Oh, Lady Gaga, what were you thinking?
Gaga, the singer of monster hits like "Poker Face," may be even more celebrated for her sense of style than her music (she favors outfits long on drama, short on substance) -- and that's the problem. Or it was on a flight out of London last month.
Her legs began to swell but then, yours might too if you were wearing a costume made entirely out of tape. And that's just one of the mini-disasters that can trip up travelers, if you're not prepared.
I know this sounds pretty basic, but most travel disasters (the ones you'll face, not Gaga) can be avoided with a little homework. And even if you don't plan ahead, there's usually something you can do to make things right. What follows are six fairly common mini-disasters, and how to cope with them (note: see more on Ms. Gaga's potentially dire experience in #6).
#1: My ID/Passport is Gone
Losing your money or credit cards is bad enough, but you need your license to get through security and your passport for travel outside the U.S.
Before disaster strikes: Make sure a trusted friend or family member has a copy of all your important documents, and you keep a copy too. If you go out for the evening, leave original documents in the hotel safe. If you must keep them with you, put them in an around-your-waist money belt with a flat pocket that slides down the front of your trousers (I've seen these for under $20). You too, ladies; a purse left unattended for even a few seconds can disappear like magic.
After the disaster: Go to the nearest police station and make a report. I know this is a time-consuming pain, but a paper trail can be useful in proving your loss (and if the police ever find your stolen items, they'll be able to contact you quickly).
For missing passports, contact your nearest embassy or consulate; the U.S. State Department has country-by-country listings with addresses and phone contacts.
For a missing license, try working with your auto club representative or check your state's department of motor vehicles Web site. Getting on a plane without your government ID is doable, says the TSA's Greg Soule, who adds, "Passengers should bring other IDs that may be help verify their identity and explain [the circumstances] to the security officer." Expect additional screening, which means get to the airport at least a couple of hours earlier than normal.
#2: I Put the Wrong Name On My Ticket
Before disaster strikes: If you're making the family's flight plans, check everyone's ID before you book (one of my employees has been married 28 years, and she still managed to put the wrong name down for her beloved spouse).
After the disaster: Once a name is on a ticket, it's on there and almost impossible to change; however, if the problem is a small mistake like a spelling error or you entered "no middle initial" on a reservation for someone whose government ID includes that initial, don't panic. Just make sure the "secure flight data" kept on file by your airline matches the passenger's ID.
On American Airlines, for example, just give them a call, and they can make any minor changes needed. The TSA says small mistakes "should not cause a problem," but just in case, get to the airport early.