter

How to fix this: Be prepared with charged laptops/tablets/phones and chargers, and have snacks and fun stuff for the kids if you have a long wait in the airport. Meanwhile, you’ll be busy standing in line for an airline agent while you’re on the phone. Your goal is getting on the next flight out, because flights will be full this summer and you don’t want to be delayed any longer than you have to be.

4. Lost ID

Your wallet is lost or stolen – you know you must cancel your credit cards but how do you fly without an idea?

How to fix this: Get to the airport an hour earlier than normal. The TSA will let you fly, but they will also have to ask you some questions to verify your identity. Be patient, too. They’re not the ones that lost your wallet.

5. Wrong city, wrong airport, wrong terminal

Think this couldn’t happen? It does indeed, and not just to novice travelers. Sometimes a traveler will check their ticket and see “AirTran” and “Chicago” and automatically head to O’Hare, but AirTran flies out of Midway only.

How to fix this: Contact your airline immediately – if you don’t, you’ll likely have to eat your ticket. If you’ve got time, head to the next airport, but start making plans for another flight. Next time, study your ticket carefully and check your airline’s website and social media feeds for last-minute updates.

Allegiant Joins Spirit, Charges Fee for Carry-on Bag

6. Fee changes

You thought your carry-on was free, then Allegiant changed the rules on you and started to charge for it.

How to fix this: Usually an airline’s website includes a booking date on which the new fee takes effect. Look it up in case you shouldn’t be charged. Otherwise, throw yourself on the mercy of the airline but don’t expect much – and have a credit card handy.

Spirit Refuses Dying Vet’s Request for a Refund (but ultimately caves)

7. Joking with security

TSA officers have heard it all including comments like, “I have a bomb.” Say this and you will also have a big delay and possibly a night in jail.

How to fix this: Plead insanity. Otherwise, prepare for a grilling – and next time, no jokes.

More from Rick Seaney:

Solutions to 7 Common Travel Problems

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Published: May 29, 2012