Vacation rental awful? Lost luggage? Bickering 24/7? Here's what to do.

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Samantha Brown
Credit: Samantha Brown

Vacations are not a picture-perfect thing made of fairy and Instagram dust. As any traveler will tell you, you have to bank on things going wrong. But a few missteps don’t need to derail an entire vacation. Samantha Brown, host of PBS’ Places to Love, the third season of which debuted this month, knows that all too well. That’s why she’s determined to help people turn their vacation flubs around. Below, three common, terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day vacation scenarios and Brown’s tips for overcoming them.

1. You’re not getting along with the family, couple, or friends with whom your traveling.

Having a few conversations before you leave can make all the difference. “The best thing you can do is discuss the big points of stress before you leave. These are typically money, space, and schedules, so be sure to asking if you will split everything or if each family [or couple, or friend] will pay on their own. Will you book separate hotel rooms, and if you’re sharing a house, make sure there are enough bedrooms and bathrooms so people have space when they need a break? If your kid needs a nap every day at 1:00 p.m. or else he turns into a monster, make it known (and don’t expect everyone to cater their vacation around your child’s needs),” advises Brown. If you have already left for your trip and you’re struggling with clashing personalities, carve out a designated time for everybody to meet and talk and troubleshoot from there. Even if things aren’t perfect, at least you can worry less about it since feelings are out in the open.

2. The vacation rental you booked is awful.

“Nip this one in the bud right away. If you’re booking directly from the owner, give them a chance to right the wrong. If the place isn’t clean or is missing something specifically stated in the listing, ask them to fix it. There are a lot of people who use a third party to manage the property and the owner may not even be aware of the situation,” explains Brown. “It’s best to become familiar with cancellation policies before even booking, so re-read the fine print. Many vacation rental companies will work with you if the property does not meet expectations, provided you contact them within the first 24 hours. Additionally, if you leave early, you may be able to get money back for the nights not used.”

Alternatively, if the issues with your vacation rental are pretty minor, say, the porch is smaller than expected or the kitchen doesn’t have a coffee machine, breathe in and move on. “It’s easy to obsess and complain when expectations aren’t met, but let’s not allow disappointment to ruin your trip so make the best of the less-than-perfect situation,” says Brown.

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3. Your luggage gets lost at the airport.

We know, we know, so far from ideal we need a new word for non-ideal. “There’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling of still standing at the carousel, but all the bags have been claimed. It’s estimated that less than 3% of baggage is mishandled, which includes stolen, damaged, and delayed luggage, so your chances of it being totally lost are slim.,” says Brown. If you can’t find your luggage, Brown suggests you, “file a claim at the airport but [remember] the good news is it’s usually just delayed and will show up (and be delivered to you) in the next 24 hours.” A word for the travel wise: If you’re traveling in a tight-knit group, consider putting some outfits of yours in a friend’s or family member’s bag and vice versa so you have some backup clothing if your bag does go missing.

“I know a family who traveled to Europe for 10 days, baby in tow, whose luggage never arrived. It was stressful for the first day, but they ended up buying a few clothing items and toiletries to make it through the trip. By the end of the vacation, they were blown away at how little they actually needed. We tend to pack for every scenario, but in reality, you might just learn that a pair of jeans, clean undies, a couple tee shirts, a jacket (and maybe a little mascara) is all you really need in the first place,” Brown reminds us.

Above all, Brown stresses the importance of remembering the little moments of vacation, even if they’re not all perfect. “From your friend’s annoying helicopter parenting to the raccoon who made himself at home in your Airbnb, it’s those little nuggets that will one day have you laughing, not crying, about this awful experience.”