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Published: Sunday, 6/4/2006

Experience teaches some valuable lessons

Wasn t it Murphy who said something on the order of, If anything can possibly go wrong, it probably will?

Irish pessimism aside, that law is a sad fact of travel life that we d all do well to heed, especially in today s increasingly difficult travel environment.

Based on our own experiences, we ve assembled a few potential disasters and some ideas on how to avoid or at least mitigate them.

Case No. 1: You ve managed to snag a super cheap fare to Europe. But you have to fly to another airport to catch your transatlantic connection. Unfortunately your first flight is delayed by a mechanical malfunction and you miss your Europe flight. And because you used two different carriers, no one seems to care!

Solution: We always recommend flying directly to Europe and making onward connections once there, or when connections are unavoidable sticking with a single airline. This not only reduces potential problems caused by switching airports, weather delays, malfunctions, etc., but that one carrier is also more likely to take responsibility for getting you to the destination.

The trip may or may not cost more, but a simpler itinerary invariably saves time and cuts down on possible disasters.

Case No. 2: You finally arrive at your very foreign destination after eight grueling hours in the air, but your bags don t. You then have to try to describe to the harassed airline baggage claim people exactly what the bags look like and you can t.

Solution: Photograph your luggage with your digital camera before you leave so that if the bags are lost, you can show the airline staff exactly what it looks like. Also make sure that your name and address are on the outside in case it ends up in some far-flung city.

Just don t pack the camera in that checked luggage!

Case No. 3: When you arrive at that darling little hotel with the incredibly low rate that you booked over the Internet, you discover they ve never heard of you.

Solution: Take printed confirmation of your reservation from the Internet site. But also call the hotel directly for a final confirmation. The advent of online hotel booking services means there s often no one-on-one contact with the hotel, which can be dangerous.

Next week we ll consider a few more potential problems and solutions.

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