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At the Airport By most accounts, the skies are expected to be a lot more crowded this summer. While domestic travel has yet to reach pre-recession levels, a recent story in the Los Angeles Times indicates that U.S. airlines will be carrying a record number of passengers overseas in the coming months. For this reason, I offer a cautionary tale.

This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done on a trip overseas:

After firming up plans to fly to Venice last month on a business trip, I discovered that my wife Janet could accompany me at the last minute. (Woo hoo! No lonely dinners during which I pretend to read in dim light!) Problem was, if she was to accompany me on my Lufthansa flights, the fare would be a whopping $3,000 round trip. We’d save $2,000 if she flew US Airways to Frankfurt, where we’d meet and fly together to Venice.

So far, so good. I departed Philadelphia and stopped for a four-hour layover in Germany, where I chilled and I waited for her to meet me. With 15 minutes to go before the flight to Venice, she was nowhere to be found. The Lufthansa gate agent told me that her Philly flight had been delayed and that the passengers bound for Venice had already been rebooked on a later flight. “You can meet her at your hotel,” the agent informed me.

Here comes the stupid part: I had Janet’s itinerary in my carry-on. I’d forgotten to give it to her in the rush at the airport, and she had no idea where we were staying in Venice. I arrived in Venice in full panic mode, wondering whether I should wait six hours for her to show up or head to the hotel and try to reach out via e-mail (her phone didn’t work overseas). Jet lag won out: I headed to the hotel, a $50 cab ride away.

Turns out Janet was panicking a couple of time zones away and had borrowed a phone. I never thought to turn mine on. I sent her a half-dozen e-mails (when, really, one would have done the trick), but she never thought to log on to the Internet at the Frankfurt airport. Frazzled and exhausted, I grabbed a cab three hours before her expected arrival and headed back to the airport. I’d rather be waiting for her than the other way around.

But hold on … having hopped on an earlier flight, Janet was hunched over the luggage carousel when I arrived. She looked frazzled and exhausted as well. We grabbed each other’s hands and jumped into the same cab I’d caught at the hotel.

The lessons here: Don’t be careless when you’re traveling overseas on different flights. Share all the relevant information about accommodations and transfers before you part ways with your travel companion. Have two phones that can dial internationally, or set up a plan of action in case you get separated (i.e., check the Internet). Don’t rely on a gate agent who has only a passing interest in whatever predicament you’re in. And learn from someone else’s stupid mistake.

– written by John Deiner

6 Responses to “The Stupidest Thing I’ve Done on a Trip”

  1. Marsha N says:

    I am not sure this is the stupidest but it certainly wasn’t smart. While traveling around Rio we took an older couple under our wings. He was somewhat forgetful and I think she had early Alzeimher’s Disease. He was adventureous and wanted to board a local ferry boat.
    Not wanting them to travel the city alone, speaking no Portugese we went along.
    After we boarded my husband asked me “Where are we going?”
    I promptly replied “I have no idea!”
    Following mindlessly along with two unknowings is NOT a good idea.
    As it turned out we only crossed a bay to the other side!

  2. Thankfully you found each other!! Talk about stressful! Very good travel advice. It sounds like such a simple thing but it is so easy to get wrapped up in it all and forget, not only to make suere everyone has all the info they may need but also to make a plan B for if there is a problem along the way. Great post!

  3. Got off a cruise ship in Alexander Egypt with only about $40USD in my pocket. Fortunately found a ATM right next to Fort Qaitbay and was able to have a nice late lunch.

  4. lynclarke says:

    When we were on a subway in Beijing, we watched a family get off the subway car except the doors closed before Grampa could get off. The look on his face ensured that we NEVER travel without knowing our plan B. (Go to the next subway stop, get off, and wait for your partner to catch up!) We always travel with photos of each other attached to our passports and luggage. I make little “business cards” for each hotel/apartment including emergency numbers for our neckbags. Each of us carry money. We each have tiny brass canisters tied on our shoes with our name, address, hotel, dates of travel–in case of a BIG emergency. I do not know what happened to the bewildered Grampa.

  5. Barb says:

    Yes. That just happened to us. I actually asked a nice family (German speaking strangers) at the train stop as I was waiting, to have them dial the given phone number. Even with some language problems, all went fine. ALWAYS share you travel details with your traveling companion AND a person at home. They can always call or email for you. We had a great trip in Germany and Italy.

  6. Designating a common contact person back home or at your planned destination could really help ease the tension in times of unforeseen delays or hang-ups.

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