We were headed to Europe on a river cruise. We were excited to see parts of France and Germany that we had never visited before.

Then, a few days before our trip, a notice arrived from our cruise company. Abnormally low water on the Rhine required all river traffic to be shut down near Cologne, Germany. The ship couldn’t reach our embarkation city in Switzerland. There would be no cruise on the Rhine that next week.

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Weather Delays or Cancellations

Mother Nature can sometimes put a damper on your vacation plans, and that can be disappointing, especially after you’ve put time and effort into planning your trip. Sometimes, though, life doesn’t go as planned. In our case, drought in Europe last summer caused river levels to drop so low in the fall that river traffic on the Rhine was affected for weeks. There was nothing anyone could do to fix that.

Visions of German castles and French vineyards had been dancing in my head for months – and now it wasn’t going to happen. Of course, we were disappointed but it didn’t ruin our vacation. That’s because we had decided to purchase travel insurance ahead of time, and we had booked with a reputable river cruise company, AmaWaterways.

The AmaWaterways team worked quickly to put together an alternative cruise itinerary through the Netherlands and Belgium. Plus, in addition to our altered cruise, the company offered passengers a certificate for a free cruise at another time.

The downside was our new cruise itinerary was leaving from Amsterdam instead of Basel, Switzerland, our original destination. Thanks to our travel insurance from Allianz that was an easy change. Our plan included trip interruption and trip cancellation coverage. This was a trip interruption due to the environment, so we booked a flight from Basil to Amsterdam and Allianz soon reimbursed us for the flight.

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Read the Fine Print

“Know what your cruise line policy is on cancellations and changes,” advises Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of Cruise Critic, a large online cruise resource. “Virtually all cruise companies have their contracts online. It also helps to work with a travel agent because they are knowledgeable about the cruise lines and well-versed in travel insurance.”

When booking with a travel company or provider, be sure to read the fine print in your purchase agreement.  Some cruise companies, for example, have weather guarantees; others don’t.

Buy Travel Insurance

One important thing you can do to protect your vacation is purchase travel insurance. Plans vary, so take time to compare. You can purchase a plan that covers an individual trip or an annual travel insurance plan. It’s best to pick a plan with trip cancellation and interruption benefits, as well as travel delay benefits or missed connection coverage.

When traveling overseas, purchase a plan with emergency medical coverage, as well as emergency medical transportation benefits. This will cover you in case you have an illness or accident abroad and needed to be transported to the nearest appropriate medical facility. It also covers medical transportation benefits in case you needed to return home with a medical escort.

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Look Ahead and Have a Backup Plan

Air travel is especially vulnerable to weather delays and cancellations. When a big storm is approaching, some airlines will let you rebook your flight to go out earlier at no extra charge. To give yourself some wiggle room in case there are flight cancellations, try to book the first flight of the day, so other options are available if something happens. If you’re flying out for a cruise, consider flying in the night before.

While cancelled flights are disappointing, keeping your cool with airline representatives will ensure better assistance. They are often overwhelmed with demands and trying their best to assist. Maintaining a pleasant demeanor helps everyone involved.

If you find your flight cancelled, go to the customer service counter right away. While in line, get on the phone with the airline’s customer service. They may be able to help you before you reach the front of the line.

If you do end up stuck at the airport for a night, book a nearby hotel right away. During major storms, rooms can fill up quickly. Depending on your travel insurance plan, your hotel stay may be reimbursed.

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Look on the Bright Side

Your mental outlook can affect your whole journey. While it may sound trite, it helps to keep a positive attitude. Sometimes the best plan is to go with the flow. Travel is about the destination, but it’s also about the journey. It can enrich our lives, even when it doesn’t go as planned.

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