7 Tips To Surviving Travel Disruptions: The Importance Of Flexibility When Traveling

“We can’t direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.”  -Thomas S. Mason

Canceled or delayed flights, lost luggage, bad weather, mechanical breakdown, illness, and yes, even a pandemic can derail or, even worse, cancel your travel plans. I hope you’ve never experienced any of these in your travels but the more we travel, it’s likely that disruption will present itself from time to time.  It’s a fact of life.  And while it’s not always possible to prevent such disruptions, the pessimistic side of me would advise you to expect life to happen and encourage you to consider the what if’s.  When your plans start to fall apart, the question is, will you?

Vacation plans disrupted

A year ago, we planned a trip to spend time with family on a Barrier Island along the Gulf Coast.  Reservations were made, flights were purchased.  And then came the 2020 pandemic.  For our personal wellness, and since I am chronically ill, we opted to cancel our flights and drive.  We usually prefer to fly so we’re not “wasting” our vacation in the car.  This was no small decision for us since this decision would mean 14 hours of driving, not including stops. However, we knew that driving meant controlling our environment, making us feel more comfortable about traveling 5 states away. 

2020 has been the year of what’s next, hasn’t it?  So, as if a pandemic was not enough to deal with, when it came time for our trip, a major hurricane started to churn in the Gulf and even though we carefully watched the forecast, the storm had its own idea on where it planned to go.  Inevitably, gaining strength just offshore and rolling right over the town where we were meant to spend our vacation. 

Our decision to drive turned out to give us the blessing of flexibility.  Not only did it afford us more security and social distancing, but it made us more flexible in terms of being able to sidestep the worst of the storm.  Our original plans to fly would have been canceled when the airport we were set to fly into closed due to the storm.  That would’ve left us at home with no vacation at all!  (Oh the horror!)

As we got closer to our destination, the storm made its turn and the weather deteriorated even for us so we sheltered until it was safe to get back on the road.  However, as Hurricanes do, the storm did so much damage, we had to abandon our plans and we started looking for a way to salvage our vacation.  We made peace with the idea that we weren’t meant to visit our vacation spot this year and knowing that our family, who was already there waiting for us, was safe, we focused on where we could go with no reservations. Thankfully, being in Florida and having the flexibility of our own car meant that we had good options to choose from for an alternative vacation.  We found a quiet, cozy Airbnb near the beach for some restful vacation time with places to explore and a lot of yummy food to try.  It was definitely not the trip we planned but we were able to explore a beautiful spot we would probably not have explored otherwise and we enjoyed our time there.   

Radar image of Hurricane Sally. Credit Weather.com

Be prepared, just in case!

As you plan to travel, there is an endless list of things to consider but how many times have you considered what to do if life gets in the way? 

It can be impossible to prevent a disruption to your trip but the best remedy is to stay as flexible as you can.  I admit that despite being veteran travelers, for most of our travels, the only planning we usually make regarding travel disruption involves buying travel insurance.  We’ve been lucky!  However, since I have a chronic illness and my condition can be very unpredictable, travel disruptions are always in the back of our minds every time we prepare to travel.  

Considering the time and money spent traveling, it is a good idea to consider what you would do if your travel is interrupted so that you are not left in a panic.  It’s a good idea to know what your resources are if and when something happens.

Daria Shevtsova/Pexels

Tips for handling the what if’s

Unexpected things will happen when you travel and no amount of planning can really address every situation.  However, these are a few suggestions to help you cope.

Use a Travel professional.  I have written a blog on why using a Travel Professional is a great idea.  Read all about it at https://letsjustgo247.com/?p=399.

Pack essentials for a delay.  If you travel with prescription medication, always travel with plenty for your trip and several days extra in case your travel plans are changed and you’re stuck somewhere unplanned.

Your carry on.  If you’re flying, a well-stocked carry-on is a must and can be a lifesaver if your flight is delayed or canceled.  If your luggage is lost in transit, a spare set of clothes, toiletries, and snacks could make the inconvenience a bit more tolerable.

Pack a raincoat!  Watch the weather forecast for your destination as you prepare to go.  Always pack a raincoat (my #1 packing tip)!  Pack weather-appropriate clothes and shoes.  Remember, a rainy day on vacation is always better than a sunny day at work!

Road trip what if’s. It’s always a good idea to make sure your vehicle is in good working order before heading out.  No one wants a flat tire or overheated engine.  However, the security of roadside assistance is also a plus when dealing with unexpected mechanical issues.  To make long trips more bearable, stop frequently, switch off drivers, and break up long drives into multiple days.  Play car games, listen to music or audiobooks and consider having snacks and beverages within easy reach.  All great ideas to make the experience fun.  Don’t be in a hurry and remember that traffic is inevitable.  All of these suggestions might seem obvious, but they can make long drives a little less grueling.  A road trip can be a great way to travel if you plan for the what if’s.

Keep your cool.  Let’s face it, not all travel is perfect, especially the flying experience.  My advice is to try to be as flexible as you can and breathe.  If you’ve worked with a Travel Professional as you planned, reach out to him or her if you need help.  Other resources if you need help can include your tour guides, concierge, or even local welcome centers when you need alternative suggestions.  Listen to their suggestions.  They might have even better options for you.  If you don’t lose your cool, it’s easier for the professionals who can help to do everything they can, and staying calm helps the situation resolve quickly.  The professionals trying to help you will be as thrown by the disruption as you are but they want to be helpful and get you back on your way.  Being pushy or losing your cool just ruins your day even further, not to mention those around you who have to endure any bad behavior.  


Our recent experience has inspired this advice and I hope you find it helpful.  I’m also betting there are many of you that have experienced travel disruptions that were more like nightmares and I’m sure you could write a book!  If you have any great tips to share, please be sure to comment below.  Just know that your travels are not always going to be Instagram filter worthy unless you want to share the reality of the experience!  

Safe Travels and don’t forget to pack your raincoat!


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