Surviving the 4 Big Business Travel Disasters
The most important business trip of the year, and Sara Martin is in turmoil. Bad weather delayed her flights. Her bags didn’t make the new connection. Her phone battery just died. Now she has a blinding headache. Can anything save this travel disaster?
All business travelers have survivor stories: tales of missed connections, dodgy airport hotels, appearing at the office in yesterday’s clothes…sharing them helps us connect. Accepting that mishaps happen can help you survive with your sanity. So can these tips.
Lost or Delayed Luggage
Waiting for your bag when all your fellow passengers have left? Visit the lost bags office before leaving the airport. Be able to identify your bags: keep the claim stub, take a photo of your bag, and make sure there is ID on (and in) it.
Ask for a travel emergency kit; I once got PJs, toiletries and more from Qantas when they left my bag in Singapore (it was on the tarmac as the plane taxied out). Ask for a shopping voucher so you can get some basics. Ask the hotel for emergency supplies. They help travelers with this sort of thing all the time.
Keep emergency supplies with you: toothbrush and toothpaste, comb and lipstick, change of underwear and socks and any medicines in your carry-on. Don’t check anything you can’t survive 24 hours without.
Missed, Delayed or Cancelled Flights
Much of today’s business travel is ‘optionally mandatory:’ it’s better to be there in person, but you can find a decent electronic substitute. So first, decide how essential your trip really is. Do you have to travel now? Can you stay overnight?
Will another mode of travel work? Can you take a train to your destination? Drive? Fly through another airport? The more options you give the airline, the easier it is for them to help you.
Call the airline’s service line while on line at the service counter and leverage any elite status that you have. That’s why experienced business travelers build up points on one or two airlines: it pays off when things go wrong.
Lost Passport or Travel Documents
First, really search before panicking. It’s amazing how often we miss something in plain sight. Your document may be in another pocket, or the hotel room safe, or behind the night table. Look calmly and methodically. If it’s really gone, contact your embassy or consulate for help and follow their instructions.
Always have a photocopy or electronic copy of your passport with you, plus another form of ID (like a driver’s license)
Ugh, the travel cold. It’s usually a gift from a fellow traveler, and the last thing you want on a business trip. Be smart; don’t try to power through. If you need to rest, do so. Drink hot liquids, and go to sleep early. Take aspirin or decongestants if you need them.
Digestive problems are even worse! A bad stomach can defeat even the most experienced business traveler. If it hits you, stay near the bathroom, drink water or clear soup to stay hydrated, and rest. Most of these episodes pass in a few days. If not, see a doctor.
The best plan is not to get sick. Don’t overdo it at business dinner and team building events. Wash your hands and watch what you eat. Going to a tropical climate? Get the recommended vaccinations and take the antimalarial medication; a few days’ headache is better than catching malaria.
If you do get sick, ask your local contacts for a good doctor and if necessary, someone to translate for you. Have your insurance card with you and understand your travel coverage.
The Answer is In Your Attitude
In any travel crisis, the best strategy is to stay calm. Yelling and waving your arms may feel good for a minute, but it won’t encourage other people to go the extra mile for you. Particularly at the airport, distinguish yourself by being pleasant and keeping your sense of humour. Someone else’s situation is probably more dire than yours; you will probably be home in a day or two, with your belongings and your health. Keep it all in perspective: now you’ll have another road warrior’s travel story to share!