Don't delay if you want to avoid a travel trauma

Flight delays are the most complained-about travel trauma '“ and Resolver helped more than 120,000 people reclaim their money for free last year. Delays can be caused by lots of problems '“ anything from sudden snowstorms, foggy mornings or even the occasional active volcano. But if you're raring to go on holiday '“ or you're ready to go home '“ flight delays are certainly frustrating.

Stay calm if your flight is delayed
Stay calm if your flight is delayed

You can’t pre-empt a flight delay, but you can stack the odds in your favour. Try to book a flight that leaves earlier in the day, for example. The fast turnaround time of the budget airlines means if there’s a delay at any of their stops during the day, it will carry over till later. Night time flights may be cheaper, but you may find you’re waiting around longer – and missing your transport connections when you get home.

But what else can you do to avoid a travel trauma? Here are a few tips.

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Get insured

A surprisingly large number of people travel without insurance. From missing baggage to delayed flights, it’s cover you can’t afford to travel without. Make sure you start the policy now, not just before you travel. That way you can avoid getting caught out by cancellation costs.

Keep the kids calm

Keeping the kids occupied if you’re delayed can be stressful. Take some disposable items like colouring books to keep them occupied so you’re not weighed down before you board.

Plan ahead

Make sure you’ve got some flexibility built in with your booking with your hotel. Call ahead and confirm and write down the contact details. Make sure you’ve checked out the cancellation policy before you book – and book direct from the hotel if you can. Cancellation can sometimes be a little more complicated if you’ve booked through a third party.

Expect the unexpected

The baggage carousel is running empty and there’s no sign of your luggage. What next? Well, your insurer should be able to help with an emergency payment but avoid the holiday being ruined by having emergency cash. Take a credit card specifically for holidays (don’t use it the rest of the time). That way you’ve got access to funds if there’s a problem.

Get details of the problem

If your flight is delayed, stay calm. Ask for written confirmation of the delay and what you’re entitled to if things don’t improve (like food vouchers). Keep the documents should you need to claim. You can use Resolver’s website to claim for delays and cancellations up to six years ago.

Hiring a rental car

If you’re planning on getting a rental car abroad, make sure you take an inventory of anything that’s wrong with the car when you get it. We hear too many stories of people being caught out by charges for damage that was already on the car. Always get the rental people to sign off anything you spot that might be wrong – even if they tell you it isn’t necessary.

Other disasters

Snap a few pics of your passport and travel documents and save them under a well-hidden file on your phone or online. If you lose your stuff, you can always get hold of people who could help you.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service