My Travel Horror Story

This weekend marked my first-ever writers conference, at Write Stuff in Allentown, PA. It also marked the first time that I ever booked a flight and flew by myself. You know the phrase “baptism by fire”? That’s kind of how my first flying-alone experience was on Friday.

I contemplated posting this fun little story on Friday or Saturday, but…I felt like I needed time to calm myself down. You cannot fully understand how completely tightly wound I was during this whole…debacle. I needed distance from the experience so I wouldn’t drop F-bombs and other inappropriate ranting-type words all over by blog. (Yes, I was actually that annoyed.)

It all started on Friday morning. I had my alarm clock set to wake me up at 6:30am, in time for me to get ready before heading to the airport at about 8:00am. Luckily, the general nerves of attending my first conference resulted in me actually waking up at 6:30, rather than hitting the snooze button for 45 minutes, like I usually do. So I pull myself out of bed, get on my laptop, and figure I’ll check my email…like I do every morning.

This, my friends, was a fortunate decision. Because the first thing I see when I open my inbox is a lovely email from Expedia whose subject line reads “CALL IMMEDIATELY IN REGARDS TO CHANGES TO YOUR TRAVEL ITINERARY.”

I’m pretty sure the whole neighborhood could hear my heart drop into my stomach.

I stumbled over to my cell phone and…well…called immediately. I’m near tears at this point, because I’ve been in varying levels of panic for the last 24 hours (first, because my computer crashed the night before…then, of course, the obvious of the nerves surrounding my first conference). The lady on the phone told me that there’s “probably nothing wrong”, that United and some other airline recently merged, and it has been causing a lot of weird confusion in flights and such. She checks the itinerary and…

EL (Expedia Lady): Well, that’s strange. You’re flight has been cancelled. They’ve changed you to fly to Allentown on the 18th and fly home on the 18th.
Me: Um…could we fix that?

She calls United to figure out what happened. Turns out the flight I’d booked was…ya know…NEVER SUPPOSED TO EXIST. With the merger, it got closed. And through some miscommunication, no one realized this until four hours before I’m supposed to have my butt on the plane. Thank you, United and Expedia. Thank you so very much.

Through a series of back-and-forth between the United representative and a disgruntled me, the Expedia agent figures out that there are two flights going to Allentown earlier in the day (originally, she’d wanted to put me on the United flight that would get me to Allentown at 11pm, which just wasn’t going to work) through different airlines. One leaving at 11:17am and getting me to Allentown at 2pm. Another leaving at 9:30am and getting me to Allentown…at 2pm.

Me: So…for the 9:30 flight…wouldn’t I have to be at the airport…like…now?
EL: Um…yes, you would have to leave quickly.

Upon this information, I sprint across the hall to my roommate Tracy’s room. She was supposed to drive me to the airport. As soon as I get her awake, I ask if…say, hypothetically, I have to leave for the airport in…ten minutes. Would that be possible? Bless her, she jumps out of bed and gets dressed.

Now you’re probably wondering why I didn’t originally conceive taking the 11:17am flight to give myself more time. Simple: I swear the Expedia lady told me that there was only a 2 minute layover for that flight in Philly. Which, like, I didn’t want to do.

Also fun in this conversation was that switching to a new airline would up my round trip ticket cost by a few hundred dollars. Which, to be honest, was ANNOYING, but not a huge problem. At first. Until the next part of the conversation.

EL: There are still a couple of spots open on the 9:30am flight. *gives me all the flight info* It takes your price up to $900, though.
Me: *jaw drops* NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS? Is there some way that I could…you know…not pay so much more to get to Allentown? Considering that…like…THIS WASN’T MY FAULT?
EL: Well, I’ll talk to the United rep. Please hold.
Me: Can you possibly HOLD the ticket, though? So I don’t lose it?
EL: We can’t do that. Please hold.

I’m very disgruntled by this time and very nearing a panic attack. Through a series of more back-and-forth that I can’t fully remember because it was just that kind of morning, comes to be that United will cover the extra cost for their epic fail that is currently causing me to pace anxiously around my house and stress out my roommate. Well, that’s SO kind of them, offering to cover the FIVE HUNDRED EXTRA DOLLARS that it will cost me to get my rear to Allentown sometime decent on Friday.

Me: So can I book the 9:30 flight?
EL: Well…

I hate it when they do that. Turns out, even though they’d TOLD ME about the 9:30am flight…even though I’d gotten my roommate out of bed to speed my butt to the airport…they can’t “actually” book me on that flight. Because there are so few seats. And it could take 2 hours for the ticket to process. So they don’t want me to get to the airport and have there be…not a ticket.

Me: Fine. 11:17. Put me on that flight. PLEASE.

So I get to the airport in plenty of time. Get my boarding passes and get through security like a champ. Buy some water, a snack, and a People Magazine with Hunger Games on the cover. Get to the gate and settle down to fight with the wifi and do revisions and basically kill an hour and a half, because I totally overestimated the time. And then…

There’s a delay.

The weather in Philly is so crappy that we can’t take off until an hour after our original time. Guess what this means?

I’m going to miss my connection.

So they put me on a new flight. The only other US Airlines flight going to Allentown from Philly on Friday is at…5:45. Which is a good four hours after my original connection.

Fine. Whatever. Weather can’t be helped.

I get to Philly and get to the gate for my new flight to hang out. Because it’s so much later, the information isn’t up on the Arrivals/Departures board yet. I find food and play on my computer and get some reading done. When I decide to get up to go to the bathroom, I check the board.

Oh, hey. My flight has been moved from Gate F4 to Gate F22.

I’m lucky I found this out so quickly. That I had more than enough time to haul ass to the complete other side of the airport. Because I found out later that they NEVER announced the gate change. There were a few people who had to run to catch the plane.

Thank you, airport staff, for being so helpful.

Anyway, by the time I finally got to Allentown, it was nearly five hours later than I was originally supposed to be there. I had just enough time to check in at the hotel, get my conference registration packet, and breathe for a few seconds in my room before I went down for the conference opening reception.

On the bright side…on the way home to Columbus on Sunday…everything was running earlier than planned. So that was a nice change.