Everybody knows that there is no trip, no matter how well planned, that will go off without a hitch. If you are traveler and not a tourist, you know that sometimes you have to roll with it and adapt. That is just the way it is. Recently, on a work trip, I got stranded in Madrid. As places to get stranded go, Madrid is not so bad. Luckily I speak Spanish, and I am familiar with Madrid, so I was completely comfortable. Well, once we landed I was comfortable…
What lead to the stranding? I’m glad you asked. Originally, I was slated to fly from Paris to Morocco. I never made it to Morocco. Let me tell you, it was an experience. The flight went well for about the first hour and a half. Then it hit the proverbial fan. I don’t speak French (the language of business of Morocco), so I didn’t understand the announcements from the pilot and had to rely on the woman sitting next to me to translate. Basically, we were having mechanical failures (at 30,000 feet!) and had to make an emergency landing. By the time we hit the ground, and I do mean hit – the landing was controlled but rough. There had been two medical emergencies and three fist fights – yep – fights. People were crying, children were screaming, and the flight attendants were rattled. I don’t usually get stressed on a flight until the flight attendants get rattled – this was that flight. The man behind me began to have a seizure, one up front passed out and wouldn’t come back to. I will admit, it was pretty tense for a bit.
Luckily, we were over Madrid and were able to land on the outer recesses of the airport very quickly. That was the fastest I have ever come out of the sky before. When we landed, it took a bit to get stairs out to the aircraft (we were WAY out in the back of the airport) and busses to take us to the terminal. The passengers were a little rowdy, so it was quite the experience!
Thankfully, the airline put us in a hotel and fed us after about 8 hours in the airport. But what happens when you don’t have an airline that does that?
First and foremost, I highly recommend travel insurance. Because this was a work trip, I was able to use my ITIC card (International Teacher Insurance Card), a policy that I purchased through my employer to guard against glitches. If you are not an educator or student, there are a ton of providers, but do your research! I like April Travel Protection. I have used them for years as the underwriter to my ITIC policy and they are amazing. My policy has provisions for trip delays, trip cancellation, baggage delays, lost bags, emergency evacuation, repatriation (God forbid!) and many other features. Primarily, health coverage. If you are traveling, make sure your insurance covers out of country accidents or purchase something that does. The last thing you want is for your child to break an ankle and a hospital to refuse to let you leave until you pay in full. It happens – protect yourself.
This goes back to being a traveler rather than a tourist. Know that you are going to adapt – especially if you are traveling abroad. Airlines run late, hotels don’t have rooms ready, it happens. Roll with it. Anger and outbursts just reinforce the negative American abroad stereotypes, and don’t do any good. Be nice, be respectful, and you will get so much further! Relax, know that this is a part of traveling, and make the best of the changes. Relax and adapt!
Carry On Bags
Be prepared. Always take a change of undies and a few essentials for each member of your party in your carry on. Take any medications you may need for an extra day, and any supplies that will help you entertain yourself on the flight or in an airport for a bit. Check out what is in my carry on for long flights here and short flights here. I don’t usually picture my skivvies, but trust me, one instance of needing them and not having them will totally change your perspective on what needs to be in your carry on!
Know that glitches happen. Hopefully yours are not as dramatic as the one I just went through! The best thing you can possibly do is relax and make the best of any changes that come your way. For me, I got to spend a little more time in Madrid – such an awesome city! I was able to enjoy some churros and chocolate – one of my all time favorite treats, and have some espresso. It wasn’t what I planned, but the alternative could have been much worse! Be prepared, relax, and enjoy the surprises that life throws at you!