Recently, we had a trip to Italy that completely fall apart. From end to end, every logistical plan we had in place for our group shattered into a thousand pieces – leaving 19 people, and me, their leader, completely buggered. It forced us to implement every contingency plan we had at our finger tips. Missed connections, expired train tickets, and lost of 48 hour of our itinerary. I’m not going to lie, these things alway suck. We quickly recovered and got back on our itinerary, and finished the trip well. However, if you travel often enough, eventually you will find yourself in a similar position. Below are some lessons learned from a trip that fell apart.
Flight attendants. Flight attendants, and airline staff, are people too. It might not seem like it, but more often than not, a delayed (or missed connecting) flight is not always the flight attendants fault. I find those who scream, yell, and other wise cut them (flight staff) down, don’t always get very far – especially, in countries outside the United States. On a recent flight from Naples to Barcelona, a group of men (in their thirties), were met at the gate by the Barcelona police after they yelled at the flight attendants for what seemed like a small issue. I believe they were not offered a complementary beverage, which caused an outburst when they were told they had to pay for a bottle of water. Remember, venting your frustration is a delicate art. Do it around people that won’t throw you in jail.
Reimbursements. Reimbursements aren’t always easy. The particular airline we flew with refused to take ownership of an electrical error, that caused us to miss our connecting flight from Philadelphia to Rome. Due to this delay, we had to stay over night in Philadelphia, and bought really bad airport food, all on our own dime. The airline didn’t give any compensation for food or lodging, even when we asked for it. It finally took four phone calls and six emails, before they would give us any compensation for our losses (and added expenses). Lesson learned, polite persistence pays off.
Prepurchasing tickets. When in route to Italy, do not buy train tickets ahead of time, thinking you will save time or hassle. It may sound like a proactively great idea, but trust me, it’s better to wait till you get there. Train tickets bought through the national train system can be transferred (if a train is missed), but the process is exasperating. Train tickets bought on through the Italo train system are non transferable. No exceptions. It might be cheaper if you’re willing to take the gamble, but there are smoother ways to save money.
Travel insurance. Independent travel insurance is not as friendly it seems. There are several companies who offer protection against “trip interruptions” but the definition is extremely narrow. It’s best to buy ticket protection from the airline, if you’re going to invest in insurance. If you’re going with a tour group, often times they will carry a travel insurance policy that will cover catastrophic things your normal insurance will not.
If you have any other lessons you’ve learned while abroad, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below.