About 3.5 million Americans traveled by air to their Thanksgiving feast. That means about 3.4 million people had terrible travel experiences, and not just because of the snowstorm.
Travel used to be fun. Now it is something to endure as you try to get to someplace fun. Flights are the worst, but we’ve had to endure bad experiences with rental cars and hotel rooms, too.
I’m working on a book called “Travel-trocities,” and invite you to send me your travel horror stories by emailing them to [email protected] or mailing them to 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon.
Here’s a brief description of some of our travel-trocities.
Let’s start with rental cars and taxis. One time we flew into Boston with our kids after a trip to Disney World. It was very late at night, and we jumped into a taxi for a ride to our hotel out near the interstate.
The taxi’s lights were not working, so the driver took us on a very long round-about ride to avoid the police. We weren’t sure where he was taking us and we were anxious throughout the entire ride. He did finally deliver us to our hotel, but we didn’t give him a tip.
A few years ago, I was overcharged by $270 on my credit card for a rental car in Costa Rica. I called the customer service number, waited for 30 minutes for someone to talk to me, and then was told they had no record of my rental or my credit card. When they found my record, it appeared I had been charged for several items I didn’t want or agree to, but because the form was in Spanish, I had relied on the agent to check the appropriate boxes. Big mistake. Because I am persistent, I did eventually get a refund, but I stopped renting cars from that company.
Returning to Montreal one time from a fishing trip with friends, we discovered that our vehicle had been stolen in the “high security” airport parking lot.
I also have a list of some of the world’s airports that I try to avoid, because of horrific experiences there.
One time Linda and I got to the international arrivals terminal at New York’s JFK airport, planning to get on a commuter plane to Portland. When we stepped up to our gate, about a half-hour before takeoff was scheduled, we handed the attendant our boarding passes and she handed them back, telling us to step aside.
Eventually the step-aside group was very large, and some frustrated folks got a bit unruly, so the airport cops had to step in to calm things down. Not long after our plane was scheduled to leave, a young guy behind us got a call and told us his friend, who had gotten on the plane, said the plane had just taken off and was almost empty of passengers.
I found out later that the plane had been overweight with luggage so they were unable to load most of the passengers. Apparently it did not occur to them to unload the luggage and take the passengers instead. That was a costly mistake because they had to put all of us up overnight and buy us dinners in New York City. Linda missed school the next day and ever since, we have tried to get home from vacation with a day to spare.
Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris has given us the very worst of our travel-trocities. One time, en route to Italy, we were ushered off the plane, put in a bus, driven to the terminal, and then had to run — and I do mean run — for 20 minutes to get to our next gate, where the bus to our connecting flight had just left. It would not come back for us.
As we stood at the counter, catching our breath, four young Italian guys ran up, and they were not happy when they found out the bus had left without them. They were carrying on quite loudly, when the guy at the counter leaned over and whispered to us, “I have just two seats on the next flight, which takes off in six hours, and I’m going to give those tickets to you, and then I am going to leave.” And he did.
Of course, we’ve suffered lost luggage. Seems routine these days. And I don’t have room to tell you the nightmare about my gun case that failed to pass inspection, or the time we had to evacuate the terminal in Bozeman, Mont., because an alarm went off. I found out later an electrician set it off by accident.
It’s an accident these days if everything goes well when we’re traveling.