Readers confess the errors of their (travel) ways
Editor’s note: Readers responded with their own travel tales after Catharine Hamm’s “Learn From the Stupid Travel Mistakes I Made” (On the Spot, Jan. 5). Here are some of their travails:
When I got to the Dubrovnik, Croatia, bus station, I asked the woman who sold me my ticket to Montenegro where my bus was. She said it was late. I asked when it was scheduled to depart, and the answer was half an hour later and then, half an hour later than that. There were no buses with my destination posted on the windshield sign. Each time, the official ticket seller said it was late: “It is always late. There are roadblocks throughout Croatia.”
I had traveled for about 24 hours, so I was tired. I then went to the general information booth and asked where the heck my bus was, and the woman in the booth said it had left an hour earlier. I wasted four hours waiting for the next bus. Lesson is not to be afraid to keep asking and keep asking more than one person.
On a trip to Italy, I followed my standard procedure of always asking the hotel by email how to get there, telling them my starting point. I was going from Rome to Matera. The Matera hotel sent me train/bus info. I asked the hotel staff in Rome to confirm that it was the best way, and whether they could help me buy tickets in advance online. They said the Matera info was incorrect. One of the staff was from the area I was heading to, and she knew what was correct.
The first hotel was correct; the hotel with the supposed expert was wrong. Wasted four hours as a result and got in after dark. Matera is known for its cave dwellings and has few roads. I asked a bus driver, a merchant and cops for directions, and I got to my hotel eventually, but not before dragging my luggage up and down scores of unlighted steps. Lesson: I should have looked at bus and train schedules as well as maps before I left L.A. to check what each hotel was telling me.
Live and learn.
Our worst mistake occurred during a driving tour of Spain. On our way from Seville to a short stop in Bilbao before going on to San Sebastián for the night, we stopped for gas. The attendant filled the tank, and we set out on the highway.
Thirty minutes later, the car stopped. Turns out the attendant had put in diesel. We were on the side of a busy road in the middle of nowhere, it was about 90 degrees out and we had no phone coverage.
After about 15 minutes of us going bonkers, a Spanish highway patrol car stopped. Two very sweet guys took care of getting a tow truck for the auto and a taxi for us to the nearest car rental office.
We were calculating how much the taxi would cost and were told it was a free government service. Not so free was the car’s repair cost. Plus, we lost so much time that we never made it to Bilbao and had to proceed to San Sebastián. Lesson learned.
We now do most of our travel by train in Europe. Less stress.
I flew to France and stayed at a charming hotel, where I took off my Apple watch (I didn’t know how to change the time) and put it in a safe place, I thought. I never saw it for the rest of my trip or, in fact, for eight months.
I kissed it goodbye, thinking it was lost or stolen, with a $500 insurance deductible.
Lo and behold, I found it zipped into a safe place in my purse all those months later.
C’est la vie.
I was on my way to a last-minute funeral, so I was stressed. I turned down a first-class ticket, thinking I would get a cheaper one. It turned out I didn’t, and the first-class seat was gone when I called back.
The flight was canceled, the next one was late and lots of us were making connections. The guy across the aisle and I were debating what to do because we were both going to Albany, N.Y. He said to run fast to the next gate, where the next plane was taking off.
When we got off the plane, agents were telling us where to go; I wanted to check the gate, but he insisted. Big mistake. I finally got to Albany at 2 a.m. Moral: Don’t listen to anyone but the officials, check the monitors and do what the agent says. My mantra now is “Remember Albany!”
In September, my husband and I flew home from Nice, France, to Santa Barbara, where we live. We have taken the shuttle from LAX to Santa Barbara, but this time we decided to fly in and out of Santa Barbara, even though there was a five-hour layover at LAX. It never occurred to me to get on the bus after landing at LAX and get home by 8 p.m. instead of 1 a.m. Plus, it saved some money. So stupid. Moral: Think before you plan!
Here was my biggest mistake: failing to put our medications in a carry-on bag. We went to St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, where there’s not a CVS to replace stuff. And, of course, the suitcase with the meds didn’t show up on the carousel.
Luckily, it came the next day, so we were only one night without, but it could have been much worse.
Marnie and Doug Shiels
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Solution to some problems: Use a professional travel adviser. For a small fee, you’re protected 24/7 anywhere in the world from the time of booking, throughout the entire travel experience, including emergency service, seat configuration, cost savings, upgrades and building your itinerary (including rental car) on a free app such as TripCase.
Copies of everything are in your profile, including your emergency contacts, passport, etc. It’s also accessible to air carriers who may be trying to reach you. You never have to worry again.
Chief executive, Corniche Travel
Regarding rental cars, I did use a credit card that covered everything on the car. Someone dinged it in a parking lot. I did take pictures of the damage. For the next four months, I spent hours phoning and emailing the rental car company, its body shop and the benefits division of my credit card company to obtain the necessary documentation: initial and finalized rental agreement, itemized estimates of repair, itemized final bill for repair, demand letter, etc.
In the end, the credit card company paid the bill, except for a $143.98 charge for “diminished value.” Diminished value, apparently, was not covered. I thought it was pretty stinky, but by that time, I was so exhausted by all the paper work that I just paid it.
I regularly buy the extra coverage now.
It’s a crowded field
Thank you, Christopher Reynolds, for “Rethink These Favorites” (Jan. 5). We were disappointed in Peru’s overcrowded Machu Picchu, with all the trouble and expense to get there, hour-long waits to get in and get the bus to get out, and no restrooms. At 78, we managed climbing slowly and negotiating the trails with our guide, when we could find him among the should-to-shoulder crowds.
The second day we started early in the morning and took the Sungate trail on our own, which was better. There were 5,000 tourists admitted that day in October 2018.
The experience was far different from the pristine photos of travel guides.