Chris Guillebeau, 34, is the author of The Art of Non-Conformity and The $100 Startup. He in on a five-year mission to visit every country in the world and is on number 190.
When you pack your bags and head to the airport, things can sometimes go wrong - whether through your own mistake, someone else's or an independent event. What do you do then? Here are a few common problems and solutions:
Avoid checking in your bags whenever possible, especially on tight connections. Travel with carry-on luggage - you have zero chance of losing your bag because of a mistake by the airline. If you must check in bags, store valuables in the carry-on (and include a change of clothes). Check the luggage tag - is it marked with your final destination or will you need to check in again en route? If your bag does ends up lost or damaged, report it promptly before leaving the arrival airport - most airlines usually have local staff with whom you can follow up with the next day.
Time zone confusion
When you fly across the Pacific, you will "lose" a day, thanks to the international dateline (this works in your favour when you go the other direction), so plan your schedule and reservations carefully. Remember to arrive the evening before the travel date for red-eye flights departing after midnight. Airlines are used topassengers turning up on the wrong day, but can't always guarantee a seat. Pay careful attention to the local date and time on the ticket.
Multiple airlines on the same itinerary
If you miss a connecting flight because the flight you were on arrived late, no responsibility will be assumed by either airline. Also, budget airlines in many countries don't have an airport transit counter or may fly into a different terminal altogether, which means you'll need to clear immigration and check in (again) at the main departures area. When you miss a flight, plead ignorance and show your original ticket. And remember that this problem only applies to unrelated airlines. If your airlines have a partnership agreement, request an onward boarding pass when checking in at your original departure point to save a bit of time at the next stop.
Showing up with the wrong ticket
If you ever purchase a ticket on the wrong airline, the wrong date or for the wrong route, you'll have to throw yourself at the mercy of the airline staff. But if you want to take matters into your own hands, scan the departure boards for other outgoing flights and look for budget airlines that could get you to a repositioning point. If the local airline staff aren't helpful, call up the toll-free number at their headquarters.
It is useful to know the terms of any compensation you might be entitled to if your flight is cancelled. Even if you are compensated, you still have to get to your destination. If the counter is besieged with waylaid travellers, it helps to have a proposal in mind when your turn comes around: "I need to get to [city]. I've found a good option on [competing carrier]. Will you please rebook me on it?"
Whatever happens to you, consider it an adventure. And whatever you do, don't stop travelling.