Dealing With Disruption: How To Adjust Your Travel Plans When Everything Falls Apart
"We’re not going to make it on time”.
She let out a agonised sigh, glaring at the departures board which showed a 35 minute delay.
Around them, hurried passengers moved briskly through the station and the woman on the intercom loudly announced the latest schedule in rapid Italian.
They stood there for a few moments, letting the frustration and anger wash over them.
Finally, he spoke, letting out a long sigh as he did so…
“Let’s sit down somewhere. We can grab a coffee and take stock of our options".
Things Will Go Wrong, So Learn To Adjust Your Travel Plans
Having your plans go up in flames is par for the course when you’re travelling.
Things will change.
Things will go wrong.
It's how you deal with these disruptions that will determine what you’ll make of your trip.
Allow them to get the better of you and you are in for a pretty crappy day.
But learn to manage the emotion and deal with disruptions, and you open yourself up to a whole new set of unexpected (and often memorable) travel experiences that might come your way.
In this article, I'll cover how to adjust your travel plans on the fly so you can make the most of the time you have, even when things go wrong.
(Note: For the purposes of this article, I’m talking about day to day changes in your plans - tours getting cancelled, missing your train, etc.)
Let's begin by considering the two things that generate the most frustration when you travel plans fall apart....
The "Money" Problem
The number one thing that gets people wound up when their travel plans change is money.
For example, you miss your train and now you have to stomach the cost of the train plus the tour you’d paid for that you’re going to miss.
Money down the drain. 🙁
And it’s true... the anger and frustration you feel as result is completely logical.
There’s just one problem… it doesn’t make your current situation any better.
When your plans fall apart, what you need is some calm and positivity.
It is all about “mentally reframing” yourself for a different kind of day than you expected so you can still make the most of it.
That’s something that’s almost impossible to do if allow yourself to be overcome by negative feelings about money.
The "Time" Problem
When you travel, you probably have limited time to do all of the things you want to do.
So, there's nothing more frustrating than losing precious minutes or hours of your travel time to circumstances beyond your control.
But just remember that last part... "beyond your control".
There's nothing you can do to prevent these things from happening!
What you can do instead is adapt on the fly.
Even when things go wrong, you can take control of the situation and adjust your plans to make the best use of your new circumstances.
This won't always be easy. If you're sitting in a plane that's stuck in the airport with takeoff delayed, you have limited options. (Though you could use that extra time to listen to some interesting podcasts to prepare for your trip!)
But if you simply miss your train or can't get into that museum you wanted to visit, you have lots of alternatives.
If you look for them, you'll find plenty of things to do in most of the places you visit.
The less time you spend worrying about what you can't do anymore, the more time you can use to enjoy something else instead!
Don't Get Hung Up On Sunk Costs
Look I get it... both wasted time and wasted money are a big deal.
But if they are gone, they're gone.
They are what economists call “sunk costs”:
A sunk cost refers to money that has already been spent and which cannot be recovered. Sunk costs are independent of any event and should not be considered when making investment or project decisions.
Take a moment to read that definition again.
It might make a big difference to you the next time you travel.
“Sunk costs are independent of any event and should not be considered when making investment or project decisions”
In our case the “project” is your trip. When your plans fall apart, you need to adjust based on the new situation, not on the past.
Let go of the sunk costs and replan your next steps based on where you are now, without dwelling on the past.
- Forget the ifs and buts.
- Leave out the “should have”s, “could have”s, and “would have”s.
- Move forward!
Do this and you’ll be able to take maximum advantage of the limited time you have on your trip, even when things don’t go as planned.
Overcoming The “Control” Mindset
The other thing that may be holding you back from saving the day when your travel plans begin to unravel is having a “control mindset”.
This is something I often struggle with. Though, I’d like to think I’m getting a bit better at it.
Over the years, I’ve come to realise that I like to feel in control of a situation.
"Freedom with a framework" is my approach. Have a clear plan, but enough flexibility within that plan so that you can roll with the punches.
This is really important when your travel plans go wrong.
It’s not just time and money that become sunk costs…
Any negative energy you allow to linger is a sunk cost too, and one that can have a destructive effect on your ability to reorganise your day and adjust your travel plans.
If you have a control mindset, then plans falling apart and things going wrong (especially if they are out of your control), can be a difficult to deal with.
- “This is a disaster”
- “Everything is ruined
- "There's no way to fix this situation"
These kinds of thoughts overwhelm you and sink any hope you have of recovering your day and making it a great one, in spite of the hiccups.
The solution is to quickly reframe the situation so that you see it in a different light.
- “This isn’t a disaster… it’s an adventure”.
- “Everything is not ruined… It's just going to be different than planned”.
If the control mindset is deeply ingrained in your thinking, reframing like this won’t be easy to do.
In fact, it will probably be extremely difficult at first.
But it is something you can train yourself to get better at.
It’s like a muscle, the more often you use it, the stronger it will get.
So why not try it next time something goes wrong in your everyday life? That preparation might just serve you well when you need to adjust your travel plans on your next trip.
The Most Memorable Moments Come When We Least Expect Them
The best surprises and most memorable travel experiences often happen when things don’t go to plan.
It tends to be the rainy days, the things that go wrong and the accidental discoveries that last longest in the memory.
So next time your travel plans begin to unravel, just take a moment to stop and remember…
The plan isn’t ruined. It’s just going to be different that expected.
And that’s not a bad thing at all!
As for the story I started this article with…
They didn’t make it on time - the walking tour they’d planned began before their train arrived.
But... they did sit down and take stock. And they quickly realised there was another walking tour an hour later anyway.
All it took was to stop, take stock and reframe the plan. From there the solution (looking up alternative walking tours) became pretty obvious.
The coffee also helped.
Can you think of a time that your travel plans fell apart but you managed to recover the situation and still have a great experience? Leave a comment below and tell me about it!
Resources Related To This Article
The Anti-Tourist Club
The Anti-Tourist Club is a training and support centre for curious adventurers who want to do travel differently.
It is where anti-tourists like you and I come together with a common mission:
To put learning at the heart of our adventures and unlock the kinds of meaningful travel experiences most tourists never have.
What positive learning habits are you going to create? Leave a comment below and let me know!
John C. Maxwell photo - Wikipedia commons
Charles Duhigg photo - By Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence - https://www.flickr.com/photos/fishercoe/8676474160/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49451344