It’s an immutable fact that things go wrong when you travel. Of course we all hope that they don’t go quite this wrong. But still, it’s wise to remember that sometimes sh…er, stuff happens, and that it’s best to be prepared. One of my favorite ways to plan is to play the What-If Game.
Granted, I don’t think I’ve ever thought of “what if my cruise ship has an engine fire and the toilets all go out-of-order for 13 solid hours, among other problems?” Nor “what if a volcano erupts in Iceland and shuts down air traffic over Western Europe for more than a week?” But here are a few of my standard what-ifs, and the answers I’ve devised to help keep common travel problems from becoming catastrophes.
* What if my car breaks down?
Then I’m stuck on the road someplace, possibly far from help. My best practices include maintaining a membership with a roadside assistance organization. I keep a cell phone handy (and charged). I’ve also got a car-helper kit that’s got jumper cables, flares, a flashlight, and a few other goodies in it. My spare tire has air in it.
I also keep a space blanket, a rain poncho, a book, and some drinkable water in the car, just in case I get stuck someplace and need to wait for a long while. That way I can stay warm and reasonably entertained while I kick the seat back and wait for roadside assistance to arrive.
* What if my flight is delayed or canceled?
I hate it when this happens. Airports are boring and intensely uncomfortable. But flights get delayed all the time, so I come prepared every time I fly. In my carry-on, I’ve got multiple forms of entertainment including books, computer (with games), and music. I’ve got my neck pillow, which works almost as well in an airport chair as it does in an airplane seat. I eat and drink at regular intervals and stroll up and down the concourse. Most of all, I breathe deeply and relax. There’s no point in freaking out over something I cannot control–all that accomplishes is raising my own heart rate and blood pressure, flooding my system with adrenaline, and making myself feel lousy for hours.
In case of an overnight delay, I budget enough emergency money for a night in a motel near the airport. Spending the night in the airport doesn’t work for me, so I don’t even try.
* What if I have to stay away from home for an extra night? An extra week?
This has happened to me a couple of times, and with proper planning it can be a fun little adventure rather than a problem. Whenever I travel, I bring enough medication to last at least 5 days longer than I plan to be away. That’s plenty to get me through an unexpected extra night away from home without fuss or bother. It’s also enough to get through a weekend, get in touch with my doctor, and get new prescriptions faxed or phoned to my location. Because I know that I might need to make some quick calls, I’ve got a list of my doctor’s numbers both on paper and in my cell phone.
I budget for that extra night in my emergency travel fund. Honestly, I wouldn’t budget for an extra week unless I were taking a super-long trip to someplace quite far away and exotic. But anytime I’m traveling someplace I’m unfamiliar with, I do carry a guidebook that’s got information about where to go to make emergency phone calls and receive wired money.
* What if there’s no food available for purchase at breakfast/lunch/dinner time?
This seems to happen to me a lot; I don’t know why. I’ve taken to carrying a ziplock bag of my favorite trail mix in my purse. The mix has lots of nuts, so I know I’ll be getting protein and fiber. If I’m road tripping, I bring a cooler stocked with my favorite travel foods–boiled eggs, fresh fruit, chips, cheese, crackers, cooked chicken, and other things that travel well on ice or in bags in the back seat. That way I’ll never starve.
Anyone got any other good travel what-ifs? Post them here!