Tips on How to Effectively Complain When Traveling

At certain points when you travel, you may experience unexpected situations like your flight has been canceled or delayed, the airline has misplaced your bag, or the hotel refuses your confirmed reservation. These situations that are beyond your control can be really frustrating and difficult to deal with. It can surely cause inconvenience, delays, a change in your itineraries, or even miss people you should be meeting in your travel. To solve the situation, you may need to complain to prevent your travel plan from being ruined and ensure that you can still have the travel experience you expect. Complaints are expressions of displeasure or annoyance when you do not get your unearned privileges or when situations are unfavorable to you. You may not enjoy complaining but sometimes you must do it to get a solution. Indeed, making a complaint is never easy, but knowing how to do it right will make it uncomplicated. Since hassles are inevitable when traveling, knowing how to complain can help you to solve your problem wherever you may be.

Here are the five simple tips on how to effectively and politely complain to get what you want :


1. Keep your voice calm and relaxed

No matter how furious you may be, remember that you have to keep your voice calm and relaxed. Most of the time when we complain, we are already irate so the tone we may use can be sarcastic and offensive. However, people do not like being shouted at. By raising your voice and being sarcastic, you may just provoke the person who should be helping you to be hostile to you. Instead of getting exceptional assistance, they may now hesitate to help you. If you are calm and courteous when you approach a person, you will also be given a welcoming reception. Some even extend their effort to help if they are treated right, so to get what you want, remember to remain calm and composed.  


2. Express your complaints politely

It’s easy to get angry when you have a bad experience and be careless about what you say. However, this is not the best way to find a solution to get something fixed. Being sarcastic won’t help you to resolve your problem. People get defensive and become closed to suggestions when you are rude to them. You may express your annoyance but make sure that you still do it in a polite way. To do this, you may use indirect language to soften the tone. In this way, you are expressing what you want without being too aggressive or threatening. By using modal verbs like could, should, would and might in your requests for help will make it sound more diplomatic and polite.

Some of the expressions you can use are: 

  • “Would you be able to help me?”
  • “Could you help me with this?”
  • “Who should I talk to about this problem?”
  • “Who should I speak to about this?”


3. Use some language techniques to help you solve your problems

Using the right expression will help you to effectively convey your complaint and will enable the person you are talking to understand you better.


a. Getting someone’s attention by starting politely

Your initial step in making a complaint is getting the attention of the person to whom you should express your complaint. Do this politely by using short-expression like ‘excuse me’ and then use ‘miss’, ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ since you don’t know their name. Starting a complaint politely puts the listener at ease thus making them easier to deal with.

Some helpful phrases you can use are:

    • “Excuse me miss, do you know…”
    • “Excuse me, I wonder if you can help me…” 
    • “Good evening sir, could you tell me…”
    • “I’m sorry to bother you sir,  but I need to know…” 
    • “I’m sorry to bother you, but I wanted coffee not a tea for breakfast.”


b. Make your request into a question

Sounding too aggressive and demanding may keep you away from receiving favorable results. Changing your direct request into a question can be more effective as it changes the way people would interact with you. Any person would prefer to be asked to do something than told. Moreover, it’s hard for some people to say ‘no’ or refuse when you ask them courteously. Again, you can use, modal verbs to phrase your request for help into a question to make it as polite as possible. However, you may also start with your concern then end your complaint with a question.


    • “What can you do to help me fix this?”
    • “Is there something you can do to help me solve this problem?”
    • “Excuse me, I’m having a problem with my room’s keycard. How can we fix this?”


c. Explain the problem

It is always good to make people understand why you are upset. This way they will realize the severity and urgency of your concern. Understanding your point of view can encourage the person to help you solve the problem and makes it easier for them to help you.


    • “I’m sorry to say this but I think you have given me the wrong ticket.”
    • “I’m sorry to bother you, but my hotel room is a little cold.”
    • “I was expecting to have a reserved room on the third floor but my room is on the ground floor.”
    • “I don’t understand why my baggage is still not being delivered when I was told it should be at the hotel yesterday.”


More ways to introduce your reason for being upset:

    • “I have a complaint to make about…”
    • “There seems to be a problem with…”
    • “Excuse me, but there is a problem…”
    • “There appears to be something wrong with…”
    • “I’m afraid there is a slight problem with…”
    • “I’m not satisfied with…”
    • “I think you may have…”
    • “I’m sorry to say this but I am really quite upset with…” 
    • “Maybe you forgot to…”
    • “I just noticed…”


d. Avoid blaming the person you are dealing with

At times, you may find yourself expressing your annoyance to someone who is not directly responsible for your problem. They are merely representatives who are there to assist you. In this case, it’s better to tell the person you’re talking to that you understand he’s not at fault then state the problem. By doing this, you are simply saying you have a problem without blaming the person for it yet you need him to help you.


    • “I’m afraid there may be a misunderstanding. I requested a non-smoking room.”
    • “There seems to be a mistake on my billing statement. I think you may have overcharged me.”


More useful phrases to express your complaint without blaming the person:

    • “I understand it’s not your fault, but…”
    • “I’m afraid that there may be a misunderstanding…” 
    • “There seems to be a mistake…”


e. State your feelings

This step may not be necessary as some problems have easy and quick solutions. However, in certain instances, it is effective to use them to express how disappointed you are. You can use this in cases when something has been really neglected or when there is a continuing issue that can’t be addressed and resolved.


    • “I’m sorry to have to say this but I can still hear some noises from my room and this doesn’t allow me to rest properly. This has been an issue since I have checked in. It is unacceptable that this problem hasn’t been addressed up to now.”
    • “Perhaps something may have been neglected, but I’m really upset that this attraction is not included in the tour package when I have mentioned it to be added upon booking.”


f. Politely refusing to an alternative solution 

While discussing a solution to your issue, people may recommend an alternative way to resolve your problem. However, at times, this won’t be appropriate for you due to some concerns that you also have to consider. In this case, you may need to refuse but make sure that you still do it in a polite way. 


    • “I’m sorry but I really have to be in Milan today.”
    • “I think that won’t work for me because I’m allergic to seafood.”
    • “I’m afraid but I am not allowed to give you the personal details of my travel companion.”


Some phrases you can use to politely refuse a recommendation:

    • “I’m sorry that won’t be possible because…”  
    • “I’d like to follow your suggestion but…”


g. Show that you know

At times, you may need to tell the person that you’re well-informed when you are getting the impression that your concern is being taken for granted, when you feel like you are being taken advantage of, or when you are suspecting that you are being tricked by giving you different alibis. In these instances, you may complain using the expression “I understood that … but..” then give them an opportunity to respond.


    • “Excuse me, I understood that it’s rush hour, but I think the fare should not be changed.”
    • “Excuse me, I know that you have a full house now, but I think there’s a problem with my table reservation.”


h. Ask for action

An important step when making a complaint is to ask for an action to be taken for the problem. It may speed up the process of finding a solution to your concern. However, make sure that you don’t sound too demanding or bossy when you do this. Instead of telling them what to do to help you, it would be nicer if you make it into a question. Everybody would prefer to be requested rather than demanded. If you throw a command on someone, they may lose interest in helping you as it seems you did not show them respect. Demanding may be interpreted as being rude but asking an action through a question shows courtesy.

The following are some ways to ask for action:

    • “There seems to be a problem with… could you please check…?”
    • “It wouldn’t be a good idea to…”
    • “Would it be possible to…?”
    • “Is there any chance you could…?”
    • “Could I please speak with the manager?”


i. Agreeing reluctantly 

In certain circumstances, an adjustment may be suggested to resolve your concern but may not be the best solution for you. Since it is the only closest option you can have to solve your problem you may decide to agree with it even if you are not totally satisfied. In this case, you would still have to agree politely even if you hesitate with the offer. 

Some expressions you can use to agree reluctantly are: 

    • “Well, I guess that all have to be.”
    • “Well, it looks like there’s no other option.”
    • “Well, I guess that’s my only choice.”
    • “I suppose that’s our only option.”
    • “I’m not too happy about that but I can go along with it for the time being.”


j. Thank the person

Even if the person who assisted you may not be able to directly solve your problem, or just helped you to find a better alternative, it is still nice to express your gratitude to the person for accommodating you and listening to your complaint. 

Some ways to express your assistance appreciation are:

    • “Thanks for helping me. I appreciate it.”
    • “I appreciate your assistance Thank you.”


On certain occasions, you may experience the need to complain while traveling. By following the tips above, you are sure to be able to complain politely and effectively in any place you may be.

May you be touring at the moment, or has a plan to travel, it would be better if you start honing your skills on how to politely complain. Learning Travel English can be easier than you think. Check out our course to speak well and confidently. Start now and try our 2 free trial classes for free.


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Kaycie Gayle is a freelance content writer and a digital publisher. Her writings are mostly about, travel, culture, people, food, and communication.