Lost phone? Strike? Nut allergy? Solutions to holiday disasters
Stressful events can occur in even the most relaxing of holidays. Here’s how to deal with common issues
My son’s phone fell into a swimming pool. Despite leaving it in the sun for several hours to dry, the device was truly defunct
This year’s family holiday – a three-week, 10-destination journey from Rome to Madrid – took a lot of research, planning and clever packing. But it still wasn’t without incident. There were the stolen bags, the trip to hospital, the drowning of the mobile phone and some lost property.
There is nothing I like more than travelling, but something nearly always goes wrong.
The previous year we were caught up in al French air traffic control strike and a train strike in Spain.
We found solutions to all these problems, but they reminded us that we need to be on our toes at all times and to ensure, particularly with children in tow, that we keep a cool head under pressure as it is the best way out of a crisis.
I spoke to several experts to find out what their answers to my problems would have been:
PROBLEM 1: NUT ALLERGY
My son has a nut allergy with a risk of anaphylaxis and while in a restaurant in France was mistakenly served food containing the allergen. The manager informed us less than a minute after ingestion. We took immediate action, administering a shot of adrenaline through his Anapen and then ensuring he received emergency medical assistance. An ambulance was called and he was taken to hospital, where he spent several hours undergoing tests and receiving further medication. Thankfully the outcome was positive.
What to do: Allergy specialist, Dr Paul Carson of Slievemore Clinic in Dublin says we did the right thing. “Working on the basis that the person is experiencing some type of reaction and knowing it can trigger anaphylaxis, I would advise using the auto-injector of adrenalin immediately, then get to the nearest doctor or emergency department asap,” he says.
“If necessary, call an ambulance and let medics know that they will be dealing with a potential anaphylactic reaction and you have already used one Anapen. I would also encourage people to know the words for what they are allergic to before going abroad. People should have clearly printed out and laminated questions such as ‘Are there nuts in this dish?’ (or the equivalent allergen) in the language of the country.”
PROBLEM 2: LOST PHONES
At a busy market in Madrid, my son left his bag by his feet for a moment, and no sooner had he put it down than a well-dressed woman bent down, nabbed it and disappeared into the crowd. Although shaken by the incident, we knew it was imperative to report the theft as soon as possible
in order to make a claim on our insurance. We found the nearest police station and filled out a form. Luckily we had ID with us, as this is essential, and within a week of returning home, my son had a replacement phone, which was all that was of real value in the bag.
In a separate incident, my middle boy’s phone fell into a swimming pool. Despite leaving it in the sun for several hours to dry, the device was truly defunct. We contacted our insurers straight away and luckily our policy covered the incident. After paying the surcharge, he was given a new phone.
What to do: John Byrne of Insurance Ireland says we acted correctly with our swift response:
“If you are robbed while away, you must report the loss to the local police within 24 hours and get written evidence of the report,” he says. “You may also need to report the incident to your hotel and/or tour operator.
“In all circumstances, keep copies of receipts and any other relevant documentation to support your claim, which you should submit as early as possible when you return home, as your insurer may have a time limit for the making of claims.”
PROBLEM 3: MISSING WALLET
Another day, another drama. My youngest son mislaid his wallet on a packed train in Spain – whether lost or stolen we will never know – but fortunately, there was very little cash inside.
What do to: Don’t carry a lot of cash, is the advice of financial adviser John Lowe, the “Money Doctor”. “Number 1 rule is to carry as little cash as possible,” he advises. “Cards are replaceable and, while cash can be also, it’s via your travel insurance policy and generally limited to a certain amount.
“I would take €200 in cash and use the cards, keeping a firm hand on what I am spending. Ideally you should allocate spending money before you go and allocate a daily budget so you know where you stand as regards spending. No surprises then when you come back home and have to face the bills.”
PROBLEM 4: TRAVEL STRIKES
Last year our flight to France was cancelled due to strike action, and we we opted to fly out on the next available flight to Spain and make our way upwards to France. Unfortunately, we hadn’t factored in the Spanish train drivers’ strike. Undeterred, we took a taxi over the border (sharing the cost with another family) and got a bus to our destination. We kept receipts for accommodation and travel and, on our return, began the lengthy process of claiming compensation. We were eventually fully refunded.
What to do: According to Robin Kiely of Ryanair, in most cases a refund will be rewarded eventually. “In the event of a flight cancellation, customers are updated on their flight status via email and text message and are advised to check the website before travelling to the airport,” he says. “Customers then have the option of rebooking their cancelled flight, transferring to an alternative routing or applying for a refund. All details are available on ryanair.com.
While facing each of these holiday mishaps, we remained outwardly calm. This, according to psychologist Dr David Carey, is vital, particularly when children are present. “Preparation is the best prevention for holiday stress, as being prepared helps you to stay calm, which also helps children remain calm,” he says. In general, by involving them in preparations – such as showing photos of the destination – this helps them to feel more comfortable and reduces stress should a situation arise.