How to Handle and Avoid a Travel Crisis

September 27, 2016

The rigors of travel can be exhausting!  From lineups at the airport to flight delays, air travel definitely isn’t the ‘walk in the park’ it was a few decades ago.  What you don’t need to add to your stress, is having your credit card, wallet or passport stolen when you’re traveling.  To have this happen at home is disconcerting enough, but dealing with such an emergency when you’re traveling – particularly if you’re in a country where the language, customs, and laws differ greatly from your ‘norm’ – can be quite traumatic; even more so if you’re ill-prepared and uninformed.

Other troublesome incidents also may occur.  What do you do if your luggage is lost or stolen?  What do you do if you miss your scheduled flight?  ‘Who ya gonna call’ if your credit card gets declined on those ‘must have’ shoes in Milan?  It’s doubtful Ghostbusters will be much help

In this article, we’ll share some travel tips for 3 very important travel components – lost luggage, stolen/compromised credit card, and missed flights – together with what you need to know before you go, and what to do if the unthinkable does happen while you’re globetrotting.

1. Keep Your Luggage Safe when Traveling

Following these tips is no guarantee that your luggage won’t perform a ‘disappearing act’, but it will help considerably:

  • Don’t pack valuables in your checked luggagenot ever!  Airlines offer minimal reimbursement for packed items and accept no liability for the loss/theft of your fine jewels, electronics, heirlooms, furs, camera, or cash that you thought would be safe to pack.  Leave valuables at home.
  • Take a photo (and/or make a detailed list) of items packed in your suitcase.  Store the photo on your cell phone so you can refer to it if you and your travel gear become separated.  And, no, you’re not being paranoid if you go one step further and snap a pic of the baggage tag before you toss your bag on to that cavernous hole which is the baggage conveyor belt.
  • Put a TSA-luggage lock on your bag.  This lock will make your luggage less accessible to thieves, yet still allow TSA officers to inspect the contents if they wish.

Tarriss TSA Luggage Locks

Tarriss TSA Luggage Locks

  • Use a clearly legible ID tag, on both the outside and the inside of your bag.
  • Go directly to the Baggage Claim carousel.  Don’t dilly-dally once you have deplaned. The faster you get to the Baggage Claim area, the better your chances are of claiming your own luggage (before someone else inadvertently or intentionally takes it).
2. Keep Your Credit Card Safe when Traveling

So much of your travel safety depends on you!  Do whatever you can to protect your credit card – from thieves, from being skimmed, even from being declined.

  • Let your bank and your credit card company know where you are going and for how long.  If you use online banking, you will be able to advise the bank of your travel plans online – or you can call your bank.  Now that your credit card company knows where you’re traveling, they will be expecting those charges from a cozy little trattoria in Rome, or a romantic beach cafe on the French Riviera….and you won’t have the embarrassment of a declined credit card.
  • Check out the current exchange rates so you can better budget expenses on your trip.  Being informed in advance will help you to avoid ‘sticker shock’ once you’re back home and your credit card bills start rolling in.
  • Keep your credit cards in an RFID-blocking wallet or neck stash.  This will prevent would-be thieves from skimming your personal data from your credit card when you’re carrying it.

Tarriss RFID Neck Stash

Tarriss RFID Blocking Neck Stash Wallet

3. Avoid Missing Your Flight

Sometimes it’s the fault of the airlines that you miss your scheduled flight.  Often, though, it’s a lack of preparation at your end that leads to this annoying occurrence. Whatever you can do to expedite the duration between home and departure gate – that’s what you need to do!

  • Get to the airport early!  It is much less stressful to spend time waiting at your departure gate than it is to spend time in the luggage check-in line or the security line as the minutes tick past at a seemingly alarming rate!

Airport

  • Pack properly.  Ensure that your luggage is compatible with size restrictions enforced by most airlines.  Weigh your luggage with a digital luggage scale before you get to the airport to avoid excess weight charges.
  • Prepare for Security.  Don’t get into the Security line with a full or partially full soda can or water bottle.  Drink it and dispose of it BEFORE you get in the line. Have your liquids and gels packed in airline-approved travel-size bottles, and have them readily available to place in the x-ray tray for inspection.

Despite your best efforts, things can go awry when traveling.  Following are some travel tips on what to do if that happens.

1.  What to Do if Your Luggage is Lost

If you’re the only one left pacing at the luggage carousel, and there are no more suitcases making an appearance, chances are your luggage has been lost, stolen, or missed the flight.  Now what?

  • Report your missing travel gear ASAP!  The quicker you let an airline representative know that your luggage is missing, or make a report to the proper airport authorities, the more likely it is that you and your luggage will be reunited.
  • Be polite yet assertive with the airline rep.  They didn’t take your luggage….and they may be able to help you find it.  It’s never a good idea to tick off the one person who may be your key to getting your stuff back.
2. What to Do if Your Credit Card is Lost/Stolen

As a rule, it is very safe to use your credit card while traveling.  However, thieves are persistent and can put your credit card at risk of being stolen.  Or, your credit card may get misplaced among all the cabs, hotel rooms, restaurants, shops and other venues you visit. If your credit card is lost, stolen, or otherwise compromised, follow these five steps:

  • Notify your bank immediately.  Before you travel, make a note of the contact number on the back of your credit card so you have it available when needed. Once notified, your bank will cancel your lost or stolen card and reissue a new one.  The bank may be able to email or fax a copy of the most recent charges on your credit card to determine if the charges were made by you or are fraudulent.  In most cases, as long as you notify your bank/credit card company as soon as you realize your card is missing, you may not be responsible for charges that you did not make.  It’s at a time like this that you’ll be glad you took the time to read that Cardholder Agreement booklet you received with your credit card.  You have read it, right?  If you haven’t reviewed the details in it yet, take the time to do so – particularly before you travel. It contains valuable information you will need to know if your credit card disappears or is compromised.
  • Report a credit card theft to local police. If the local police are advised, they just may be able to track down the thief by tracking the charges being racked up on your credit card, and potentially charge them.
  • Notify Credit Bureaus.  Have the credit bureaus tag your file with a ‘fraud alert’.  When you get home – sooner if possible – order a copy of your most recent credit report so you can be assured that no other fraud has been committed on your accounts.
    Write it All Down. Keep a record of all the specifics of each conversation you have. Note down the date and time you called, the name of the person you spoke with, and details of that conversation.  No doubt you’ll need to refer to this information so be as detailed as possible with your notes.
  • Cancel Card. Your bank/credit card company should have done this as soon as you reported your lost or stolen card to them, but it’s a good idea to confirm.  If you have any payees that automatically charge an expense to your credit card, you will need to notify them of your new card number and expiry date.

Credit Card

3. What to Do if You Miss Your Flight

On rare occasions, missing your scheduled flight is inescapable!  Your connecting flight ran late, and, unless the airline is transferring your luggage, you had to wait at Baggage Claim to claim your luggage and then recheck it.  By the time you’ve done all that….you race to the departure gate just in time to see the agents turn off the departure info light and saunter away..….”Oh, great….I just missed my flight!”  Here’s what you need to do:

  • If your flight is late in arriving and, subsequently, you miss your connecting flight (with the same airline), your airline will do what it can to put you on the next available flight to your destination.  If you missed the last flight of the day, depending on what the Contract of Carriage states, the airline may offer a voucher for an overnight hotel room or at least a food voucher.  If they don’t make the offer – ask….nicely!  They may say ‘no’….but they just may say ‘yes’, even if they are not required to do so.
  • If you miss your flight due to your own tardiness….look for the nearest “Buy Tickets” line-up.  That’s the one you’ll need to go to.  You, my friend, are out of luck – the airline is under no obligation to refund you, or put you on another flight, and they won’t.
  • If the airline makes a change to your scheduled flight, they are under no obligation to make compensation to you except for the price of the ticket you paid for the original flight.  Nor will they refund you if the new flight you book costs more than the original flight or if you need to stay overnight in a hotel.

Travel Tips:

* Consider getting a credit card strictly for travel which has a manageable maximum credit limit – say $500 or $1000.  If it is stolen, at least the thief won’t be able to go on a major shopping spree!

* Consider carrying a ‘dummy’ wallet that you can hand over if ever you are mugged.  Fill it with a few dollar bills, an expired credit card, even business cards which you have collected from local businesses (not one of your own business cards).

* Take a photo of all your travel documents and store the photos on your cell phone.  Or, make two photocopies of all your travel documents – itinerary (include phone numbers for hotels), passport, visas, etc.  Give one copy to a trusted friend or family member at home.  Carry the second copy with you separate from your original documents.

As mentioned earlier, so much of travel safety depends on how informed you are before you travel, and what you know about dealing with less than ideal situations that may arise on a trip.

Check back soon for important travel tips on how to protect your valuable passport and what to do if it is stolen or lost.

Written by Emma Ghattas