Travel (mis)adventure: International Layover Edition
This is the 2nd installment in a series I've called: Travel (mis)Adventure.
I'm not a fan of layovers. This is a blog about direct flights, after all.
In case you are like, "Hey Claire, stop being so uptight! Once, I saved $300 and it only took 36 hours to get to London from Barcelona!" I've done the research, there's exactly one person in the world that can make a layover like that work.
Her name is Rachel* and she's aggressively frugal. While the the rest of us mortals are blowing $150 of what we saved on magazines, Caesar salads, and souvenir magnets to alleviate the boredom and fatigue of a 12-hour layover, she's serenely knitting a scarf out of reclaimed yarn, which she'll then barter for accommodation at her destination. The lesson here is that not all of us can be Rachel.
Layover flights are sometimes inevitable. What then? Channel your inner Rachel, pack some granola, headphones, and an extra pair of underwear, because layovers from hell make some excellent travel war stories. (After about 3 months, when the PTSD from the experience has passed, of course).
I asked some veteran travelers and fellow travel bloggers to share their own layover horror stories. Let's collectively relive the trauma and laugh!
*Names changed to protect the aggressively frugal.
6 travel bloggers share
their layover (mis)adventures
Travel (mis)adventure #1: Combination of youthful optimism and ouzo = Not Claire's finest flight.
While studying in London, I decided to fly to Athens for a few days to meet some friends. Trying to save a few bucks, I booked a cheap return flight through Budapest. Sure, it had a 12-hour layover, but I was optimistic that I'd be able to see a little of the city. And the flight left Athens early, around 7 am.
Being 23 years old, I had the spectacular idea to stay out all night clubbing in Athens, and then head directly to the airport to catch my flight. (YOLO, amirite?)
By the time I landed in Budapest around 9 am, I wanted to die. Plus, I wasn't allowed to leave the airport and explore the city like I hoped. This was before the days of wireless everywhere. There was nothing to do in the terminal except count the linoleum tiles on the ceiling.
The next 12 hours proceeded excruciatingly. I sat on the floor, and while questioning my life's choices, watched several flights depart for London. The gate agents I tried convincing to let me board an earlier flight were surprisingly unsympathetic to my plight! By the time I landed in London, I was approaching the tipping point of a nervous breakdown. Navigating London's public transport with my luggage to my flat was completely out of the question.
I texted an ex-boyfriend to meet me at the airport in London to take me home. He was not impressed.
Claire runs this blog and you can read more about her on the About page.
Travel (mis)adventure #2: Dying to pee, and then locked in Italian bathroom.
Helen who blogs at Seajiggy:
On a return trip from Sarajevo to San Francisco, I had a short layover in Milan, Italy.
I’d had a few coffees while waiting to board my flight that morning. Two hours later, as the flight attendant announced we were preparing for landing, I had the slightest urge to pee. Foolishly, I assumed that we would be on the ground momentarily, so I chose to wait.
What followed, would have been an inconvenience if my bladder was empty, but with my full bladder, it was a comedy of errors.
First, we were forced to circle for nearly an hour before finally landing.
Then, we sat on the runway for an eternity before we could taxi towards the gate.
When the passengers began to disembark the plane, I realized every passenger was nearly 100 years old and in need of a walker or wheelchair, making the process take forever.
Somehow, the terminal was still miles away! We then had to board a bus which drove us over to the terminal.
By this time, my need to pee was well past Urgent and reaching Level: Critical.
When we finally arrived, I sprinted into the terminal frantically looking for the “toiletta”. When I found it, I collapsed into the nearest bathroom stall, shut the door behind me and let out an enormous sigh of relief.
However, my relief was short lived.
When I tried to unlock the stall door to leave, I discovered I was stuck. The lock would not budge. As the bathroom stall doors went from floor to ceiling, I couldn't crawl under to escape. I was now trapped in the one place I had wanted to be for the past few hours.
Several minutes of me banging on the bathroom door calling for help finally drew the attention of an airport employee, who pried the door open. I managed a flustered “Grazie!!!” as I sprinted to the gate to make my connection.
Follow Helen's underwater adventures at Seajiggy.
Travel (mis)adventure #3: Corralled for 14 hours in China with bonus of food poisoning!
Ben who blogs at Horizon Unknown:
I recently travelled from Thailand to Canada, with a stopover in Nanjing, China. All up, my transit came to over 50 hours long. However, it wasn’t the length that turned this nightmare into my worst transit experience.
Nanjing’s Lukou International Airport has the strangest layover policy I’ve ever encountered.
Along with roughly 30 other travelers, my passport was taken from me for three hours, with little explanation as to why. No commuter was allowed to be separated from airport officials (who retained our passports) until we were all re-checked and through security.
In addition, my layover was increased from 6 to 14 hours due to a plane technical issue. Without transit visas, most travelers were confined to the tiny air-side section of the airport with little to do. Passing the time was difficult!
Even though all passengers were given a small sum of Chinese currency and provided free meals, I don’t think it was worth the ordeal.
To top it all off, one of the provided meals gave me food poisoning for my last two flights back to Canada. I was almost denied boarding due to being a “bio-hazard” risk!
Sometimes, the cheaper flights cost much more than your money!
Follow Ben's adventures at Horizon Unknown.
Travel (mis)adventure #4: Passport confiscated in Cairo, and informed flight doesn't exist.
Danielle who blogs at Nurse to Nomad:
When I flew from Ohio to Uganda alone, I spent 9 hours at the Cairo, Egypt airport. Initially, I was excited, hoping to see the pyramids. However, given that I would be arriving at dusk and staying until 4am, I realized I'd be stuck in the airport.
When I arrived in Cairo, I was greeted by a man who proposed marriage when he found out I was from the United States.
Then, airport security then took my passport and told me my flight didn't exist. After almost tears from me, they eventually found my flight information but kept my passport.
I spent the entire night awake, wondering if I'd get my passport back and if I'd ever make it to Uganda. My saving grace was a Palestinian family who kept feeding me bread.
They eventually returned my passport, acting like it wasn't a big deal. And then I flew safely to Uganda.
Read what's new with Danielle at Nurse to Nomad.
Travel (mis)adventure #5: Being held on suspicion of terrorism in Vancouver.
Faith who blogs at The Girl From Nowhere:
While studying counter-terrorism at college in Australia, I had a layover in Vancouver while traveling to Montreal to participate in an exchange program. Being a conscientious student, I had all my relevant textbooks in my hand luggage to study on the long flight.
Unfortunately, when I arrived at customs in Canada they took one look at the subject of my textbooks and held me for 4 hours on suspicion of terrorism.
I barely made my connecting flight. Thankfully, because it was Christmas Day, the airport was less busy than normal so I was able to sprint from the International to Domestic terminal and boarded my flight to Montreal.
Keep track of Faith's adventures by visiting her blog at The Girl From Nowhere.
Travel (mis)adventure #6: Five hours in travel purgatory, OKA Jakarta International Airport.
Michelle who blogs at Full Time Explorer:
I once had a layover in Jakarta, Indonesia. I’ve flown through hundreds of airports and usually find them fairly easy to navigate, but this airport was very different.
There was only one tiny food stall outside of security and inside the main terminal there were only vending machines. I couldn’t find a clock anywhere and my phone had no internet or WiFi connection, so I couldn’t figure out the local time.
At first, I thought I had missed my flight. I figured out a little later that I was actually early.
There were no gates and no signs. Even the Departures board wasn’t updating. My flight kept getting delayed and the only way to know was to wait in a giant line which served all of the “gates”.
I was positive I’d miss my flight. Add in that there was no air conditioning, so I ended up sweating like crazy in the 90-degree weather.
I had no local currency so I couldn’t even get water from the vending machine.
I was there for five hours, and it was a nightmare. That is one experience I definitely would have been happy to skip.
Keep up with Michelle's travel stories at Full Time Explorer.