Just roll with it

You may have seen in the About Us section on our website a blurb about our logo. It’s a way of personalising our travel as well as having a visual reminder about what’s important to our family on this trip. If I was going to amend our merch in any way, I might also consider adding a valuable phrase; just roll with it. In the past 24 hours, we’ve had not one but two significant itinerary changes which will now mean a lot of new planning. Is it the end of the world? No, but it should be a reminder that the most important thing you need on a long-term travel plan is to be flexible. A sense of humour doesn’t go astray either.

Become a pragmatist

Cancelled, the word every traveller dreads. Flights, hotel bookings, show tickets, restaurant reservations etc. The first trip we booked was a cruise and yesterday that got cancelled because of the situation in the Middle East, the Red Sea being a no-go zone now for both passenger and commercial ships. A few months ago, they had offered a revised itinerary to complete the “back half” of the cruise in Europe only which we agreed to wholeheartedly, but now that too has been cancelled. Cruising isn’t for everyone and certainly after the scenes we saw during Covid, it’s not surprising that some people would rather walk than ever having to board a ship. That said, no other form of transport beats cruises for convenience and value. Let me explain. The cruise we were going to do was going to sail to more than half a dozen countries and 15 different ports over two weeks. There’s no way we could cover that kind of ground by air/land in that time or for that price. When travelling with children, cruising also makes a lot of sense. You unpack once, you have all your meals sorted and there’s entertainment of every sort for every passenger in the down time etc etc. But it’s cancelled now, so we’ll have to come up with a different plan.

Yesterday’s cancelled cruise in Europe was followed up today with a cancelled train in India. Well, not so much cancelled as re-routed but changes now need to be made to flights, accommodation and excursions. This is probably easier to navigate but it’s still disappointing as we’ll miss out on some excursions and tours we’ve long been looking forward to. Without trying to philosophise, it’s a good lesson for everyone to learn particularly children, that not everything works out the way we want it. In fact, when embarking on a privileged trip like the one we’re about to take, I’m glad there’s some disappointment being thrown in, it evens things out a bit. Expectations can be a killer of joy, embrace the reality you have in front of you, in other words become a pragmatist.

In life, not everything works out the way we planned, but if we give in to the plan things often work out.

What lessons can be learned?

Philosophical lessons aside, what are the practical lessons learned? The first one might seem obvious, but for the penny pinchers out there, listen up. You need travel insurance, take out the top cover, buy the best policy available. Between cancellations, illness, lost luggage and weather, it’s not a case of if but when something will go wrong but if you have insurance, all is not lost. The only thing worse than a cancelled trip is no refund. Second thing, particularly on big excursions in your itinerary e.g. weeks long cruises or train rides, have a plan B. That could be a house/property owned by family or friends somewhere in the world that sits empty, a place where you can crash if you need to. Or, it could be a volunteer project that was too long before but now is a perfect way to fill the gap. In all likelihood, you’ll have to come up with a plan B on the fly but rather than wallowing in the disappointment, make a fun game out of it. The first person in the family to come up with an alternative plan wins “something”. It’s a lemons to lemonade approach but one kids in particular can’t learn too soon.

Know your rights

If an airline has to cancel your flight, they are obliged to find you another one to the same destination at no additional cost, even with a competitor. In some cases, if they can’t fly you out within a certain time frame, they’re up for compensation not just flight rebooking or full refund. If time isn’t a factor, consider taking the cash and sitting out the waiting period. In some cases, we’re talking the equivalent of US$1000 for sitting around for up to 12 hours. For some, that’d be worth it. In the event of a cancellation, also check with the airline about hotel and food vouchers as well.

Remember too, that a cancellation can have a silver lining. We were booked on a cruise once that was cancelled on the day of departure. Every passenger received an additional free cruise by way of compensation. If it wasn’t my birthday, I’d have been cheering but then again, I got a second cruise for nothing which is more gift than I asked for. Your insurance is also likely to cover cancellations (I wouldn’t buy a policy without this inclusion). Handy tip, upload the policy to your online travel folder before you go for easy access. While we’re talking about having information at your fingertips, create a contact list with every agent/tour operator’s number on it as well as an after hours contact. There’s a sense of panic when plans are cancelled but if you have all the paperwork and contact details at your disposal, you’ll feel more in control of the situation. Mantras can be helpful too, I’m thinking….just roll with it.