My Top 3 Worst Moments in Travel

Friday, June 08, 2012

Whoever said travel was all fun and games was probably just channel surfing on Travel and Leisure network. Truth be told, sometimes we need a vacation from our vacation!

A lot of people think I'm an expert when it comes to travel. I beg to disagree. Travel can be so unpredictable, travelers can be so unpredictable and there is absolutely no way to guarantee that everything will go as smoothly as planned.

For a change, I'm not writing a how-to guide or feel good post. I'm telling you some ugly, nasty and downright horrible experiences on the road. And I'm sharing not just so you can learn from it. Admit it, we could all use some Schadenfreude in our day.

Schadenfreude (German noun)
-Happiness in the misfortune of others

3 Getting Boot-ed Out

I was packing my stuff for New York last January when I saw the knee high boots I was going to use for the trip. It was going to be a cold winter and I best come prepared. Instead of packing them in my small bag, I decided to wear them on the way. I was going to save on the excess weight and get to arrive in America in style. 

It was so beautiful in my mind. 

sexy boots
Photo Credit: shoe3000
For those of you who have done it, and have done it with flair, I am in awe of you. My experience was not quite the sexy strutting, hair flowing, shades wearing image in my head. As a woman, I still have a penchant for wearing things that look nice but are awfully uncomfortable. 

It's never a good idea to wear uncomfortable clothes including footwear in transit. Never.

So you can imagine what happens next. I had to wear the tight-fitting knee high boots and pass through over 5 airport transfers. We all know the drill right? You have to take your shoes off every time you passed through the x-ray machine. And some airports had as much as 3 stops!

By the time I arrived in Florida my final destination, I had gone through 5 airports, 8 X-ray machines and more security pat downs than I could handle! I almost went mad! I berated myself for not giving in and just putting on flip flops at some part of the way.

The boots did look very sexy...

2 Border Cross Fail

We were going to cross the border of Vietnam to Laos the next day so I had everything ready the night before. I put my passport, photos and money in a safe place before going to bed. I don't know about you, but border crossings always unnerved me. So many things could go wrong! I could lose my passport, be forced to pay outrageous fees, or god forbid- not be allowed to cross at all for whatever reason.

The van ride to the border was uneventful except that it was filled to brim with people. When we got to the immigration office of Vietnam, I had a sudden feeling of dread. 

I realized that my passport wasn't in my carry-on.

I had hidden it in a very "safe place" the night before: the bottom of my backpack. Major rookie mistake. And where was my backpack? On top of the van along with other backpacks, sacks of rice and boxes! I was ready to kick myself! The bus driver was unmoved by my plight. I had to climb up van, undo the ropes, look for my backpack under the mountain of luggage and grab my travel documents.

Vietnam Bus

It took a little over 30 minutes and I caused unnecessary delay. Suffice to say, I was the last one to get my passport stamped. With head bowed in shame, I walked back into the bus to face 40 fuming passengers. Not my proudest moment.

1 Baggage Allowance Horror

This part we never shared on the blog: the day Chichi and I had to go back to the Philippines at the end of our 6-month Southeast Asian jaunt. Except that we didn't. Well at least not together. So the story goes...

North Face Backpacks from R.O.X.

I was getting ready to leave for the airport. I was packing my bags when I realized Chichi wasn't. She was just there looking at me with this pained expression and not preparing at all. Then I realized.

I was going home by myself.

I'll leave it to Chichi to share with you in the future the reason why she didn't come home that instance. That makes for another blog post. But I had to get myself into a bus to the airport and I still had doubts about going back to the Philippines.

When I got to the check-in counter, the attendant informed me I didn't have any checked baggage allowance. I showed her the ticket again and explained that we did purchase 20 kg of baggage allowance. She pointed out that I couldn't use it even if we did purchase it. But why?

It was in Chichi's name, not mine.

So the airline's policy was that the individual who purchased the ticket had to be present in order to use the allowance. I was red in the face by the time I got to customer service to explain my situation. To no avail. I could have complained, cried and done a Claudine if I wanted to. But it was a budget airline and they had rules to uphold.

I did not want to pay for the checked luggage the second time around, so I had to get rid of stuff. It was mostly souvenirs, books and old raggedy clothes that lasted the trip. In the end, I got my 12 kg of luggage down to 7kg to pass through the hand carried baggage allowance. Lesson learned: keep the weight down to the minimum 7kg.

I sat at the airport lounge and couldn't help but let some tears fall. Okay, I wish was more composed, but I just bawled my eyes out. The whole baggage ordeal was distressing.

But more than that, I was at the finish line of our trip and I didn't want any of it to end. 

After a few minutes, I looked up and saw our friend Harry. He was one of the crazy couchsurfers in Chiang Mai and he was coming home to the Philippines with me.

Orange plane
Photo Credit: Mina D
Just as another adventure ends, a new one begins.

What are your worst travel moments? Please share it by leaving a comment below.

Happy for new beginnings,
Sole Sister Lois
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41 sole trails

  1. Let me guess: Chichi stayed because she met someone? Hehe :D

    So far my 7 hrs delayed flight from Cebu back to Manila is the worst experience. 

  2. Delayed flights are always a bummer Mica. I've had a fair share of them myself. Sana may compensation for time lost no?

  3. great post. 

    it's hollywood/showbiz's fault ---they make the actress look very comfy travelling in those high heeled boots. 

  4. mine was  in HK airport, we were so excited to go out in the airport and about to ride a bus going to Kowloon when we notice that the luggage has a different name written on it (halos kaparehong kapareho talaga -same brand, color etc). sobrang nakakahiya don sa owner buti na lang Pinoy din.:/

  5. I think if you are introducing a new word to your readers, you should at least spell-check, or is that an alternate spelling for Schadenfreude?

  6. held up in malaysia, passport, camera and travel money all gone. 

  7. WORST: Arrived at airport, missed my flight bec. it was rescheduled to an earlier time without prior notice. Fortunately, they had a late afternoon flight to my destination and rebooked me without any charges.

    Nice post! :)

  8. India. Diwali season. Went to New Delhi station instead of Old Delhi station. Missed train to Jaisalmer by 15 minutes! Then again, I got to see the Dalai Lama because of this mishap. So not bad. :)

  9. sometimes, these unfortunate events happen so that we can laugh at them someday. if those incidents happened to me, i would have banged my head on the wall Lois. hehehe

  10. Russian immigration check for half an hour though I was there just for transit and my transit time was an hour,fortunately I didn`t miss the flight to Amsterdam.

  11. so far mine was the immigration hold-up in HK, embarrassing bec. the immigration officer has to call someone wearing and 'airport police' uniform to escort me to their office. I was led while dozens of foreigners are lined up at my back. I could feel their stare lol...but cute female immigration officers interviewed me, I had to show them my travel blog to prove I'm just there to tour around hehe.

  12. I once spent 11 agonizing hours lying on NAIA's ice-cold marble floor after having flown my most turbulent flight yet. A super typhoon (Onday) had hit Manila, all nearby hotels were fully-booked, even Jollibee's run out of food, and because the water outside was waist-deep and traffic wasn't moving, passengers didn't have a choice but spend the night sleeping on whatever little space was left in the arrival area. I had just come straight from an extended shift the night before and would've been home by noon. Instead, I ended up leaving the airport at 4:30 the following morning and spending the day in bed.

  13. Fortunately, I consider myself fairly seasoned by now, so most of my negative experiences are like running out of battery for my camera or forgetting my extra memory cards at the hotel. Yes, the last one was in Malaysia last Jan (2012): I had carried at least six memory cards of 2gb, I had used up three of them in Hong Kong earlier. I'd decided to take out a fresh memory card for the KL Bird Park the following day, so decided to check out the Petronas Towers by night.  (photos on my facebook page in the KL album). I was carrying only one camera with me, without the pouch in which I keep spare battery and cards and stuff. Before Petronas was KL Chinatown. A few shots and wtf? My camera said 'card full'. I was livid. Fortunately for me, I knew Petronas has an upmarket shopping mall attached to it. I pressed on to the Petronas anyway, located the only photo store there, who only had 4gb cards. (Some of my older cameras do not support cards that big, mercifully the one I had with me did). So the happy ending is, I not only managed to shoot the Petronas at night, but also managed to use the same card the following day with heaps of space to spare!

  14. Two other experiences were airport related, and despite my comparatively frequent travel, both were occasions I nearly missed my flight.
    The first was in 2009 or so in Dubai. Emirates usually takes pride in on time departures, but that day, my flight to Bombay (Mumbai) was delayed by about an hour. I sat at the gate and listened to music on my mp3 player. By sheer chance, I glanced up and noticed that the departure gate had been shifted to the other end. Still with my music on, I moved to the other gate, and found a seat there. Dangerously close to departure time, there was no news yet of my flight, which is not typical of Emirates. Suspicious, I walked to the enquiry counter who directed me to the original gate. He had no idea of the changed gate. I walked once again to the original gate, now totally empty, and sat down again. A lone filipino guy then emerged from the departure area saying something. I switched of the music and was aghast when I heard his say, Mumbai passengers, Mumbai passengers, any more Mumbai passengers? Yikes! Lesson learnt: NEVER shut off completely from the world around you when you are in an airport. Some of those announcements could be for your flight!
    The second one was involving Air Arabia in Kenya. I'd arrived nearly two hours early at Kenya airport and was spending my time checking out the shops and spending my last Kenyan shillings on a snack and a Tusker beer. (very mild, but some folks love it). I saw my flight was delayed by an hour. More exploring, shifting places, I remembered my Dubai experience and safely kept my mp3 player in off mode. Again, dangerously close to the announced revised departure mode, I check with the enquiry counter who had 'no news'. I then casually moved towards the gate when I say people boarding. It was the end of the line. 'When is the Dubai flight'? I asked him. 'Dubai Dubai, this is it, where were you'? he said. I was aghast. I had not heard any announcements at all. He couldn't explain either and said, 'we had announced'. Where, how? I still cannot figure out how I missed the announcement.

  15. Maybe that's where I got the idea! Poor feet.

  16. Hahaha... that's a good one killer! I tie colored ribbons on my luggage so I spot them easier. But on my first airport stop during the SE Asian trip, I was waiting at the baggage carousel for more than 30 minutes for my luggage. I was looking for a stroller. I forgot I had turned into a backpacker! 

  17. Serves me right for publishing blog posts at 3AM. So glad for readers who are fluent in German :-)

  18. That beats all my horrible experiences for sure. Grabe, survivor ka James!

  19. Yeah, sometimes airlines pull that one on you. Good to know yours had a happy ending!

  20. Yeah, I loved reading this on your blog Paul! That's one experience of a lifetime to meet THE Dalai Lama.

  21. Yes Doi, while they were happening, it felt so terrible. But they certainly make for a good laugh afterwards. Or a good blog post!

  22. Wow, that sounds like a close call Sunil!

  23. Hahaha parang episode sa Locked Up Abroad Marky! That's a great feeling when you showed them your travel blog, isn't it? What a great way to prove your.. uhmmm innocence hehe

  24. Alexa! What a horrible experience! Aren't you glad it's over. I distinctly remember Ondoy as well. I had arrived from Switzerland the day before. If I had flown in the next day, we would have been at the airport together!

  25. All's well that ends well Shankar! Thank you for sharing this experience!

  26. I am laughing and feeling Schadenfreude when I read this Shankar! I also have to keep focused while waiting for a flight. You never know when they will announce something. 

  27. One shoe story from me as well: this was way back in 2002.  A couple of weeks before the trip, (HK, Bangkok, KL and Singapore round trip) I had picked up a pair of knock off Catterpillar heavy shoes from Carrefour, Dubai. Now Carrefour Dubai is not known for quality mechandise, they make their money on volumes only. Looking very much like Catterpillar, and costing AED 35 (multiply that by 12 to get the price in Pesos) as against AED 300 or 350 for Caterpillar originals, I was thrilled. I trod through HK, Bangkok, KL and Singapore wearing them. Fortunately, not too much taking off shoes etc. in those places: India is a nuisance in that respect, when you want to visit certain places. Comfy though they were to the fit (I'm talking fitting only), they did make my feet sweat a lot and made them burn. The sogginess and nylon of the socks coupled with the cheap material of the upper proved a deadly combination.
    I didn't think much of it until the night flight from HK to BKK. Maybe the tropical heat, maybe because it was particularly hot and muggy that night, by the time we were on board the flight, my feet were soggy, as though I had dipped them into a tub of water. And they were burning like nobody's business. Maybe the cheap rexine they had used for the upper, or the wetness of my nylon socks due to the sweat. The cool air conditioning in the aircraft didn't help one bit. I could take it no more. I did all sort of acrobatics to undo the laces in that cramped aircraft (Emirates seats are unbelievably cramped) and managed to slip them off. Wet feet out of the shoe, cool air conditioning, it felt like heaven. Until my former wife (now separated) asked me, 'what's that funny smell'? Egad! My feet were smelly! Thanks to the soggy socks and excessive sweating inside that cheap shoe. I had to slip them on again and endure all that burning and soggy feel again.
    My embarassment was not as much when my feet smelled than when the stewardess walked past later with a very suspicious look at everyone's feet. (mine were safely back in my shoes then), and then returned a couple minutes later with air freshener which she sprayed liberally all over the cabin.
    That was the most miserable flight I'd had. Fortunately, it was only a couple of hours long.

  28. Lois! :) Parang 'refugee' lang talaga ang feeling ko nun (starving and with barely any sleep), so you can imagine how relieved I was when my brother came to pick me up! 

    Your stories were just as horrible. Must have been very difficult for you to choose which stuff to get rid of. I would've gone alone on a flight yesterday and experienced the same baggage allowance horror, but had to rebook to a later date. Thanks to your post, I'll remember to take that trip with my sister!

  29. Hahahah what a funny and embarrassing experience Shankar! I wouldn't want to be in your SHOES! hahaha... Thanks for sharing and making me laugh today :)

  30. Sad to say that the worst experience I had was in our very own airport! Arrived at Terminal 3 at 10 am and when it was nearing boarding time we were informed that our flight was moved from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm. Our destination was Boracay (my friends and I have been there before) so we didn't mind the 1 hour delay. An hour passed and the ground crew announced that our flight's bumped off again to 5 pm! We were trying to be understanding as this was in the middle of PAL's workforce strike (we had booked our tickets months in advance. had we known this was going to happen we would've gotten tickets at another airline). 5 pm rolled in and still no word from the ground crew. By this time there was a small crowd of people complaining already at the counter. Their explanation was that our flight's on standby with no guarantee that we can fly out to Kalibo tonight. We were livid!!! But not as angry as one of our co-passengers who's a lawyer with a convention in Boracay. She was throwing words around like formal complaints and lawsuits. After repeatedly asking for the supervisor, someone came down to talk to us. The representative (not supervisor. too scared siya siguro to face us and sent someone else) told us that our ETD is now 7 pm. We brought up the matter of the ferries from Caticlan port to the island. We didn't want to arrive in Caticlan only to find out that we can't cross the sea at that late hour then have to find accommodations for the night. PAL said they would shoulder the bus from Kalibo and the boat ride to Boracay (but this was for just the people who complained and they had us list our names on a sheet of paper). After eating noodles they handed out to all passengers, finally we boarded the plane. We thought our ordeal was over but we were wrong! We even had to fight for the bus and boat rides since they assured us they would handle it. We're not scrimping on the money, it's just the principle of the thing! After all the stress they put us through, we deserve it right? Anyway, so at last we arrived in Boracay at 1 in the morning after 15 hours. Longest domestic flight ever! Lol!

  31. wow! That was one terrible travel story She! I would have been livid too if I were in your situation. And even if I'm not a lawyer, I would have been throwing words around too. Hahaha... good thing about these moments, we can just laugh about them afterwards!

  32. I was robbed in Saigon. I had just arrived in the city and a man came by on a scooter and cut my bag off me. It had my passport and all my important documents. 

    But it was also my best travel story because locals came to me and took me to the police station and waited two hours to help translate my police report. Then at the consulate they told me to keep traveling and they would courier my passport in five days. Today it is an interesting story.

  33. At first I thought, what a horrible experience! But then it's situations like these when you feel most helpless that you are most open and thankful for the kindness of strangers. Thank God that this story had a happy ending! Reminds me of the joys of travel. Thanks for sharing Ayngelina! 

  34. Naiwan kami ng last bus to Baguio from Sagada! This June 12 lang. We had to go to Bontoc to get a baguio bus! Epic! pero shit happens! Lol!

  35. I would have bawled my eyes out too! My worst travel experiences: about 2 years ago, on my birthday, my roommates and I were supposed to get on a train from Vienna to Prague. We ended up at the wrong train station (there were 3 in the city - who knew?) but we fortunately caught another train, at no extra charge, just a couple of hours later. We finally arrived in Prague and immediately set out to celebrate my birthday. We had gotten a private room for the three of us in a hostel because we didn't want to disturb other people when returning later that night. Well, when we DID return later that night, I found that all the extra money I had for the rest of my trip had been stolen. It was a lot of money. It was my birthday. It could only have been one of the hostel employees (and I'm pretty sure I know which one it was). But the hostel manager denied any responsibility whatsoever and well, needless to say, I definitely bawled my eyes out.


  36. I'm glad you can laugh about this situation now Maria!

  37. That's a bad experience for sure Michi! Especially since it was your birthday! And how to terrible to lose money inside your own private room. Thanks for having the guts to share this with us!

  38. Got bumped off from my flight from LA to MNL. According to Delta, I didn't arrive early enough that's why the check-in counter already closed... but I was with more than 15 passengers who were mostly Japanese.. everyone knows how punctual they are! Delta offered us an overnight stay at Hilton plus food coupons.. if it was our fault then the airline wouldn't offer, right? But they did. So, our theory was - they overbooked.. which we know happens often. Because of this delay, I was not able to vote during the 2010 elections.. I came in a day late :-(

  39. I know what this feels like Katt! I think you should have sent them an email. Or in my case blog about the experience haha. That should get their attention.

  40. whoah! those boots is for the win! you'll look more sexier when wearing those =)
    worst airport experience would be the 8 hour delay for my doha-manila trip due to snowstorm in europe. the plane was coming from amsterdam and it was stuck there for a couple of hours.

    btw love your blog!

  41. Our ferry left us. We happily rushed to the immigration in macau, just in time for our ride back to hong kong. but it wasnt that easy. we didn't know there is two ferry stations in macau, one in macau, one in taipa. We ended up wasting one ticket, which was not cheap. no. not at all.


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