Misadventures of a Daydreaming Traveler

Flying over Thailand

The following short stories may make you wonder who is foolish enough to ever give me any kind of responsibility, be blind enough to describe as a person with attention to detail and, most particularly, where did all my german gens go (this, I wonder too, some times). But before misjudging me for my stupidity, please bear in mind that although theoretically we all turn into experts the more we repeat the same procedure over and over again, practically, there’s always a higher probability of screwing things up when you start doing the procedures automatically (that is, shutting off your brain).

Taking 15 to 25 planes a year does make me pack quicker, lighter, learn what to wear (or not to wear) and to quickly go through the security check at airports. But I also automate my steps, leaving a gap for misfortunate adventures when traveling. On the positive side, each of these experiences have taught me a very valuable lesson, and hopefully will avoid you committing the same.

That one little thing.

When travelling, you’ll only need three things: the flight ticket, a credit card and your passport. This little list of essentials may even be reduced to two when you’re carrying an e-ticket, as many companies now offer you getting your ticket from a machine by simple typing in your e-ticket number or scanning your passport. When one of these essentials is missing, then you’re in trouble.

On a friday evening after work, I went home to finish packing and get the train to the nearest airport. I was exhausted but also excited about visiting m friends in London. I packed everything I needed, from toothbrush to socks and ran out to catch the train. I sat down and took a deep breath and carefully ran through my mental packing list. Then I snapped. I couldn’t picture taking my passport with me.

That one time, I wish I had taken the regional train instead of the direct one to the airport. After the 50 minutes ride, I arrived to Geneva Airport already knowing already I had no chance to take the flight that night.

lesson learned:

It doesn’t really matter if you forget to pack socks, underwear or a rain coat. To travel, you only need a passport, cash and your ticket.

Everything was Nice (the French City, not the Adjective).

There was a time, where I really really wanted to learn french and registered for a one month french course for dummies (no offense for other participants) in the beautiful city of Nice, in Cรดte d’Azur. My flight didn’t go straight from Madrid to Nice, but went through Paris. My flight to Paris was delayed for about 3 hours, and so I missed my flight connection (not good). Me and my zero french knowledge managed to get into one of the first planes the next morning, which departed at 7am.

I was there on time, took a huge latte and sat in front of the gate that was shown on the schedules. I did realize that at some point the boarding time switched from 7:00am to 7:10am. But I was sleepy, and I believed this was just a short delay. Well, it wasn’t.

When it was time for boarding, the flight attendant scanned my ticket and the machine alerted that the ticket was not valid. “Madame”, she said, “this is not your flight, your flight has just departed”. How was this possible? The explanation: Air France has flights from Paris to Nice every 10-15 minutes, and they are all in the same terminal. They changed the gate number for my flight, and substituted this with the next flight to the same destination. They never called out my name (nor did I understand what they were announcing in french). Frustrated, after having missed two flights to Nice, I cried to the ground attendants, who kindly sat me in the next flight without additional (stupidity) costs.

Lesson learned:

Don’t judge a gate by its destination and flight time – Always check the flight number!

The Trader Syndrome.

A tiny little part of me aims to become a trader. Although in general terms I like to make plans on medium term when it comes to work and life plans, I have a very short-term view when i comes to purchasing flight tickets. I like following flight prices as if tickets were stocks trading on the stock market. I go numb when I see prices drop radically, and my mind immediately sends out “buy” commands in all directions. That’s all good if I actually was a trader. But I’m not.

The consequence of this is me buying return tickets on the wrong days because I didn’t re-check the dates of the flight or even reserving a room in the wrong hotel (being this, a hotel that was listed as one of the Gatwick Airport hotels but actually was 50 pounds in taxi away from it).

Lesson learned:

Check twice before hitting the final purchase button (specially when it’s surrounded by special offers and last-minute extras).

What about you? Do you have any shameful stories from your travels?

25 thoughts on “Misadventures of a Daydreaming Traveler

  1. Having just made our first overseas holiday as adults I could relate to all of your above stories. Thankfully for us there were no hiccups but I had imagined all the scenarios you mentioned. Thanks for sharing. Found you via Laura.

  2. It is nice to meet you through Laura’s link. Travelling is so fun and you can’t travel very much before you have a few good travel stories. We once showed up at Gatwick rather than Heathrow. Moral of that story . . . look at your ticket.


  3. You make it so simple with the just the ticket, passport, and credit card/money. But the truth is that its really all you need to travel. Now traveling wisely and safely thats another story the ticket trader is what you should be called.

  4. great stories! empathize and agree with all.

    i pride myself on being well prepped, calm, lightly packed, etc… but the list of times i’ve been screwed at the airport breaches the point of hilarity.

    last year, i was flying from Amsterdam to Amman, Jordan. direct flight. no problems…… until i got re-routed from Amsterdam to Paris to Frankfurt to Amman, a journey that included not one, but two sprints across the entirety of Charles de Gaulle, a cancelled flight + an argument in French that transpired into 27 transit hours instead of 4. yippee!

    moral of my story: no matter how prepared you are, be ready for the airport to throw things out of balance FOR you!

  5. I was just laughing out here in the office. Great post!
    I never forget my passport, but I mixed departure gates quite often, which results in furiously running through Zurich Airport to get to the right gate in time ๐Ÿ™‚ Luckily the airport is not really big…
    In general I am very paranoid about forgetting passport or credit card and about booking a wrong flight date. So I check probably 20 times if I have everything and if I put the correct dates before booking… My boyfriend always laughs about me ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I think its better to be a bit paranoid than to miss flights / trains / etc ! I hope that by now I’ve learned my lesson… I just can’t make myself check everything 10 times, I’m so excited thinking about the trip!

  6. I have the same three-item checklist ๐Ÿ™‚ I always, always check those three things when I leave the house for a trip: passport, credit card, ticket (or confirmation email print-out). Only then can I let myself relax since I’m pretty paranoid about forgetting stuff.

    All that paranoia doesn’t save you from yourself sometimes… I had a flight from Frankfurt to Texas once and wanted to take the ICE (fast train) from Cologne to Frankfurt since it’s quicker and easier usually. However, I kept thinking we had so much time and was so slow in getting ready that by the time we were at the train station and I was standing at the machine to buy the ticket it wouldn’t sell it to me anymore because there were only 5 minutes left. In the end, my mom ended up racing me from Cologne to Frankfurt and miraculously I made it on the plane. I was so embarrased that my mom had to go out of her way so much and break I-don’t-know-how-many speed limits… Lesson learned: know exactly where you can buy which tickets, buy online if possible, and if not get there way early.

    1. oh… the train tickets, those are tricky. In Switzerland, you can buy the ticket on the train as well (with an extra cost, of course). This saved me a few times I managed to catch the last train of the night to go back home from a party.

  7. I have many friends who have forgotten their passports and missed planes. I work with a guy who booked his flight to the wrong city with the same name! That one took the cake. Moral, always make sure you are flying into the correct city in the correct state and/or country.

    1. Booking a flight to the wrong city wins the oscar !! I know about a couple of cities in the US that have european cities’ names (there’s a London for example). But even in that case… wouldn’t the flight price be suspiciously cheap/expensive?
      About forgetting to take the passport… I just remembered another time I managed to board a flight to London without going through any passport check and then was stuck at the passport control in the UK. I felt like Tom Hanks in The Terminal! (thankfully, there was a relatively solution to that involving my mom and a scanned copy of my passport).

  8. I completely understand you about the missing flights because of changing gates. I was once at the correct gate, but was very tired because I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, it was really early and I fell asleep at the gate. I would have missed my flight except one of the other passengers woke me up and asked if I was on this flight. I was the last person to board! It could’ve been a mess as it was a transatlantic flight!

    P.S. I also picture flight prices like stocks!! I thought I was the only one!

  9. These stories sound crazy! At least you’re learning something ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I guess if I had a story it wouldn’t be about me – but about my dad. We share a car, and once he went on a three week trip to Canada for business. He went all the way there before he realized he had the only set of keys to the car – and I couldn’t get to work for almost a week until the keys were sent back!

  10. I always made the mental list as well, “passport, money and plane ticket”. Although I guess these days with electronic tickets it’s not the end of the world if you forget it.

    My shameful travel story would be “trust you guts”. We got robbed in Panama City for *not* trusting our guts and walking around a dodgy neighborhood. Feng had just told me “I think we shouldn’t be here” when guys jumped on us and stole my bag. Ouch. Lesson learned.

    1. That’s terrible! Well, I’m sometimes a bit to “adventurous” as well… and keep on walking eventhough there’s something in me telling me to turn around and leave.

  11. weeeeellll… Yes, I definitely have mucked things up. If you truly want the story, you can read the “you better czech yourself” stories one and two in my “creme de la creme” section on my blog. You only have to learn these lessons once, but they can be spendy ๐Ÿ™‚
    Although with the Nice one, I’m pretty sure lots of people would make that mistake!

  12. Wow! I have luckily never forgotten my passport, but I did miss a flight once… I was late by literally 2 minutes for check in! I learned that you really get what you pay for — especially in terms of compassion — with those cheap discount airlines. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ The worst was that I was going to visit my mom, I was so embarrassed to tell her why I was getting in late…

    1. Oh no… for just 2 minutes? That must have been Ryanir or Easyjet… I’m fairly lucky as I’ve missed realy few flights even though I tend to be quite tight with my schedule!

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