How to travel with sudden changes in plan

Making the most out of your trip, come rain or come shine

We’ve all been there. You’ve planned an awesome trip, and right before you leave—or even mid-getaway—something goes wrong. Or, at least it doesn’t go as planned. From unfavorable flight weather conditions to encountering closed tourist attractions, we’ve got traveler-tested advice for dealing with five “wrenches” that get stuck in our itinerary gears. Turn your next travel pickle into a delicious snack and get on with the adventure!

1. Missed flight connection


It happens. No matter how much you plan, you’re stuck in a new city wondering what to do if you miss your connecting flight. Once you’ve sorted out all the details of a new flight, check your traveler’s insurance coverage. Take care of any accommodation details at the airline customer service desk, as airline representatives will know the right extensions to call to get things moving, and they may help you book a new place to stay and negotiate with your original hotel.

Your checked bags may have made the connection without you—lucky!—so let the airline employees at your destination know that your bags may be waiting for a while. Looking at an extra hour or two in the terminal? Enjoy the time-honored tradition of sipping a cocktail at the airport bar while paging through your favorite guilty pleasure magazine.

If you have a layover at the country’s busiest airport, you may think, “What am I going to do with a 20-hour layover in Atlanta and a carry-on bag?” Well, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is huge—big enough for a dinosaur fossil in the main atrium—and downtown is just 10 miles away. Ride the metro gold or red line to the city center and spend the extra hours stretching your legs in Centennial Olympic Park or stop for a refreshing drink and tour at World of Coca-Cola. There’s plenty of things to do in Atlanta. Bottoms up till wheels up!

Just roll with it: Airport restaurants can surprise you. Smother your cravings for Southern cuisine in shrimp and grits at Paschal’s in the Atlanta airport. The on-the-go version of this Atlanta classic may be a humble counter service cafe, but the fried chicken and baked mac and cheese are rooted in tradition.

2. Unexpected weather

Did the forecast let you down? The best way to bounce back from unexpected weather is to have an indoor alternative with a great view…or just embrace the change. Escape the rain, snowfall, or unwanted UV rays (hey, to each one’s own) for a quiet and climate-controlled museum, check out an awesome local brewery or cafe, or run headlong into the unexpected.

For example, you may have your heart set on a beach day in Miami, but you never known when you’ll encounter a tropical shower. Duck into Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, located in the tropical paradise of Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood. This opulent estate is brimming with historical details and contemporary art. When there’s a break in the clouds, wander through the lush gardens. Duck into one of Coconut Grove’s unique shops, like the Fashionista Consignment Boutique, for a hat or scarf before exploring the villa. You’ll ward off wind and showers, and have a souvenir from “that time I stared down a storm in Miami.”

Just roll with it: Got your heart set on a beach day? As long as there’s no lightening or wind, a dip in the ocean is a refreshing way to escape a summer downpour.

3. Suddenly single

Breaking up is hard to do, but swapping a romantic weekend for a solo excursion is pretty easy. Of course, you’ll want to take care of all the travel details first. It’s quite common for airlines to offer travel vouchers for the unused seats, if you notify them right away. If accommodation deposits are in and reservations are set, enjoy that king-size bed and soaking tub all to yourself! Filled your itinerary of romantic sites? They’re still pretty solo—plus, you can stay as long as you like without having to worry about a partner getting hungry, tired, or bored.

Take a moment to readjust your expectations. Are you going to walk hand-in-hand down a romantic lane? Probably not. Are you going to get swept away on an adventure with an awesome person? You sure are—and that person is you. This is your trip now!

A lot of people leave their hearts in San Francisco, but this may be the place where you learn how to travel by yourself and love it. You don’t even have to ditch your reservations at Waterbar—eating alone with a gorgeous view is classy and peaceful. However, you may want to trade the tandem bike ride through Golden Gate Park for a swim to Alcatraz from the Embarcadero. You’ll wash that man—or woman—right outta your hair, and feel super refreshed.

Just roll with it: The City by the Bay is made for the flirty and thriving, especially in the fun and fab Castro District—San Francisco’s original LGBTQ community. It’s time to celebrate your fresh start with awesome activities in San Francisco.

4. Fleeing friends


It was hard enough getting the whole crew together in the first place, but due to work emergencies, family issues, and maybe even someone who forgot to get their flu shot, plans have changed and your about to embark on a group adventure as a solo sojourner. Did everyone go in on a rental house in the mountains? If your deposit is sunk, contact the property manager with your special circumstances and ask about availability in smaller units. Good friends won’t leave you stranded footing the bill.

When it comes to activities and dining, it’s a bummer not to spend this quality time with your closest friends, but as far as travel plans go, this will be an easy transition. Do you have plans to hike the Flatirons in Boulder with your BFFs, for example? Missing the energy of a group day trip is not out of the question thanks to several hiking and climbing tours in the area. Local meetups for all experience levels are plentiful in the Boulder area, and It’s very common to join groups as a solo explorer, even for one hike. Sign up online, then get outside!

Just roll with it: After a group adventure tour in the Flatirons with your new travel buddies, stop for stories and pints of Quinn’s Golden Ale at Southern Sun Pub & Brewery.

5. Closed attractions or transportation


You planned your whole day around taking a train from Paris to Versailles to see Louis XIV’s old digs, but when you arrive at the train station, your route is closed for the day! What’s going on? Well, many countries, France included, take their holidays very seriously, and government workers as well as many private companies take some well-deserved time off. That means transportation options may be limited and some attractions will be closed. There’s always something to do in Paris or wherever you find yourself, but you don’t want to be surprised. Before you travel, look for apps that let you see transit delays and closures in your vacation destination. You’ll receive localized updates right to your mobile device!

When an unexpected holiday or long-term renovation closure messes with your plans, take a deep breath. And where better to do that than at a park? From city greenspaces to national forests, the great outdoors may not be castles or monuments, but they’re just as stunning and historic, and many are open to the public on some or all holidays.

Just roll with it: You know what else is open? City streets! Take the newly freed up day to wander through unique architecture and do some window shopping—it’s one of the best ways to get to know a new destination. Feel the Parisian cobblestones beneath your feet.

How have you bounced back from an unexpected travel change recently?

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Kohleun Adamson

Kohleun is a fan of high tea in Scottish villages and low tide on Coronado Beach, and she can’t get enough of rolling vineyard vistas. These days it’s no easy feat to pull her away from the California coast, but she can be wooed with Moroccan cous cous and ancient palace ruins. As a writer, Kohleun has a passion for sharing the intricate details of a journey well traveled, whether it involves crossing continents or exploring close to home.

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