Hey fellow travelers! Today I’m bringing you a slightly different style of article – my biggest travel horror story. I am currently working on a collaborative blog post about travel failures with some of my amazing fellow bloggers and am anxious to start sharing some of my stories. So, I thought I should tell you about the worst experience I’ve ever had when traveling. Everyone has their own travel horror story – and I’d love to hear yours! For now, read on and see if you can relate to my experience moving back to the US from Australia. A nightmare at the time, but lessons well learned for the future!
If you’ve been keeping up with the blog, you know that I lived in Australia for a while. When I was getting ready to plan my trip back home, a friend from home said she wanted to come visit. Great! So, we started researching flights, knowing that we would be able to fly back together. We found a great deal on a roundtrip flight from New York to Melbourne and back, so we booked two. My friend flew out to meet me, and everything was going well… until it wasn’t.
We got to the Melbourne airport, checked in and waited for our flight to board. When the gate attendant scanned my boarding pass, the machine made a disconcerting sound. I joked with the attendant, trying to put myself at ease, commenting that the noise didn’t sound good. She assured me that it was fine, and that I should continue to board the flight. Okay.
Sydney to Los Angeles
We arrived in Sydney and all seem to be going smoothly. But, when I went to check in for the next flight, I was told that my ticket was invalid. Seriously? I explained that the attendants in Melbourne had already let me on the plane there and I was already in the middle of my journey. Didn’t matter. I was sent to the tickets counter to purchase a new ticket or would not be allowed on the plane. I panicked. After spending a year and a half in Australia, away from home, all I wanted to do was be in my own bed. All my money had been spent on traveling around the land down under while I had the chance. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I couldn’t afford a same-day ticket around the world!
Luckily, my friend stayed with me (even though her ticket worked just fine) and had room on a credit card to use. But, before we got the new ticket, I argued with the ticket agent for the longest time about why my ticket was invalid. I had paid for it and had all my proof. She explained that you could not purchase a roundtrip ticket and only use the return half – which was explained nowhere when I purchased the ticket. I continued to explain that I could not afford to purchase a new ticket. Her solution? Purchase another roundtrip ticket and only use the first half. Seriously? She’s basically telling me to do what I had tried to do originally! I was so frustrated, but out of options. I just wanted to get home. So there went over $1,000 of my friend’s money.
Los Angeles to Chicago
Once we had purchased the new ticket, my friend and I then had different connecting flights for LA to Chicago. No worries, we would meet up again before our final flight to Syracuse. She was bummed because my flight was supposed to leave LA before hers – but in the end it didn’t matter. She beat me to Chicago. Why? Well here’s the craziest part of the story. I boarded my plane, ready to get even closer to home; to see my friends and family after so long. But the plane didn’t leave. We just sat there. Waiting. Then the plane started to roll out of the gate… only to stop. The plane came back to the gate, with all of the passengers left to wonder what was happening.
After some time, an announcement was made that the plane couldn’t leave yet. Apparently the wheel of the plane had run over the foot of one of the workers on the tarmac. They needed to investigate. Seriously? I mean, how does that even happen? How do you not see the giant AIRPLANE moving towards you? Ugh. We were told that we could not get off of the plane, that we would have to wait and it wouldn’t be much longer before we left. They lied. The airline decided that they couldn’t trust the crew that was onboard and that they needed to be replaced. More waiting. Tears started welling up in my eyes as I looked at the time, knowing that I was cutting it too close for my connecting flight home. In the end it was over three hours of just sitting, waiting on the plane for takeoff.
Chicago to Syracuse… or not.
With my new itinerary, I had a few hours between my connecting flight in Chicago. But you’re smart enough to figure out that I probably didn’t make it. You would be right. Of course I was sitting near the back of the plane, meaning I was one of the last to get off. Even though there was an announcement made to allow people with connecting flights to get off first so they had a chance to make it. People didn’t care. I got off the plane and ran to my next gate. I don’t normally run. I’m one of those people who only runs in there is a clown chasing me with a knife. But I was desperate. The next few moments were like a scene from a movie. I ran up to my departing gate and saw them close the gate door. I can’t make this stuff up. But just like in the movies, they refused to reopen the door to let me on. (Later I found out that my friend had gotten on the plane and begged them to wait for me because she knew I was coming… They didn’t wait.)
Stuck in Chicago
So I was stuck in Chicago. I didn’t know it then, but Chicago would later become one of my favorite cities. But at the time, I was just upset. So close to being home, yet not quite there. Since I still had an Australian phone plan and couldn’t get wifi, I didn’t have a way to call my mom to let her know not to go to the airport to meet me. I ended up asking a stranger if I could use his phone, and he was kind enough to let me. Seeing my distraught appearance probably made him empathize. By the time I waited at the service counter top get my meal and hotel vouchers and then waited for the shuttle to the hotel, I had just enough time to cry it out in the shower and get a couple of hours of sleep in before my redeye flight.
Syracuse – Finally!
I did eventually make it back home later the next morning. Of course my luggage had been marked for the original itinerary, so it made it back to Syracuse the day before me with my friend. In a strange turn of events, she was able to take my luggage home, but hers had been lost along the way. Our luck just continued to be awful…
Both my friend and I fought hard with the airline once we were both back in Syracuse. After weeks and weeks of back-and-forth, she did eventually get the new ticket refunded on her credit card. They also issued us two vouchers to be used on future flights. All in all, I‘m still not convinced the hassle and anxiety was worth my free flight to Orlando later that year.
Lessons Learned From My Travel Horror Story
- Never purchase a roundtrip ticket if you don’t plan to use all of it.
- Always have spare cash or room on a credit card in case of emergency.
- Be thankful for WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and all of the new apps that allow you to text and call through wifi.
- No matter how fast you run from one gate to another in the airport terminal, you cannot change other people holding you up or refusing to help you.
- Give yourself plenty of time between connecting flights. You truly never know what could happen.
I have traveled extensively since this disastrous adventure, and I have learned so much. I never want to relive this nightmare! If you have a crazy travel horror story of your own, let me know!