What to Do When Things Go Wrong While Traveling

What to Do When Things Go Wrong While Traveling


By Columbia Staff

Columbia Fishing

We never expect the worst. But we always plan for it.

To help apply the same degree of quiet comfort, here are a few common scenarios in the chaotic world of traveling—and what to do to fix ’em.


Lost ID

You are on a trip that involves a domestic flight and you lose your ID. It might be easy to think of excuses—the bear ate my driver’s license, it was stolen. But that’s small solace for not getting through TSA.

But all is not lost.

It’ll take longer, so plan accordingly but for domestic flights, TSA will let you fly without a driver’s license or passport (domestically, if you are a US citizen). They’ll want you to answer a string of personal questions that aren’t geared to creating a Tinder profile; they’re to help security confirm who you are. They might ask to see any credit cards you may have available (assuming your name is on the cards), and in some cases, will do a Google search on your name to validate you are who you say you are.

When it comes down to it, even a Facebook page can do a lot to help confirm your identity. If you are traveling internationally and have lost your passport, contact the closest U.S. Embassy immediately.

Pro Tip: Before you embark on a trip—plane, train or car—make a copy of your drivers license (or passport), and keep that in a separate backpack or suitcase. Also, take a photo or scan of your license/passport, keep a copy on your phone and upload it to one of a myriad of online cloud-based storage services. That way you’ll have some proof of identity.

Columbia Travel


Prepare for the Unexpected

If something does go wrong—an injury, accident, natural disaster, or unplanned event that disrupts your itinerary, the best way for people to reach you is by providing them with a copy of your itinerary. This goes for everything from a simple day hike to a month-long exploration of Africa.

This partners nicely with checking-in with those same people via email, call, Skype, or smoke signal, so they know where you are. That way, if something goes awry, they can help locate you—or where you were last. And it also makes it easier for them to contact you should something happen back home that requires your attention (like the Cubs winning the World Series!!).

Pro Tip: People traveling overseas can check in with the local embassies. Go to Sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It’s a free service for U.S. citizens and nationals who are traveling abroad. The simple form let’s you register with the U.S. Embassies and Consulates that are nearest your destinations.

Then you receive text or email messages regarding potentially hazardous issues at your intended port of call. The system works great, from notifications that main highways are closed due to landslides, to information on hazardous weather, tsunami warnings, and other travel alerts.


Running Out of Meds

Always pack any and all necessary medication, especially prescription drugs, in your carry-on luggage. Print a copy of your prescription(s), and take a photo or scan of each bottle and store it both on your phone and in one of the free online cloud-based storage services. Same goes for all your medical insurance documentation.

That way, if your medication is lost or stolen, you can go to a pharmacy and show them what you need. Call your local pharmacy or doctor and let them know what’s going on. Chances are, they can call in a prescription or speak with a pharmacist wherever you are traveling and figure out a local equivalent.

Pro Tip: Pack a few days extra for medication in case your travel plans hit a roadblock with a delayed flight or unexpected layover.