unsplash.comBook­ing over­seas flights can be chal­leng­ing, but if you know when to hold and when to fold, in the long run you’ll return a hap­pi­er traveler.

The most impor­tant thing to keep in mind is that cheap isn’t the same as suc­cess­ful. With that in mind, here are 5 ways to smooth out your ride:

Go Easy on the OTAs
(Online Trav­el Agen­cies). Third par­ty book­ers like Expe­dia, Orb­itz, and Kayak are an awe­some way to score a good deal on domes­tic tickets—most of the time. There’s also a lev­el of con­ve­nience using them to search across a vari­ety of fares and air­lines. And when you’re ready to book, you can feel pret­ty good know­ing you’re get­ting the same price as you would on an air­line’s website.

But when it comes to inter­na­tion­al trav­el, the OTA book­ing con­ve­nience has its trade-offs: unless you are expe­ri­enced with workarounds for com­pli­cat­ed flight hic­cups, it can actu­al­ly be risky. In fact, one of the pit­falls of book­ing either domes­tic or inter­na­tion­al through an OTA is what hap­pens when you run into prob­lems (flight can­cel­la­tions, delays and reroutes).

The unmit­i­gat­ed has­sle of being in the mid­dle of the air­line and the online agency will most cer­tain­ly negate any con­ve­nience. Fre­quent fliers note that air­line reps and gate agents put third-par­ty tick­ets at the bot­tom of their “con­cern” list, and are unlike­ly to help you sort out issues like they will for loy­al­ty pro­gram fliers who book direct­ly with their airline.

How do they know you didn’t book direct? The cod­ing on your tick­et spells out your book­ing method.

The bot­tom line for over­seas trav­el is that it’s best to use the OTAs to com­pare prices among air­lines and then go book direct­ly at the airline’s web­site for a bet­ter chance at get­ting help, should you need it.

Get a Human
The more com­pli­cat­ed your itinerary—flying to mul­ti­ple coun­tries through mul­ti­ple cities and hubs on mul­ti­ple code­share flights, group tick­et­ing, or spe­cial pric­ing in con­junc­tion with a hotel or cruise deal—the more it makes sense to seek out a tra­di­tion­al trav­el agent. When it comes to flight tick­et­ing only (no oth­er trav­el arrang­ing like hotels or cars), the aver­age markup is around $60, accord­ing to a quick sur­vey of trav­el agen­cies. When it comes to prob­lem res­o­lu­tion, espe­cial­ly if you have a sol­id rela­tion­ship with your human agent, the $40 to $80 you pay them will like­ly bring a faster res­o­lu­tion of your issue than if you’re fend­ing for your­self. They know the ropes—and they’re paid to have your back.

To check out well-vet­ted lists of local agents, or ones who spe­cial­ize in the type of trav­el or des­ti­na­tion you’re inter­est­ed in, vis­it the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Trav­el Agents.

When OTA is the Only Way
If your bud­get dic­tates OTAs as your best option, then be pre­pared. Error on the side of cau­tion and make sure you have the third-par­ty agency as well as the cus­tomer ser­vice num­ber for the air­line you’re fly­ing in your phone. That way you can call and try to get any issues resolved while you’re stand­ing in line wait­ing to speak to a human agent at the airline’s cus­tomer ser­vice counter about a re-accommodation.

Be aware that most of the cus­tomer ser­vice reps for OTAs are out­sourced, which can often make it hard­er to get the answers you need. In the end, they still have no pow­er to help rebook you if your flight gets can­celed or rerout­ed. So it’s incum­bent upon you to know what your rights are with the air­line you’re using. Bone up here.

When Things Don’t Go As Planned
What to do if you’re using an OTA and every­thing goes haywire?

Call the air­line or OTAs cus­tomer ser­vice num­ber. Make sure you have your air­line record loca­tor num­ber (on your board­ing pass, usu­al­ly in caps and in bold). Note the date, time, and length of call (do your­self a favor ahead of time and learn how to record the call using a cell phone app). Also, don’t for­get to ask for and note the name of the rep­re­sen­ta­tive or their employ­ee num­ber. Then as one expe­ri­enced fre­quent fli­er advis­es, keep it sim­ple. Do not get into a com­pli­cat­ed dis­cus­sion or an angry whine fest. Tell them you booked through the OTA, then state your name, your record loca­tor num­ber, the flight date and time of flight, and the problem—“my flight from A to B got can­celed, and I need to rebook pron­to.” Leave it at that.

You’re lucky if they fix your prob­lem, but if not and you’re mid-flight and they don’t or won’t assist you, be pre­pared to pay for an alter­nate flight. If you haven’t yet start­ed the trip, you may have oth­er options and it’s worth being more per­sis­tent, stay­ing on the phone and mak­ing mul­ti­ple calls as need­ed. But you also may be sim­ply spin­ning your wheels and wast­ing valu­able time try­ing to make them help you.

If They Don’t Want to Help You
What if you have to buy an extra tick­et to com­plete your flight? Once you call the OTA rep, you have met your legal oblig­a­tion to make a rea­son­able effort to avoid a breach of con­tract. Beyond that, you don’t have to com­pel them to do their job nor do you need to stay on hold for a spec­i­fied peri­od of time. Nor are you required to make mul­ti­ple attempts at con­tact. So if they don’t help you, the onus is on them. Your legal oblig­a­tion to the OTA and the air­line end­ed when you made a con­cert­ed effort to seek redress.

Once you’re back from your trip, file a claim direct­ly with the OTA, and if need be take them to small claims court (or the court of social media) where the bur­den of proof will be on them once you pro­vide the details you not­ed at the start of this has­sle. The judg­ment will be in your favor. Col­lect­ing on it, how­ev­er, could be anoth­er hassle.

Get Trav­el Insurance
You could avoid a lot of this if you pur­chase trav­el insur­ance. It’s designed to help you recoup your mon­ey and even time in the event of a missed flight, trip delay, or can­cel­la­tion caused by bad weath­er, an air­line mechan­i­cal break­down, sud­den ill­ness onset, or even a car acci­dent en route to the air­port. Don’t expect to rely on your cred­it card to cov­er flight delays or can­cel­la­tions, or for that mat­ter, emer­gency med­ical cov­er­age over­seas. Often when there is cov­er­age, the ben­e­fits are high­ly limited.

Know­ing that you’ll get reim­bursed for a last-minute tick­et or a rebook can help take the stress out of the chaos that typ­i­cal­ly ensues in these sit­u­a­tions. But always thor­ough­ly research the cov­er­age and the insur­er (check online reviews) to make sure you’re ful­ly protected.

A trav­el agent can walk you through cov­er­age options, or you can vis­it World Nomads to find appro­pri­ate insur­ance to fit your par­tic­u­lar needs.

Look­ing for a new runner’s high? Be bold and dar­ing, like your run­ning shoes, and try some­thing new – an inter­na­tion­al run. Des­ti­na­tion unknown will pro­vide more than a trav­el adven­ture — you’ll get 42.195 kilo­me­ters strolling amidst some amaz­ing beach­es and his­toric archi­tec­ture. Pos­si­bly the best part is that the race is filled with thou­sands of for­eign run­ners (tech­ni­cal­ly, you would be the for­eign one)? That means there’s exot­ic beers some­where near that fin­ish line. Strap up your laces and restore your glyco­gen with some of these amaz­ing inter­na­tion­al marathons.

1ATHENSAthens Marathon, Greece
If you choose one inter­na­tion­al race in your life, it bet­ter be Greece. This is the sacred ground where ancient gods and heroes birthed marathons for west­ern civ­i­liza­tion around 490 BC. Phei­dippedes, a Greek mes­sen­ger, was sent from the Bat­tle of Marathon to Athens to announce the Per­sians have been defeat­ed. Today, the Novem­ber marathons still fol­lows the route that lit­tle mes­sen­ger boy ran.


Berlin Marathon, Ger­many
Brand­ed by BMW and rec­og­nized as a par­ty, you know this marathon is one-of-a-kind. Run through the his­toric sites of Germany’s cap­i­tal city, while you lis­ten to var­i­ous bands on the course. This Sep­tem­ber marathon takes you through parts of East and West Ger­many. Did you know Ger­many has a care­free drink­ing pol­i­cy? From train sta­tions to city streets, you know Berlin­ers will be start­ing up a par­ty some­where near the end of the course.


Stock­holm Marathon, Swe­den
Run through the city and the Baltic shores as you are encour­aged by thou­sands of friend­ly Swedish fans. The city of con­trasts brings life to tired legs as you run past his­to­ry, inno­va­tion, islands, small towns and big cities. This May to June marathon starts in the after­noon and ends at the 1912 Olympic stadium.


Aus­tralian Out­back Marathon, Aus­tralia
This is not only a run­ning event, but also a unique expe­ri­ence. Explore the out­back by foot as you run amidst Ulu­ru (Ayer’s Rock) and Kata Tju­ta (The Olgas). Explore hues of orange and reds as you run, and shades of pink, pur­ple and yel­lows as the sun­sets lat­er in the evening. This race takes place dur­ing Australia’s win­ter months, and is reg­u­lar­ly held at the end of July.


Tokyo Marathon, Japan
For those who want a chic Asian expe­ri­ence, come to Tokyo. Slo­gan, “The Day We Unite,” rings true for many run­ners who come togeth­er to run for a cause. Run amidst the busy streets and high rise build­ings as you expe­ri­ence this classy run. Held near the end of Feb­ru­ary, get ready to car­bo-load on sushi and if you can’t read the signs, no wor­ries, just fol­low the guy in front of you.


Stan­dard Char­tered Mum­bai Marathon, India
For a unique Asian expe­ri­ence, explore the Mum­bai marathon. India is a spe­cial place, and no bet­ter way to view life dif­fer­ent­ly than through miles and miles on the road. This is the largest char­i­ty-gen­er­at­ing plat­form in India. The tro­phies, like the race, have a deep­er mean­ing, which show­cas­es the ener­gy, his­to­ry and geog­ra­phy of Mum­bai. The race is also spe­cial to local Mum­baikars, as well as run­ners, who emo­tion­al­ly con­nect with the marathon as run­ners over­come the hur­dles of life and the sev­en pil­lars. This includes rit­u­al, shock, denial, iso­la­tion, despair, affir­ma­tion and renew­al. The race is held in Jan­u­ary, which is the cool­er month of India.


Mara­tona de Rio, Rio de Janiero, Brazil
Oh Brazil.  The land filled with beau­ti­ful beach­es and gor­geous women. The race takes place dur­ing the cool­er month of July, and the course is amidst the beau­ti­ful shore­lines and city streets of Rio. Run­ners view spec­tac­u­lar views of the moun­tains and famous land­marks such as Christ the Redeemer. After the race, relax tired legs on the beach and have your­self a nice day filled with run­ning, sun, sand and sea.

international-mountaineering-featuredA trag­ic and glar­ing spot­light has been placed on inter­na­tion­al climb­ing and moun­taineer­ing expe­di­tions in the past few weeks after ten for­eign climbers camp­ing near the base Nan­ga Par­bat  of Pak­istan were killed by the Tal­iban. This rais­es safe­ty con­cerns for out­door adven­tur­ists who, so keen to sum­mit a for­eign peak or send a cov­et­ed route abroad, may ven­ture into dan­ger­ous ter­ri­to­ry. Though the group of climbers observed many safe­ty pre­cau­tions, obtained the nec­es­sary per­mits, and employed a guide, the fact remains that they met their end in a tumul­tuous area of the world plagued by war and upheaval. This begs the ques­tion: Should out­door enthu­si­asts risk their lives by ven­tur­ing into hos­tile or unsta­ble areas? And what pre­cau­tions should they take before leav­ing the safe­ty and pro­tec­tion of their home countries?

Reg­is­ter with Your Embassy
Tak­ing the time to reg­is­ter with your embassy is the first step to adven­tur­ing safe­ly. When you reg­is­ter, this ensures that you’ll receive updates if life-threat­en­ing emer­gen­cies arise in or near the area where you’re trav­el­ing. Your embassy will also let you know if U.S. Cit­i­zens are being evac­u­at­ed from the area and as con­tact your fam­i­ly to inform them if you’re safe. That being said, most climbs take place in remote loca­tions where access to inter­net and cell phones is min­i­mal, so if you find your­self beyond the reach of your embassy’s elec­tron­ic updates, be sure to have a go-to check-in point where you can get the lat­est scoop on new world and region­al developments.

Research the Region
There is no sub­sti­tute for talk­ing with climbers and ex-patri­ots trav­el­ing through and liv­ing in the region you plan to vis­it. Read expat blogs, con­nect via Face­book and Twit­ter with folks in that part of the world, and do your home­work. The climbers in Pak­istan serve as a cau­tion­ary tale; they were climb­ing in an area of Pak­istan that was known to be peace­ful and far from the Taliban’s reach. Despite the seem­ing­ly safe nature of their vis­it, they found them­selves at the mer­cy of for­eign rebels intent on harm­ing peace­ful adven­tur­ists to make a polit­i­cal statement.

Make the Call
In the end, only you and your team of fel­low adven­tur­ists can make the call con­cern­ing whether or not to risk your lives by ven­tur­ing into a region that may be haz­ardous for for­eign­ers. Often times, the moun­tains them­selves are dan­ger enough that climbers may view any oth­er risks as a mute point worth fac­ing. That being said, climb safe­ly and, above all, climb on.