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What To Do On A Trip When Everything Goes Wrong

What To Do On A Trip When Everything Goes Wrong

Drones were spotted at Gatwick airport in London last December, a definite no-fly zone, causing the airport to cancel flights over the days leading up to Christmas, leading to thousands of missed connections and flights, and thousands of people stranded trying to get home. My brother and I were two of those number, leaving our study abroad experience at the University of St Andrews in Scotland to go home to California. We left St Andrews for Edinburgh on the 20th. We landed in LAX on the 24th. 
What would happen in the meantime would result in sleepless nights, wandering airports with heavy luggage…and honestly, looking back, while a lot of it was out of our control, a lot of it was preventable, too.
Here are a few tips to helping make sure you’re as prepared as you can be in the event you get stuck in a travel twilight zone.

Make Sure You’re Insured 

Chances are, you have some sort of insurance through your parents or your school. This is true especially if you study abroad, so check and double-check your traveler’s insurance to know ahead of time what you should expect.
I’m really harping on this because my brother and I didn’t even consider it. For us, it felt like the program was over so we didn’t realize we would have been covered by our school’s insurance. Rookie mistake. 
Thankfully, even with second or third-party websites, like, they often offer insurance of some kind or some kind of guarantee.’s guarantee was that they would protect you from cancellations, delays, and rescheduling, which really helped us out in the long-run. 
What To Do On A Trip When Everything Goes Wrong

Be Up To Date

This means checking out the news, alerts from your school/study abroad program, etc, in the weeks leading up to your travel.

We were warned days in advance of the problems at Gatwick over email, but somehow I didn’t make the connection between the alerts and my own travel, assuming the problem would go away, or not affect me. 
I remember taxiing in Scotland and then laying in our Airbnb in Edinburgh the night, hearing the radio and beginning to have a sinking feeling that this problem wasn’t about to go away.
We went to bed with our clothes laid out for a five am pick-up to go to the airport. Around midnight our flight was canceled. We looked at each other and took a breath. Oh dear. 
And so the calls to began. 
What To Do On A Trip When Everything Goes Wrong

Keep Calm And Carry On

Our later flight from Edinburgh still had to go through Gatwick, which resulted in a lot of sitting around in a small plane while the pilot attempted to contact the airport and see if it was safe to fly or divert.
By the time it was, we managed to land there in time for another drone spotting. We were gonna be there a while. 
A key thing to remember amidst all this stress is that whether it is an airport-wide or nationwide problem, or even if your airplane just happened to miss a flight, or your car blew a tire, you are not the only one suffering. Sometimes this can take longer than you want to fix the issue and get you home, especially in a larger crisis, but they will do their best to get you home.
Easier said than done when you’re stressed, I know. But very necessary.
What To Do On A Trip When Everything Goes Wrong

Keep Us Posted

Another factor to consider in all of this waylaid travel mess is your family back at home. 
Admittedly, the ‘drone’ crisis sounds scary from the outside, if not just incredibly inconvenient. When travel plans go awry, its best to keep your loved ones in the loop so they don’t worry for your safety and they can often help you plan for the next step when you’re exhausted and unsure of what to do.
If a problem like this arises while you are traveling under the umbrella of your school (on your way to your program, or in the midst of it) be sure to let them and your program know of your progress instead of just falling off the map.
Chances are they may have a solution you haven’t even thought of yet. 
What To Do On A Trip When Everything Goes Wrong

Be Flexible But Persistent. 

Whether its car problems or problems at the airport, you want to make sure you’re talking to the people who are in charge. Talk to the people at the front desk or on the phone whenever possible.
Check-in and check-in again.
Be polite, but remind them you’re waiting on a solution. told me they’d let me know “in a couple hours” all night long. So I’d set a timer and call again.
When they did give us an offer it was the morning after and included a hotel and another 24 hours in Gatwick. We chose that overspending several thousand pounds to try to get home sooner. It may not have been what we wanted, but it meant that we didn’t have to spend another night in the airport and that we would be reimbursed for our hotel and taxis to and from the airport. 
Sometimes you gotta pick your battles. 
Sometimes things just don’t go your way. My brother lost a suitcase on the flight to Scotland, and here we were going through all this on our way back. You may have to jump through a lot of hoops to get things back on track, but it’ll be worth it in the end.
Ultimately, we did make it home safely, even if we didn’t get there as quickly as we would have liked. 
What To Do On A Trip When Everything Goes Wrong

Sometimes life makes you feel like you’re in a Christmas special, just trying to get home for the holidays. It can be incredibly frustrating when travel plans don’t go your way, but as long as you keep a cool head and your wits about you, you can make the most of the worst of delays.  Have you ever had a trip where nothing seemed to go right? Let us know in the comments down below! 

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