With the austerity measures hitting home in several European countries you can count on transportation strikes throughout the summer. Why summer? Well, that’s high tourist season for European destinations and so that is where the unions can cause the most disruption and have the most leverage in their demands.
Recently France has announced a 3-day strike of air traffic controllers beginning June 11, also a general strike has been called in Portugal for June 27, and the busy tourist season has just begun. So how do strikes effect your travel plans? Well, if you are traveling in a group you will no doubt have someone in charge who will help to work around whatever problems arise (see below for an example where this did not work out too well). Independent travelers, you too need to be aware of the situation and, above all, be flexible.
The good news is most Catholic sites (churches, some museums, etc.) will probably not close, even if state-run museums do. If possible, call ahead to find out. You don’t want to break your neck getting to a location only to find that it is not even open.
While you cannot eliminate them, there are a few things you can do to help lessen the effects of a strike on your travel plans.
1. Make yourself aware of pending strikes before you leave. Most of these are announced days—or even weeks—in advance, giving you time to adjust your plans. Here is one site that claims to notify of air cancellations…..we will continue to look for others.
2. Purchase travel insurance that covers trip interruption for unforeseen events. This is a complicated subject, for example you must purchase the insurance before the strike is announced. After the strike is announced, most insurers will not cover you since it’s not an unforeseen event. Check with the travel insurance company and especially look at the fine print. Many travel insurance providers will post a list of dates and airlines that are not covered.
3. Try to keep bookings as flexible as possible unless you plan to stay in one place for a period of several days. Pay as little in advance as possible, in the event that it’s nonrefundable.
4. Have a back-up plan. If you think that a strike is likely, then figure out in advance what you might do in that situation and come up with an alternative plan. Spur of the moment decisions, under stress, are not always the best ones.
5. Most importantly— learn to enjoy the moment. Being stranded somewhere could present a golden opportunity. In other words, make the best of an unpleasant situation. That is what sets the smart traveler apart from the befuddled tourist who allows their whole trip to be ruined because of a failure to adjust to unavoidable circumstances.
6. Finally, don’t put off that trip. Plan as best you can, then relax….don’t let your fear of the unknown or lack of being in total control prevent you from travelling.
Remember what I said about how being in a group means someone will take charge? Well, that is not always the case. I remember a few years ago when my daughter was traveling with a group departing Split, Croatia on Air France, connecting in Paris and then flying back to the U.S. Well Air France went on strike so they routed half the group via London on British Air and the other half via Rome on Alitalia. Those landing in London were whisked to a 5-star hotel, had dinner and then were able to fly home the next day. Those landing in Rome were told by the Air France personnel that no hotel arrangements had been made for them and they were on their own! Here they were in Rome with no money and no place to stay. Fortunately the priest leading the group had some friends at a monastery in the city and they stayed there before flying home the next day.
Divine intervention, no doubt!