A naked man running through traffic causing delays probably doesn't rank high on your list of potential travel problems but it has happened on the 405 freeway leading to Los Angeles' vast international airport in the past couple of years - twice.
There are lots of surprise problems that can creep up on you and throw a wrench in the best planned trips; here are seven unexpected snafus, and how to fix them.
Seven Surprise Travel Problems and Solutions
1. Traffic delays.
You may not have to worry about naked men on the freeway, but you never know what could snarl a drive to the airport, whether it's an accident or a raging brush fire (which delayed one of my employees, also on LA's notorious 405 freeway). Worst airports for potential traffic delays: my picks include LAX, Chicago's O'Hare and New York's Big 3 - LaGuardia, JFK and Newark.
Your smart phone is your best friend in terms of finding traffic reports and alternative routes. Don't have a smart phone? Borrow someone's or arrange for your kids to follow the traffic and ring you on your "dumb" phone with updates.
Two more solutions: A.) Leave early, especially if going abroad. Some airlines require your presence at the gate one or two hours before departure and if you are even five minutes late, you may turned away.
B.) If you are stuck in traffic, call the airline immediately: If you don't call and you do miss the flight, your ticket loses all its value. If there's a chance you'll make the plane, the airline will likely hold on to your seat for a while (instead of quickly allocating it to a standby passenger) but unless you are CEO of the airline, they will not hold the plane.
2. Unusual apparel. A woman flying American Airlines last week found out the hard way that free speech has its limits; her t-shirt was emblazoned with the "f-word" - a big no-no as far as the pilot was concerned. She eventually covered up and was allowed to fly, but not before missing one of her flights.
Solution: Use your common sense, and check out your carrier's contract of carriage before you fly (found on every airline website). American Airlines' contract says they can refuse to transport anyone who is barefoot; has an offensive odor; or is wearing anything that "would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers."
Yes, a man clad only in women's underwear was allowed to fly on US Airways last summer (I have no idea why) but two men with saggy pants were given the boot (by US Airways and Southwest). Make a personal or political statement on a plane at your peril.
3. Bad weather.
Winter is not the worst season for flight delays and cancellations; summer is prime time for getting stuck in airports.
Solution: Be prepared. If you're with the kids, make sure you have snacks and games or movies to keep them occupied during a long wait. You'll be busy trying to get on the next flight out which means A.) getting in the line immediately to speak to an airline representative and B.) calling your airline at the same time; you never know which will be quicker. Check out other airline options too in case your carrier's planes are full.
4. Lost or stolen documents.
Wallet stolen or passport is missing? There are things you can do.