41 Palms Events

Common Travel Snafus your Incentive Trip Traveler may Experience and how to deal with them!

No matter how well you or your travel planner have planned out every last detail of your incentive travel event, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you planned. Us Type A people have a really difficult time coming to terms with that but it’s just how life is sometimes. You can fret over every tiny detail and have the entire event planned down to the minute and then life (or a traffic jam or a canceled flight or…) happens and then you’re left to deal with it.

There is just something about traveling that can make even the smallest irritation seem like the worst thing in the world. I think it’s because people have such high expectations about all the relaxation and fun, they’re going to have on their incentive trip experience.

You know, like you and your spouse aren’t going to disagree one bit while you’re in a tropical paradise because what’s there to argue about in paradise, right? But then, guess what? You haven’t even made it to the pool at the resort and you’re already arguing about who knows what!

I also think it’s because people’s routines are just simply out of whack when they travel so little things can easily become blown out of proportion. And then…their flight is canceled and there isn’t another flight until the next day and they just feel like they’ve lost so much more than a hotel night.

They’ve now lost something that they’ve worked so hard for and it becomes more personal. They’ve lost that bonding time with their team members or that whole day they were supposed to spend rekindling the romance with their spouse. Ugh! So, when even the smallest of issues arise on their incentive trip it can feel devastating.

The most important thing you can do in every one of these situations (as in most life situations) is to stay calm. Pause. Take a deep breath – in slowly, out slowly, and again – until you can calmly approach your situation. No, I’m not patronizing you! Remember me, Mrs. Type A? I have to tell myself this same thing when traveling stinks for me as well, sometimes more than once. You’re not alone here.

Traveling is supposed to be so fun but it can also be so stressful. Take heart that a lot of people around you are stressed as well. Traveling makes a lot of people very anxious. Flights are delayed and/or canceled every day. Luggage is lost every day. Things just happen. But it’s how you handle them that will make the difference.

Culling from our years of experience and additional feedback from our industry peers, we’ve put together a list of the most common situations that incentive travelers face and what you can do if one of them happens to you. So, after you’ve taken that deep calming breath and found your zen, here’s how to handle the following:


*Please scroll through or click the links below to take you to that particular section.


We just got off the plane and our shuttle isn’t here.

Before you panic and grab the first cab you see, take a moment to ask for assistance – but you need to get out of the airport building first. It’s easy to get overwhelmed but once you’ve left the airport terminal and walked OUTSIDE, past all the people inside the terminal vying for your attention by trying to get you to rent a car, sell you a timeshare, or sell you an excursion, and walked TO THE CURB, you should see a person that is holding a sign that lists your name or most likely, your resort.

If you don’t see either one, tell one of the people holding a sign with a resort or someone’s name on it that you have a pre-paid shuttle service and what resort you’re going to and ask them to direct you to that person. Most of them are very nice and will point you in the correct direction.

If this didn’t help, in your travel documents (either sent to you by email or in physical paper format) that your travel planner prepared for you, you should normally see 1.) your travel planner or event planner’s phone number and 2.) the phone number of the transportation service (often listed as your “transfer” service. You can contact the shuttle service directly or call your travel planner directly and they can both help you.

If the shuttle service tells you that they don’t have your information and/or can’t shuttle you to your location, call your travel planner right away! Occasionally this happens but it’s easily remedied. Somehow, they didn’t type a guest’s name correctly into their system or they inadvertently left it off, etc.

Remember that there is often a language barrier and or multiple computer systems talking to each other to schedule your transportation and literally thousands of transfers happening from any single destination every single day.

This one is a really easy fix and should hopefully only cause you a little delay and you should be on your way quickly.

One last thought – I always advise our clients to add the phone number of the airline, hotel, shuttle company, their travel insurance, their medical insurance, and their personal doctor to their phone before they travel. That way it’s at your fingertips at a moment’s notice and you don’t even have to search for it.


I’m having a medical situation and I think I need to see a doctor.

It stinks to get sick while you’re on vacation, but germs, viruses, and slip and falls don’t seem to care that you’re having fun! If you think you might like to see a doctor while you’re on vacation you could call your at-home doctor, if you have one, and ask their advice. Or call the on-site doctor at the property you’re staying at. Most resorts will have an on-site doctor that can come directly to your room or you can go to the doctor’s room.

The best bet here is to simply pick up the phone in your room and call the front desk to ask if there is an on-site doctor. If not, they can direct you to the closest doctor that can help you.

There is typically a fee associated with this service and you need to be prepared to pay that fee directly to the doctor when you are seen. Since not all US plans cover you while traveling internationally, hopefully, you purchased travel insurance that covers medical issues while traveling.

Even still, a lot of travel insurances will require you to pay for your medical services on the spot, file a claim with your US health insurance, and they will pay only if that claim is denied.

I advise calling your travel insurance immediately (as in, while you’re on vacation and while the medical situation is happening) and following any instructions they give you for submitting a claim. You will need to keep all receipts and documentation from the doctor and any photo/video evidence.

Most people do not realize that in other countries you must pay for your medical on the spot. You can’t wait for the insurance to pay and get a bill later. You pay it all right then and there. Because of this our family always purchases travel insurance that is “primary medical” and brings an empty AMEX just in case of emergencies. Life happens even on awesome incentive trips, unfortunately!


I’m having a real medical emergency and need to go to a hospital.

Then get your butt to the hospital! Call the front desk immediately! They can get a doctor immediately to your room, in a lot of cases, and can call an ambulance for you and help you get to them or they get to you. 911 is not a thing in all countries and you need to enlist the help of those that can help you the fastest.

Like in my last comments on seeing a doctor, call your travel insurance carrier immediately, document and keep EVERYTHING, be prepared to pay for the medical coverage you’re receiving, and reach out to your travel and/or event planner so they can help facilitate you in any way possible if you’re having a medical emergency.


I missed my flight!

Oh man, that totally sucks!! You are not off to a great start (or a great finish, if your incentive trip is now over). If you missed your flight and it was your fault (you overslept or were having such a great airport lunch that you forgot to board the plane) or you missed your flight and it wasn’t your fault (accident on route that you can’t get around, flat tire, the car breaks down) your travel planner may still be able to work this out.

If you’re not at the airport yet, call the airline and talk with them over the phone ASAP. Tell them you’re on the way to the airport but you may not make the flight, due to circumstances out of your control.

While each airline handles this differently, if you’re at the airport within 2 hours of your plane departing the airline will typically try to get you on the next flight out that day as “stand by status”. Hopefully, that next flight out isn’t full!

If your flight was the last flight out for the day you may be out of luck, at least for the night. It’s possible you now must buy a new ticket, and it might come out of your own pocket if you’re on an incentive trip.

If your delay was your fault your travel insurance is probably not going to cover this. The best thing you can do is go on over to the ticket counter for your airline and beg for forgiveness in the nicest sweetest way possible and see if they can help you book a new ticket that will not cause you to take out a second mortgage on your house.

My advice – be really really nice to the airline agent! They deal with a lot of nonsense every day and the best thing you can do is be a pot of honey. They will normally do all that they can to help you out when you’re nice.


I missed my connecting flight (or my flight was canceled) and it’s the airline’s fault!

Oh man, that totally sucks! I hate to hear that! In the case of missing a connecting flight that was the fault of the airline, they will work this out for you. Your airline will work to book you on the next available flight.

If that flight does not leave until the next day, they will typically put you in a hotel for the night and provide meals for you, that they will pay for. If this is not an option, in some cases they may even book you on another airline so you can continue to your destination.

If the flight delay was weather-related, though, they may not offer any compensation for a room or food. Again, hopefully, you bought travel insurance!

I know this is super annoying, but this is one of those travel scenarios where you just roll with it. There’s nothing you could have done to avoid it and you’re stuck where you are anyway. Make the most of it! Take a breath and relax. Have a fabulous dinner. Get lost in a great book. Get caught up on personal emails and phone calls.

If you’re traveling as a family, play a game together. Catch up on work so you’re not stressed when you return. If you’re able, check out what the city has to offer.


The airline lost our luggage!

My biggest fear when I check a bag and it’s not a direct flight! Obviously, do not pack anything in your bag that you can’t live without. That goes for your medications, money, valuables, and anything of sentimental importance to you. You’ll be devastated if you lose those items and some of those items are on the list of items that the airline will not reimburse you for.

DO NOT LEAVE the airport without filing a claim with your airline and getting a claim/reference number. You can use this number to check for the status of the luggage online or by phone. If they find your bag, they will bring it to your hotel. You don’t need to go back to the airport to retrieve it.

If they ask you to wait in case it arrives on another flight, tell them you need to get to your destination, and they need to deliver it to you when it arrives. The last thing you want to do it wait for 5 hours for a bag that may or may not arrive. It’s their responsibility to get it to you – they are the ones that lost it.

The airline may give you a small amount of money, so you can purchase “reasonable” items while you wait for your returned bag. “Reasonable” items would be toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, deodorant, a change of clothes. “Reasonable” is not a Kate Spade handbag. You may have to purchase these on your own first and keep all receipts.

Many credit cards will have some type of lost luggage coverage if you purchased this element of your travel with that card and your travel insurance may offer coverage for this as well if you purchased travel insurance. If your airline ticket was paid for or included in your incentive trip, you should check with your travel and/or event planner to see if they can help.

It takes 2 – 3 weeks for an airline to deem your luggage truly lost. If they do not find your luggage you may be reimbursed for the missing items, but you’ll need to give a detailed list of what was in the luggage. It sounds insane but making an itemized packing list of what goes in your bag can really save you in this situation. Some people take a photo of the items, all laid out, that they are packing into their suitcase.

Law says that the airline reimbursement limit is no less than $3400 for a lost bag but that doesn’t mean you automatically get $3400. It means that your airline will have to pay at least that amount IF YOU CAN PROVE that the contents of the bag were more valuable than $3400. Otherwise, you get reimbursed for the value you can reasonably prove. If they have already paid you to replace the reasonable items, this amount will be deducted from the final amount you’ll receive from them.

To prevent lost bags before it happens, always include your name and contact information on the bag tag attached to your luggage. Consider adding a piece of paper in your suitcase that has your information listed so the airline will see it if the tags get ripped off your bag and they are trying to find the owner of your bag.

Also, make sure that the airline has your bag tagged correctly when you drop it off to them. And, snap a quick cell phone pic of your luggage before you hand it over, so you can show an image of it to the airline if you need to report is missing.

Consider carrying a change of clothes (and maybe your bathing suit) in your carry on, so you have something to wear at the spur of the moment if your luggage is delayed or lost.


My wallet/purse was stolen!

Stay calm. Realizing you’ve had your purse or wallet can be a very frightening and unnerving experience and it’s easy to lose your wits. This is a time when you need to remain as calm and levelheaded as possible.

Stop where you are if it’s safe. If not, get to a safe location (your hotel, maybe) immediately and assess the situation. Did you see who took it or did someone take it without your knowledge? Where were you when you last had it? Think through the situation so you can properly give correct information to the police.

Call your bank and credit cards immediately and report your cards stolen. The faster you report this, the more likely you will not be held liable for any fraudulent charges and the more likely you’ll be able to stop any charges before they happen.

In many cases your bank can also help you get access to your funds in an alternate way or mail you a new card right away, so all the fun you’re having on your incentive trip don’t come to a screeching halt. You could also consider having a family member or friend wire you some temporary cash through Western Union if needed. Your travel insurance may offer financial coverage for this situation as well.

Call the police! Even if they never find your purse or wallet you’ll likely need this documentation for insurance and banking purposes. If you’re outside the US you need to notify the US Embassy or Consulate. Here is a link to find a US Embassy in the country you’re in – https://www.usembassy.gov/

Before you left on your incentive trip, hopefully you’ve followed our past advice and made physical photocopies and have scanned copies of your driver’s license, passport, and important documents. You may need these at the Embassy.

You’ll want to allow extra time at the airport, on your return flight, if your passport or other documentation was stolen.


The hotel doesn’t have my reservation.

If your hotel is telling you that they can’t find your reservation or they are telling you you’ve only paid for some of your room but not all the days, and you definitely know that your incentive trip should have been paid in full, contact your incentive travel planner or the on-site event planner (if there is one for your group) right away!

Occasionally this happens but it’s easily remedied. It’s often a mistype of your name and details in their system or how their computer system is communicating with the original booking system or a general glitch.

This one is a really easy fix and should hopefully only cause you a little delay in getting checked in and you should be on your way quickly.

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