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Anticipate and Avoid Travel Stress

According to many travel sources, traveling is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Until relief comes in the form of new airports or fewer travelers, we'll just have to grin and bear it. The Partnership for Improved Air Travel, a consortium of frequent fiyers and travel suppliers, has some suggestions to make travel more tolerable. In general, plan ahead and plan for the worst possible scenario. Have "what if" alternatives thought out in advance. Verify and re-verify everything. Here are some specific ideas for you to consider:

Before you travel

When reserving flights, ask the airlines about:

  • Documents required for the destination country
  • Checked and carry-on baggage policies (so you can plan for the most restrictive)
  • Seating (some airlines pre-assign)
  • Special needs (special diet, wheelchair, under age, etc.).

Then, at least 72 hours prior to departure, call the airline(s) to reconfirm your flight(s), and information given you as it pertains to items 1-4 above. Many airlines will cancel your space if you do not reconfirm. Ask if there have been any flight or schedule changes.

Know your flight options... Assume the worst will happen to your schedule, so delays or cancellations won't be so stressful. Have an alternate plan ready in case your flight is delayed or cancelled. Jot down some possible alternate airline phone numbers. Sometimes it's faster to make a reservation from an airport public phone than to stand in line at a ticket counter.

Budgetary... Plan some extra cash or credit line just in case the worst happens, i.e. needing an airline ticket, or a night or two in a hotel.

Bring along something to do... A favorite book, cassette player with headphones and tapes, travel diary, foreign destination guide books, pictures of your family. You can use them to break the ice with your foreign family.

Check the weather at your destination city and connecting cities along the way. You can't do anything about the weather, but you can be prepared for it. Surprises can be stressful. Various organizations have weather hotlines. All have a cost per minute.

Pack lightly and smartly... Pack special medicines, a change of underwear and socks in your carry-on just in case your luggage does not arrive with you. If you have checked luggage, bring along a folding luggage carrier on wheels.

Know your ground options... Best laid plans for ground transportation can get all fouled up when planes are late or diverted. Plan options so you can make last minute changes. Foreign bus and train travel usually require a reservation. If you simply arrive at the station, you may have to wait for the next scheduled departure.

On The Travel Day

Call the airlines. Are flights on schedule?

Check in at the airport at least two hours early for international flights; one hour early for domestic connections. You should receive a boarding pass and seat assignment for each flight. Verify information with airline personnel (not from fellow travelers and computer displays).

Air tickets & documents... Carry them on you at all times, not in your suitcase.

Theft... Thieves frequent airports, bus & train stations, etc. Be on guard.

Taxes... Airports may add "transit costs" ($1-$30 USD). Keep reserve funds available.

Funds... Bring some foreign currency with you, especially if you might be arriving late or after banking hours.

Film will be more expensive abroad and can often be ruined by security equipment. Ask that it be handchecked.

Sense of humour... Pack yours and keep it with you. Don't expect any from security personnel, immigration, etc. Watch what you say.

Patience... Relax, enjoy the trip. You're almost there!

On board... Talk to the flight crew and fellow travelers. Ask about relative costs, construction delays, distances, money exchange, tipping, ground transportation, what to expect on arrival, etc.

Delays... If you're delayed unexpectedly, try calling your family enroute to advise them of your delay. Consider spending the first night on arrival at a local hotel. Most homes will not accept students after 9:00 P.M. Likewise, if you're calling an "after hours" or emergency number for a foreign center, chances are it's someone's home phone and they may be getting groceries, or outside when you call. Allow for delays in planning.

On Arrival

Immigration/customs... Proceed through. Best to hand-carry your bags (don't plan on a porter).

Airport cabs... If in doubt, always use the official airport transport (vans/ cabs).

Ground transportation... Most cities have several stations, so make sure you get to the right one if you're making intercity connections. Remember, you may have to wait for the next available bus or train due to volume of travelers, advanced reservations, etc.

Calling home... Delay. Allow two to three days to learn the phone system (find time to go to the long distance office, etc.). Relatives from home can contact you at school if there's an emergency.

Returning Home

Call the airport and reconfirm your flights at least 72 HOURS prior to your return, or you may lose your reservation. Call again the day prior to check changes in departure times or schedules.

Problems... If you have problems with an airline, review your options calmly with airline personnel and if an acceptable solution cannot be reached, speak with a supervisor. Generally, airlines will not take responsibility for mechanical or weather related delays, but they must provide alternate flights. If the delay is their fault (as in over booked flights) they must provide lodging, long distance call if someone is waiting for you, and meal expenses or denied boarding compensation, plus an alternate flight. (Exceptions may apply on charters and bulk purchase fares.)

Lost/damaged baggage... If baggage is lost or damaged, a claim must be filed at the airport. Keep your claim checks. Airlines should pay on the spot for immediately needed items (usually $25-$50 for toothbrush, socks, etc., that which you need within 1-2 days) while your bags are located. Have lost luggage forwarded to the school.

Reservations... Sometimes computers lose names. You could check-in and not be on the flight. It's a good idea to keep documentation, dates, names, etc. of the airline personnel you speak with at all times so that your record can be reconstructed and problems resolved. Be firm and polite and get a solution that is reasonable, acceptable, and easy for you.

Worldwide Classroom (WWC)
Consortium for International Education & Multicultural Studies

P.O. Box 1166    Milwaukee, WI   53201   USA
Tel: (414) 224-3476    Fax: (414) 224-3466    E-Mail: info@worldwide.edu