Making the Best of a Travel Fiasco
We’ve all been there — you spend weeks, months, or even years planning a dream vacation, expectations are high… and then, from the moment you leave your house, things start going wrong. You get a flat tire on the way to the airport. Your flight gets delayed six hours. The hotel has lost your reservation. It rains the whole time you’re there. From start to finish, the entire thing is a fiasco.
Your initial reaction is to get angry. After all, a lot of money and planning went into this vacation, and you expect it to be right. Some things you can forgive; after all, weather does whatever it does, and you can hardly control that. But when the whole trip is nightmare after nightmare, eventually you just want to blow up and yell at someone about it, which in the end only makes your unhappiness worse. So what do you do when everything seems to be a disaster?
The best medicine for avoiding a vacation full of anger is prevention, and that doesn’t mean trying to prevent things from going wrong — it means being prepared to handle any and all mishaps with grace. The fact that you paid a lot of money for this trip and paid extra for luxury service does not change the reality that humans still sometimes make mistakes or that the weather can sometimes do unpredictable things. You cannot change things that are out of your reach, but what you can do is control how you react to and deal with them. So don’t start out by setting yourself up for disappointment — be reasonable in your expectations. Don’t convince yourself that everything is going to be a certain specific way, because if it isn’t exactly like that, you’ll be crushed. Instead, remain open to a wide range of possibilities, because many fun times can come out of spontaneous changes to your plans. Be ready to adapt to anything and everything.
“Being ready for anything” can have different meanings, depending on the vacation. We all have those moments when we look back on a disaster and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. It’s difficult to do that when you’re actually in the situation, but there are always methods to get around problems. If you’re going to a sunny beach resort, ask yourself what you will do if it rains for two weeks straight, because it might. Have a well-constructed Plan B for every Plan A, so that if something goes wrong, it’s no problem — you have another plan! In terms of facilities being unsatisfactory, before I travel anywhere I usually make myself familiar with a few hotels in the vicinity, and keep their phone numbers handy just in case. You don’t want to waste a day looking for a new hotel. In terms of service, if everything is not how you expected, give them a chance to make it right before taking additional steps. Often things can be fixed quickly and you can get back to your vacation without any further hassle. People make mistakes, and sometimes you just have to accept that you’ve been on the receiving end of one.
So does accepting mistakes mean that you have to let yourself be a doormat for poor service? Absolutely not. Of course you deserve compensation and correction for any mistakes or wrongdoing on your vacation. That goes without saying. But the fact is, when mistakes have happened, well, they’ve already happened, and getting yourself upset about it neither fixes the problem nor makes you happier. It only serves to increase your stress level and make those around you uncomfortable. Also, in my years of experience watching angry customers in hotels and tourist attractions around the world, I’ve learned that screaming at staff doesn’t usually get the problem corrected, and often it gets you kicked out. Staff are expected to listen to your complaints and try to fix the problem; they are not expected to take verbal abuse (and rightly so). Remember that these people are here to serve you, that’s their business, and therefore any failure on their part was almost certainly unintentional. Be firm about stating the issue, but stay in control of your emotions.
Sometimes you can’t stop a fiasco from happening, but you can always control your reaction to it. Being flexible in your expectations can help, but so can having contingency plans in place. Taking things in your stride and being prepared for anything is a sure-fire recipe for having a great vacation, no matter what happens.