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When Travel Plans Go Wrong

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

This week's blog is written by Lauren Baughman. Lauren is a bilingual traveler, yogi, military wife, dog mom, and writer.

She has traveled to 21 countries, 36 states, and 8 U.S. National Parks, and counting - everywhere is on her list!

She started her blog, The To Go List, in 2017 after friends, family, and acquaintances repeatedly asked for her travel recommendations. Her blog has since allowed her to visit destinations she normally may not have, and to share her experiences with people around the world. The To Go List features everything from trips she has taken, to airline, restaurant and excursion reviews, how to budget financially, best utilize your PTO, and more. You can find all of this information at www.thetogolist.com.


If you would be interested in guest writing for the Travel World Culture blog, please email jessica@travelwc.com.

If you ask me, there’s nothing more thrilling than traveling. Seeing a new place for the first time or revisiting a favorite destination is a magical kind of high. Spending the months leading up to the trip planning out the details is so exciting.


So exciting, in fact, that it’s easy to forget things could go wrong. Flights could be delayed or canceled, the rental car could get a flat tire, luggage could be lost, buses or trains could be missed. You name it — it could happen.


These things aren’t fun to think about, but they are important to prepare for.


Being a seasoned traveler, I’ve learned to roll with the punches. Partially because I’m confident that 99% of problems will fix themselves eventually, but also because what’s the alternative?


I want you to know how to deal with these experiences by learning from mine. Experiences that I can now look back and laugh at — even though they weren’t so funny at the time.



Lesson 1: Be careful booking back-to-back trips.

My Experience: After a long weekend celebrating a friend’s bachelorette, I arrived at the New Orleans airport for my flight home to Dallas. It was storming in New Orleans, and we received a text that our flight was delayed until the weather cleared. No problem, right? Since we were going to be at the airport for a while, the bride and I used my Priority Pass to get into the airport lounge. Not long after we sat down did we get a text that our flight was delayed again. And again. And finally canceled. We were about to leave the lounge to talk to the gate agent, when we saw the news channel on TV: A woman had brought a gun to the airport we were flying into, firing several shots into the air and causing the airport to temporarily shut down. After several hours of waiting, and many rescheduled flights, Southwest finally told us that there was no way we — or anyone — would get a flight out until the next morning.


Waiting until the next day was not an option for us. I was supposed to fly to Spain the next day for a volunteer trip, and I didn’t have my passport with me. The bride had an important work presentation that she couldn’t miss. Our only option was to rent a car and drive home — so that’s what we did. We drove eight hours overnight, through the pitch-black Louisiana swampland, and made it home around 3 a.m.

Despite the exhaustion, I was able to make my flight to Spain, and my friend rocked her presentation. However, since we chose to not wait and take a flight the next day, we had to pay out-of-pocket for the rental car and spend a long time on hold waiting to get a refund from Southwest.


This situation was something no one could have predicted, but if we’d had travel insurance, it could have been remedied a lot more easily.

How you can learn from it: If you must book back-to-back trips, make sure you are as prepared for the later leg as possible.

-Be fully packed for the second trip before leaving for the first.

-Bring your passport or any necessary travel docs with you on the first trip.

-Buy travel insurance (even if it’s domestic travel).

Lesson 2: Beware of Scams


My Experience: While my husband was deployed, I signed up for a two-week volunteer experience in Spain with Worldpackers. My volunteer work would be doing social media for a catering company, in exchange for room and board at the owner’s home. The host was newer to the volunteer platform, but it sounded like the perfect fit. I looked over every detail of the listing, read the few reviews, and had a phone call with the host beforehand.

When I arrived at the host site, my stomach sank. The mountain views shown on the volunteer platform covered up a living situation that I would best describe as the ruins of a pay-by-the-hour hotel. I was given the choice to sleep in either a shared room with soiled mattresses on pallets, inches from the other volunteers, or stay in a broken-down trailer on the opposite side of the property, with a bed made of lawn chair cushions. Neither option came with clean sheets, pillows, or bath towels.

I chose the trailer only for privacy purposes, hoping that the jet lag would help me sleep for a few nights while I figured out what to do. The windows in the trailer didn’t open, there was no air conditioning, and it was over 100 degrees. The host told me I could sleep with the door open to get air flow, not acknowledging the fact that wild animals roamed the property at all hours of the night.

Within 48 hours, I had contacted Worldpackers to report the host and file a claim. I miraculously got an Uber to pick me up at the middle-of-nowhere site and take me to the nearest train station. I took the train to Madrid and checked into a hostel. Thankfully, Worldpackers has a fantastic insurance program and reimbursed me for three nights in the hostel. They also helped me find an amazing new host.

After I left the original host, I learned that many other volunteers had also decided to leave for the same reason — they just hadn’t left reviews yet. Once our reviews were posted, the host was removed from the platform.

How you can learn from it: Read reviews, ask to speak with past travelers, and ask for photos of your accommodations. Unfortunately, some things are too good to be true, and you can’t know until you know. All things considered, this situation could have been so much worse, and I’m thankful that I never felt unsafe — just dirty.

Lesson 3: Put an AirTag in your luggage.


My Experience: While staying at the aforementioned hostel in Madrid, I met a fellow solo traveler who invited me to join her on a trip to Tarragona. I was still waiting on a confirmation from my new host, but since Tarragona was close to where I was potentially going anyway, I agreed.


We placed our bags underneath the bus and began the journey from Madrid to Tarragona.


Now, let me preface: I haven’t checked a bag on a flight in quite some time — it’s the carry-on life for me! But when you’re traveling by bus, even carry-on bags must be stowed in the underneath compartment due to lack of space.

I thought nothing of stowing my bag underneath the bus, which I had done many times, in many countries, with no issue. On the two stops that the bus made prior to ours, I saw the driver exit the bus and help passengers retrieve their bags. When we got to Tarragona, my new travel partner and I exited the bus and stood there waiting for the driver…who didn’t get off the bus. Watching him back out of the bus station felt like living in slow motion. We quickly looked at each other and ran through the station, yelling for the driver to stop, but he didn’t.

We immediately went to the bus company’s kiosk inside the station, but they were closed for the day. Next, we called the company, assuming they would be able to call the driver and have him bring our bags back after his last stop. Seems logical, right? The company, ALSA, claimed they had no way to track down the bus or the driver and didn’t know where our luggage might be headed. Insert WTFs here.


With only our purses (at least we had those!), we walked to our hostel in disbelief. The hostel owner looked surprised that we had no belongings, so we told her what had just happened. She looked concerned and let us know that it was highly unlikely that we would get our luggage back anytime soon, if at all. She told us that unfortunately when things like this happen in Spain, the employees have a laissez faire attitude and don’t do much to help. Nevertheless, she helped us make calls and figure out a game plan.


After days of the bus company claiming that our luggage was at myriad locations, only to arrive and have it not be, we assumed it was gone forever. I left Tarragona for my new volunteer site with only my toiletries and the few clothing items that I had purchased.

How you can learn from it: Put an AirTag or other GPS tracking device on your luggage and BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE! If I had an AirTag in this situation, I would have been able to track down my luggage without relying on the bus company. Thankfully, I did have travel insurance, which covered the cost of the bag and its contents.



Just in case it wasn’t clear, all three of these instances happened within three weeks of each other. I learned a lot in a short amount of time about how to travel smarter, and I can laugh about the situations now.


Oh, and I eventually found my bag.



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ABOUT TWC

Hey there, we are Gavin and Jess. After graduating from the University of Texas, we quit our jobs, moved out of our apartments, sold our cars, and packed two backpacks to live life on the road. We've traveled all over the world and have learned many lessons about life and travel along the way. These experiences led to the idea behind Travel World Culture. The goal behind our business is bringing affordable travel to anyone. We create organized group trip packages with the goal in mind of growing and mentoring those who want to see the world. TWC tours give the comfort and guidance needed to begin traveling. Along the way, the travelers gain the confidence and knowledge that they need to begin creating their own trips and adventures.

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