Travel Fiasco

I Never Made It to Spain

by Kate Lee

All they want to do is go home. Photo: Courtesy of Brunosan / Flickr

The unwritten rule of travel is that sooner or later, disaster will strike. Kate Lee sent us this hilarious story about trying and failing to make it to Spain from Rome.  

For everyone who is dying to know why I didn't make it to Spain, here is the easy list.

Quick background: After a holiday in Turkey, I dediced to make a quick layover in Rome en route to Spain, to visit my friend from LA, Naz, who is currently living in Italy. We spent one fun night in Rome, and the next day took a train and a ferry to Ponza, a super great beachy island. Her fun Swedish friend Keiran met us. Good times ensue, right?

1. Oops. Naz accidentally booked the return ferry ticket for the wrong date, due to the fact that we were still completely drunk from the night before. 

2. Whoa. Stress. The ticket office is never open. We visit time and time again. Oh! It's open! down. Shit. Tickets selling out. Must hurry. Keiran has brilliant idea: change carriers and ferry back with her at 5:15. It only takes two hours... train takes one and a half... my flight is at 10:45 tonight... I'll just make it.

3. Get off ferry. Running late. Have to RUN THROUGH TOWN UP A HILL DRAGGING 30-kilo bag (that's about 65 pounds) in flip-flops. Barely make it. Feels like Amazing Race, but no cash prize. Old shin splints from high school decide to make a reappearance. Yay.

3.5. Shit. On train. Eight billion degrees. Whyyyyyy does the train keep stopping? What is the problem? It's like...India hot, but worse. Body... shutting... down.

4. Looked at itinerary. Flight is not at 10:45. Flight is at 10:10.

5. Arrive at train station waaaaaay too late to get to airport on time. Give up. Don't want to fly in sweaty clothes after luggage marathon and boiling on a train for an hour and a half anyway. Go back to Naz's. No fan or AC, but it's charming and free. I sweat it out through the night, happy to have a friend to shelter my hot ass.

6. Screw around Rome the next day. Spend big bucks for car service to airport that night. Too warm out to lug shit through city again. Get to airport TWO hours early to change ticket.

7. Go straight to ticket counter, not check-in, to make ticket change. Ticket guy says, NO NO NO, you MUST go check-in. I ask, ARE YOU SURE?? He says, ABSOLUTELY.

8. Surprise. One hundred thousand people in line to fly to a tiny town in Spain at 11 at night, despite everyone's previous opinion that no one would be there. Takes me an hour and change to get up to the desk. My situation baffles the agent and angers everyone left in line. Finally, I am told GO TO THE TICKET COUNTER.

9. Oops. Ticket counter closed (despite employees standing around eating crackers, pretending they suddenly forgot how to speak English). I'm screwed again. Second time I missed the flight. There is only one flight a day to Spain. No way am I going to wander around Rome for another day, only to arrive in Spain too late to catch the train and be forced to spend and hour and a half and $110 to get to my hotel in a cab. Consider spending the rest of the time drunk with German tile salesmen at the Hilton. Dismiss idea: decor sucks.

10. I call the hotel booker to ask if I can cancel my reservation. The woman I speak to clearly states that I will lose that night, of course, but, if I email them the next morning, I will be reimbursed for the rest of the nights. I think, great, I'll just fly back to New York and stay at my friend Peggy's until I have to go home to LA.

11. I ask the help counter where the Aer Lingus counter is so I can change my ticket home. He says, no Aer Lingus counter, I have to change it at the help counter. But it's too late at night. Come back tomorrow morning and his colleague will DEFINITELY change it for me. 

12. I lug my shit, oh, about another half a mile — it's now midnight — to the Airport Hilton. Category: expensive. I stand in line for 15 minutes to find out, sorry, no room. 

13. Wait outside for 30 minutes for shuttle to get to another Hilton. Never comes. Walk, in the dark, alone, about another half mile. It's about 1:30 am. Pass out. Wake up super-duper early the next morning to get to the HELP COUNTER to get, um, HELP.

14. I show up, and the woman behind the counter looks at me like I asked her to donate an ovary. She says, NO WAY does that counter change tickets, and here is the Aer Lingus call center number. So I call and call. No answer. She neglects to tell me the call center doesn't open until 9 a.m. So I sit. And wait. For an hour and a half. Flight is at noon. I'm getting nervous. I buy two English-language fashion magazines that cost, roughly, $16 each. 

15. At 9 a.m., I call and wait on hold for twenty minutes. I get someone who tells me, this is not the call center number. She gives me the real number. I call and call and finally I get someone — but cannot change ticket to depart from Italy instead of Spain. So guess what? I HAVE TO BUY A NEW GODDAMNED TICKET.

16. By the time the transaction goes through, and the screen announces which counter we can check in at, which you have to wait for in Europe, I barely make it to the check-in line before there are 100 people and at least 30 schoolchildren ahead of me, checking in one at a time. When I get there, the agent cannot check me in for my second leg of the trip, because, because, well, I never really figured that out.

17. I get to Dublin and have an hour to run through security and check in for the effing second leg of my trip to JFK. I cross my fingers that my gargantuan bag makes it to New York, after all the huffing I devoted to it.

18. On plane. Get email from hotel booker. Cancellation policy states that I forfeit absolutely all of my hotel cost. All of it. That's about $900, same as the fee for my new ticket home. I email that "some woman" told me I'd get my money back. Their response was "this is not possible. The office closes at 8 p.m." Apparently, I spoke to one of the extra personalities that I carry around inside my head, and it told me exactly what I needed to hear.

19. Wine. Xanax. Neck pillow. JFK. USA. God bless it.

20. Tomorrow, LA. If the planets are aligned. 

Now it's your turn. We want to hear your best (or is it worst?) travel fiasco. Hey, misery loves company. Send your best travel disaster story to before September 2, 2011. We'll publish the best ones we get. 

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