How to Keep Travel Nightmares From Happening to You

It’s a great feeling to book the cheapest airline tickets and have everything planned in advance: all you have to do is show up on time, luggage in hand. Unfortunately, other factors can compromise what should be an ordinary travel experience. Here are four all-too-common travel nightmares (courtesy of FlightsFromHell.com), as well as how you can avoid them, so your next trip can go more smoothly.

Travel Nightmare #1: Lost luggage. This group of five managed to get on an earlier flight from Atlanta to Denver. Unfortunately, their checked luggage did not get the memo. Stories like this are a good reason to stick to carry-on luggage if possible. Learning to pack light can save you major grief. If you must check luggage, label it inside and out with your contact information, and consider marking it so that it looks unique. If your bags do not show up on the carousel, notify the baggage office and present your checked baggage stubs. Hopefully it will show up on a later flight. If not, file a claim for compensation with the airline.

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Travel Nightmare #2: Drunk passengers. There is not much you can do about people who tie one on once you are airborne, as this family discovered. Flight attendants are supposed to cut them off if it is clear they have reached their limit. But some problems are preventable. Before boarding, if that businessman is way too friendly and reeks of liquor, or if that woman you saw throwing back martinis in the airport bar is now stumbling through the gate area acting belligerent, report it to a gate agent. Airlines can be heavily fined if they let intoxicated passengers board the plane. Passengers who are clearly impaired will be denied boarding, and either rebooked or sent home.

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Travel Nightmare #3: Canceled flights. As if flying Aeroflot from Shanghai to Moscow during a major Chinese holiday was not stressful enough, imagine getting on the plane and pushing back from the gate only to have the plane’s electrical system go haywire, causing the flight to be aborted. To be prepared, always have the airline’s number programmed into your phone. Once you know your flight has been canceled, start calling the airline while standing in the rebooking line, or call the airline while using your laptop to access the airline’s website (which you should have bookmarked). You want to maximize your options, and going through rebooking channels one by one is a sure prescription for missing out.

Making Overbooked Flights Work in Your Favor

Travel Nightmare #4: Unhappy pets.  You would never bring a frenzied, feral cat in a duffel bag onto a plane, but believe it or not, it happens. To keep Fluffy or Fido happy, ensure your pet and the crate have clear identification, whether he will be traveling in the cabin or in cargo. Ask your vet how long to withhold food before the flight. Pack a carry-on bag with dry food, a small container of water, and carrier liners. If your pet is traveling in the cabin, you should be able to walk through the metal detector while carrying him. If not, ask TSA personnel to hand inspect him. Do not put him through the X-ray machine. On-board, occasionally talk to your pet, or pet him through the carrier opening. After landing, let other passengers deplane before you and your pet do. Also, ask your veterinarian’s advice about sedation. If your pet is traveling as cargo, sedation can impair his or her ability to balance in the event of turbulence.

Flying with Pets

FareCompare readers cannot prevent every travel problem, but if you have your coping skills and tools ready, you can handle travel nightmares like a pro.

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Published: October 21, 2011