The top 10 worst travel situations and how to deal with them

Travelling is fraught with unforeseen incidents that threaten to dent even the most carefully arranged holiday. Here's your guide to surviving them.

Travelling is fraught with unforeseen incidents that threaten to dent the most carefully arranged holiday. Mike Dolan lists 10 events best avoided and asks what would you do in each situation.
Would you mind changing your seat?
You’re comfortably ensconced in the window seat you reserved months ago on a long-haul flight to Europe, when just before take-off the flight attendant asks whether you‘d mind giving up your seat so a couple can be together. DO YOU:
  1. Say it would be a pleasure if the customer service director upgrades you.
  2. Ask innocently if it’s so important to the couple to sit together, why didn’t they pre-book their seats like you did?
  3. Say you’d be delighted if the flight attendant can find you another window seat.
We advise three, or one, if you’re feeling it’s your lucky day.
Where's the end of the queue?
You arrive at a busy international airport, only to discover the immigration hall is packed with hundreds of people queuing with only two officials processing the arrivals. DO YOU:
  1. Wave to a complete stranger at the front of the queue, smiling broadly, and say, “Thank god, I’ve found you … I’ve been looking for you ever since we deplaned.” Then talk non-stop about your passport photograph until it’s your turn.
  2. Go to front of queue and tell the official you have a heart murmur.
  3. Ensure you’re in the right queue for your passport status and grin and bear it.
We advise three, and maybe one, if you’re feeling outrageously confident.
We've upgraded you, sir.
You arrive at an airport car rental desk to pick up a small run-about that’s cheap on petrol and easy to park, when you hear the dreaded words: “We’ve upgraded you, sir.” The upgrade is a gas-guzzling salon, the size of tank that’ll be impossible to park. DO YOU:
  1. Say if they insist on upgrading you, you’d prefer a convertible sports coupe, preferably red with a quadraphonic sound system.
  2. Insist on the original model.
  3. Walk to the next car rental counter.
We advise one and, if this fails, two. Finally, try three, saying you need 10 minutes to think about it, while discreetly checking availability at other rental counters, before cancelling your original booking.
"I love a good chat on a long flight!"
It often starts after boarding with a fellow passenger asking whether the seat next to yours is really 55C. Just as you’re about to put on your headphones, you hear the dreaded words, “Oh, I do love a good chat on these long flights. I’m sure we’re going to get on just fine. Now, you won’t believe it, but the taxi driver …” DO YOU:
  1. Smile sweetly and get stuck into a 12-hour dialogue.
  2. Confess to having a migraine and smartly slip on your headphones.
  3. Pick up the inflight magazine, ensuring it’s upside-down and begin reading out loud, slowly tracing your finger along each line letting out bursts of manic laughter as you prod the page repeatedly with gusto.
We advise two and, maybe three, if after excusing yourself with a migraine your fellow passenger offers you some Reiki healing.
The key to my cabin doesn't work
You’ve boarded the cruise ship of your dreams, which the brochure boasts is three football fields long, and dragged your luggage a kilometre along featureless corridors to your cabin, only to find the key-card doesn’t work. You trek back to the customer relations desk, where there’s a long queue. Half an hour later, you arrive at your cabin again with your reprogrammed key only to find it still doesn’t work. DO YOU:
  1. Drown your sorrows at one of the ship’s bars in the hope that the queue disappears later.
  2. Approach your deck steward with an obvious limp, saying you’d be obliged if they would fetch a replacement key as your pacemaker is playing up.
  3. Abandon ship.
We advise two.
Your bag is too big
You’ve taken days to pack a little carry-on when, at the boarding gate, an officious airline employee says it is too big and will have to go into the hold. You point to the previous passenger’s bag that’s the size of the removal truck, but they are adamant. DO YOU:
  1. Politely suggest you could remove a few items and transfer them to your handbag or the bag of your travelling companion.
  2. Ask whether they have a travel bag cage so you can show them IT IS the right size.
  3. Insist on speaking with a supervisor.
We advise either 2 or 3, if your bag meets carry-on specifications, and 1, with a big smile, if it doesn’t.
We have no record of your booking
You arrive at your chosen resort for a blissful five-day break with a copy of your online reservation that specifies an ocean-view room, when check-in says they have no record of your booking … “it must have fallen through the system” … and an ocean-view room is only available for the last two days of your stay. In the meantime, your room overlooks the car park. DO YOU:
  1. Ask firmly and politely how they are planning to make up for their mistake.
  2. Tell them you expect to be upgraded to a suite for the first three nights at no extra cost.
  3. Insist on financial compensation, such as a monetary discount and several free meals.
We advise two, then one, and finally three.
Excuse me, your headrest is in my lap.
You’re on a long-haul flight and it’s meal time, but the passenger in front is asleep with their seat fully reclined making it difficult for you to move, let alone eat. DO YOU:
  1. Wake the passenger and ask them to put their seat forward.
  2. Start gently rocking the offending seat back and fore like a cot.
  3. Ask the flight attendant to deal with the situation.
We advise three. Why not one or two? Because if you get a rude response a situation may ensue. Leave it to the professionals.
The inflight entertainment doesn't seem to work
You’re 40 minutes into a 12-hour flight when you discover your seat’s inflight entertainment unit doesn’t work. There’s only one other seat left in economy: in the creche aisle next to a querulous toddler. DO YOU:
  1. Take up their offer of the new seat on the understanding you want a business class amenities pack with ear plugs.
  2. Say thanks, but no thanks.
  3. Ask what other compensation, such a duty-free products, they are prepared to offer a loyal frequent flier like yourself.
We advise three. They won’t upgrade you unless you’re platinum, so don’t waste your breath.
You've exceeded your credit card limit
At the end of a holiday, your last credit card transaction is declined. And yet, you’ve kept a precise record of everything spent. On your return, your new statement is covered in fees – a 3 per cent charge on every foreign transaction, quaintly called Overseas Transaction Fees by the bank. On $10,000 of overseas transactions, this amounts to $300. Each transaction takes a micro-second of computer time and no matter what you're told it costs the bank virtually nothing to process them. To cap this, you’ve also been charged an Overlimit Fee. DO YOU:
  1. Reconcile to carry foreign currency on all future trips and use your credit/debit card only in emergencies.
  2. Write a stiff letter to the bank, enclosing a copy to your MP.
  3. In future, take holidays in Australia.
You decide.

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