Bad Vacation: What Is Your Travel’s Misadventure?

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    Jul 09, 2014 3:32 AM GMT

    NYT: Probably someone somewhere has taken the perfect trip, with everything going exactly as planned, no catastrophes or surprises. But have you met that person?

    To travel is to be exposed to the incomprehensible whims of baggage handlers, car-rental companies, the weather, Yosemite pack mules, pickpockets, noroviruses. If you are unlikely to be able to cope when your flight is diverted to Saskatchewan or your African safari is derailed by a guides’ union strike, you should probably just stay home because, as they say, stuff happens, no matter how skilled you or your travel agent is at vacation planning.

    Share your own tales, such as did your partner pick up the wrong bag at the airport and get kidnapped as a result because it contained a nuclear-detonation device coveted by terrorists?
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    Jul 09, 2014 4:08 AM GMT
    Not vacation, but business travel.

    I was flying down from Washington to California on an Army aircraft, with most of my office staff. I asked the pilots to fly along the Cascades so we could see all the major volcanic peaks, including the still-smouldering Mt. Saint Helens. It was spectacular.

    Our first stop was in Sacramento, where I had business at the State Capital. The rest of my staff flew on to other stops I had arranged.

    I got off the plane alone, turboprops still running, at what looked like a typical general aviation terminal, that DoD contracts to support us, and my plane quickly taxied away. I went inside, but couldn't find my rental car desk.

    I began to realize I wasn't at Sacramento International's general aviation. It was the Sacramento Executive Airport, 20 miles from where I was supposed to be. The Army pilots had screwed up. Thank gawd this wasn't a combat mission.

    OK, what now, Colonel? A taxi was horribly expensive, and though I could have charged it to my Army card, I was notoriously frugal with my office budget, something you US taxpayers should appreciate.

    So I phoned National Car Rental at Sacramento International, because they would come and deliver your rental to you for no charge. That arranged, I then cancelled my other car rental. Bottom line: no added cost to my trip, just a little stress and some lost time.

    But if you've never stepped off a plane, and suddenly realized you ain't in the right place, you've never really travelled. icon_razz.gif
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    Jul 09, 2014 4:14 AM GMT
    Art: Thank god that wasn't a combat drop into the Baath Party headquarters!
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    Jul 09, 2014 4:27 AM GMT
    woodsmen saidArt: Thank god that wasn't a combat drop into the Baath Party headquarters!

    Well, there was a little discussion with the Army aviation commander at Ft. Lewis afterwards. My flight plan clearly said Sacramento International, General Aviation. NOT Sacramento Executive, 20 miles away.

    Once again, I was trying to save my office operating budget some money. If I had enough passengers, and given my rank, I could requisition my own entire Army airplane. Tickets on commercial flights for my staff would have cost more. And this qualified as a training flight for the pilots, that would have been flown anyway, whether to California or someplace else, the cost a wash and not charged to me.

    At least my staff reached their own separate destinations correctly. Another advantage of this approach being they could be brought directly into smaller regional airports, closer to the Reserve units they were inspecting, saving time and surface transportation costs. It was only their boss who got misplaced. icon_confused.gif
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    Jul 09, 2014 2:35 PM GMT
    While flying a small plane from Miami to NY I had to make a precautionary landing on a tiny grass runway (used by crop dusters) to check out a rough engine. Twelve spark plugs later, I was on my way.
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    Jul 09, 2014 5:57 PM GMT
    In my early 20s my at-the-time roommate and I visited San Francisco. Not having a ton of money or smarts, we chose our hotel more at less at random based on price (this was long before such info was available to the public on the Internet... there used to be something called the Hotel/Motel Red Book which was more or less a yellow pages, with about as much information.

    The first place we stayed looked like it had survived the Great Fire of 1906, but just barely. Our stateroom door had a painted-over window in it with a sign saying the other guests should break the glass and let themselves in our room to reach the fire escape should it become necessary.

    Before someone decided it was necessary, we relocated to the Leland on Polk Street, not knowing it was a "residential hotel" for down-and-out elderly men and the unofficial headquarters of a whole lot of hustlers. Then I got sick (still think someone put something in my drink) which made things that much more fun.

    I recently went back for the first time since that visit; stayed in a nice Holiday Inn. The Leland is still there, but is used for senior housing now, and the neighborhood has been cleaned up/gentrified a bit.
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    Jul 09, 2014 9:52 PM GMT
    Back in 1981 I was backpacking Italy when I stood in a crowded train between Pisa and Florence.

    I when I arrived at Florence, I discovered that all my traveller's cheques were stolen through pickpocketing, and I was literally penniless. And yes, it happened on a Friday evening just after all the banks were shut for the weekend.
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    Jul 10, 2014 8:34 AM GMT
    I wear a medical device that will shock the heart back into a normal rhythm if needed. Consequently, airport electronic security is replaced by the dreaded hand searches. A flight from Detroit to Hong Kong flew fairly close to the North Pole at a time when solar flares were raging. This recipe for strong magnetic fields (solar flares & the North Pole) unknowingly erased all the historical data and programming stored on the device. After three days of feeling bad, the trip as over. The kids would never have Christmas if Santa Claus had one of these devices.
  • mrwritenow

    Posts: 15

    Jul 10, 2014 10:46 AM GMT
    I went on an 11 mile hike in a national forest on a beautiful hot day. Thank goodness for the beautiful array of trees shielding me from the sun. Happened upon a sandbar along the river and took a nap there. I woke and ate a small lunch that I had packed. Started my return trip back when a massive thunder storm struck. Trees were hit by lightening and were falling within ear shot. I hid behind a big oak to protect me from the shivering, pelting rain. I realized the trail was becoming completely obstructed from view by the rising waters. So I raced down what I could see of the trail to find better shelter since I was freezing cold. I realized I'd crossed the same bridge 3 times because there was a parallel fallen tree beside it. I was totally lost. Shivering, wet I hid under that tree and with 27% battery on my iPhone called 911 since there was a signal there. That call plugged me into an attendant in the wrong county who thankfully forwarded me to the correct county. The last attendant contacted the ranger station. She didn't stay on the line with me because of my low battery but called periodically to see if I'd been rescued. It took them 2 long and arduous tries to locate me but after a search of over an hour and a half they heard me whistling loudly. Thankfully I was not injured because we had to trek back to the vehicle - another 35 minutes.
  • roadbikeRob

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    Jul 13, 2014 1:48 PM GMT
    While I was stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana in the early 90s, I made the horrendous mistake of discovering and than falling in love with Texas thinking that it was the right state for me to relocate to after leaving the Army. Ten years of loneliness and struggling followed while I resided in its horrendously overrated, unfriendly capital city of Austin, if you can consider Austin a real city. Oh well, you live and you learn.
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    Jul 13, 2014 4:44 PM GMT
    My partner and I were driving on a road along the high mountains of the Big Island in Hawaii coming from Waimea to a rural township of Hawi. A group of off-landers, men and women, were riding Harleys. Men in their leather vests and chaps. Women were in bikinis. Fog set in, cold rain poured, hailed. The men stopped, the women shivering, but no shelter around.

    It was the funniest sight that was also very sad.
  • SilverRRCloud

    Posts: 901

    Aug 17, 2014 7:30 PM GMT
    I travel both for work and for business. Anything between 120-190 days a year. Hotel porters, receptionists are with me on the first name basisicon_rolleyes.gif

    So, I do not take travel for pleasure too seriously. I have a great deal of flexibility, and can change my plans on whim. So why sweat it?

    Anyway, a dude I was dating at the time and I decided to go for a romantic extended weekend on Menorca in Jan.

    The place sucked, and that not in a good way. So, we braved the whipping rain, and freezing wind, and went sightseeing and hanging out.

    Two days into this, I simply said, "the hell with this. Let's open a bottle of good champagne, turn on the fireplace, and have some sympathy for the dudes who must be outside."

    In many years of travel, this was the worst I have experienced. I guess, I am a lucky guy...

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    Aug 18, 2014 3:03 PM GMT
    The worst travel experience I can remember seems mild compared to most of these above me, but at the time it was upsetting. I've traveled a lot in my life - 123 countries to date, so I have seen and experienced the good, and the great parts of the world, and a couple of places I never need to see again. This bad night started out fine. Beautiful trip, great looking hotel, and we got to bed around midnight after a delicious dinner and a gathering of friends. Around 2:30 AM we were awakened by a party - very loud and raunchy - in the hotel rooms just above us. It was so loud we couldn't sleep. We called the front desk. They tried to solve the problem. Quiet for a short while, then it got loud all over again. We called the front desk again. They ended up bringing the gendarmerie when fights ensued. What a mess. We ended up getting dressed and packing all of our things, suitcases, garment bags, and the porters moved us to other rooms far from the problems and noise. We got to sleep a little before dawn.
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    Aug 18, 2014 4:09 PM GMT
    A mishap that ended in a cool way:

    When I was in undergrad my parents won a week in a condo in St. Maarten; we just had to get there. My mom made the air reservations (last time she was permitted to do so!) too late and we had to connect twice in each direction (EWR-PIT-SJU-SXM out, SXM-SJU-CLT-EWR home). This was on the pre-America-West-merger USAir so -- needless to say -- both of the first two flights were delayed and we arrived in San Juan at 3pm to be told we there were no more flights to St. Maarten that night.

    If you are not familiar, you can practically see one island from the other and this did not sit well with me, since we were all crabby and tired and just wanted to be in our beachfront "home". I pointed out to the USAir counter agent, more out of desperation than thinking it would actually work that there were a dozen or so sightseeing companies with guys standing around... couldn't one of them take us?

    A few phone calls later we were following a hot blond guy outside to a plane that would fit in a two-car garage. I landed the right seat up front and enjoyed 20 minutes of rainbows (no unicorns though!) and amazing views, followed by the awesome approach and touchdown at SXM at sunset (if you have ever seen the videos of people standing on the beach with 747s landing over their heads, this is that spot) with the view out the windshield.

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    Aug 19, 2014 5:48 PM GMT
    Nothing really terrible comes to mind.
    I've had the usual share of pre-booked hotels that turned out to be uninhabitable flea-traps. (Say... am I the only one who isn't paying by the hour?) Or the reservations were lost entirely, or not honored.
    A few in-flight emergencies. Lost luggage. Cancelled flights.

    One time in grad school, I scraped together enough money, barely, to go home for vacation on one of those "People's Express" flights. The plane landed at midnight, somewhere out in fly-over country and the pilot announced. "This airline is going out of business and is ceasing operations. Now." icon_eek.gif I spent the night sitting outside the airport gate. Phoned home the next day to beg someone to buy me a new ticket to get the rest of the way home. I never did see my backpack again.

    One sort of surreal episode happened on my second-ever trip away from home (not counting scout camp and the like.) I was seventeen and flying by myself to Costa Rica to meet a group for one of those four-week exchange programs. However, that was also the day that President Carter chose to send the US Marines into Nicaragua to rescue the dictator Somoza from the revolution and fly him to Miami. Apparently they were broadcasting ahead on the radio, telling all aircraft to land or be fired on. The plane that I was on made an unscheduled landing in San Salvador. I had to stay there for a couple of days, while the airline waited to see if a war was breaking out, and then figure out when it was safe to re-schedule the flight.

    El Salvador was not very friendly toward the US at that time, and had revolutionary problems of their own brewing. I remember a long strange ride in a van through narrow streets strung with anti-US banners. I had no idea where we were going. I had no visa to be in that country. I could barely speak a dozen phrases in the language. Eventually, we ended up at a beautiful modern hotel, on a hilltop above the city. The place was nearly empty. The walls in the lobby and patio had photographic murals of "Miss Universe" contestants. (I guess the pageant had been recently held there.)
    In the gift shop, I found two english-language paperback science fiction books.

    I sat on the patio for a couple of days, reading those books, drinking cokes, and looking down at the slums below the hotel. (One of the books, In the Ocean of Night by Greg Benford, in an incidental plot twist, has my home county being obliterated by a nuclear explosion, accidentally set off by Sasquatch... er... it makes sense in the book, sort of. Anyhow, it just added to the surrealism.) Nothing more actually happened. Eventually we went back to the airport and resumed our trip.

    But later, I frequently saw that hotel on TV news, during the revolution. Apparently it was the site of frequent gun battles (or perhaps journalists were housed there?) Sometimes, a machine-gun nest could be seen on the patio, where I spent those two days, just a few months earlier. The wall with the Miss Universe mural was pocked from gunfire.