A Travel Blunder for the Books

There was a time early in my years as a columnist when I was best known for two things – home remodeling disasters and vacation disasters. Today, friends, we return to those halcyon days.
I’d forgotten how much readers enjoyed my travel fiascos until we were in the Phoenix airport on our way home from Mexico this month and ran into several of them waiting to board the plane to Boise. Told that our trip had been great until disaster struck on the last day, they literally squealed with delight:
“Ooooh! We can’t wait to read about it.”
The disaster was the “travel blunder extraordinaire” referred to at the end of my column two weeks ago. It’s embarrassing to write about it, or, for that matter, even to think about it. But maybe reading about it will keep someone else from making the same, boneheaded mistake. Call it a cautionary tale.
Our first-ever trip to Mazatlan last was – until the last day – an unqualified success. Thanks to my chiropractor, Jim Kranz, we stayed in a drop-dead gorgeous condo that his sister couldn’t use and needed to sub-lease for two weeks. We read books, swam, walked on the beach … If we’d been any more relaxed, we’d have been dead.
Until the e-mail from hell arrived on my phone.
The e-mail was from Expedia, which I’d used to book our flights. To fully appreciate my reaction upon reading it, you need to know that I am borderline obsessive-compulsive when it comes to making travel arrangements. I double- and triple-check everything. I make printouts of reservations and itineraries – even copies of the printouts – and re-check them once or even more while at our destination.
But not this time. There is such a thing as being too relaxed.
So it’s not exaggerating to say that Expedia’s e-mail came as something of a thunderbolt.
“Your flight from Mazatlan to Phoenix has been canceled,” it said.
Canceled? CANCELED?
Reading further, “Your flight from Phoenix to Boise has been canceled.”
The e-mail included a number to call in the unlikely event that we found the prospect of being stranded in Mexico unsettling:
“Our flights are canceled? How can you cancel our flights? What are we supposed to do, get jobs selling Señor Frogs T-shirts?”
“Your flights are canceled because they’ve left,” an infuriatingly cheerful operator replied. “You weren’t on them.”
This was patently impossible. And I could prove it. The printout of the itinerary I hadn’t bothered to check lately was in my suitcase. It would show beyond any doubt that we were booked to return the next day.
Only we weren’t. It is and will forever remain a mystery how it happened, but I’d booked our return flights for Friday March 6 instead of Saturday March 7.
Even when this was undeniable, it didn’t compute. We’d booked the condo until that Saturday. I’d been telling everyone for two months that we were returning that Saturday. There wasn’t a sliver of doubt in the mind of the guy who triple-checks everything that we were coming home that Saturday. I’d have bet my firstborn and my last dollar on it.
So certain was my faith that not even when a friend e-mailed a red flag did my conviction waver. His e-mail said he’d checked our itinerary online and was wishing us a pleasant trip home on Friday.
… To which I confidently replied that he must have mis-read the itinerary because we weren’t coming home until Saturday.
As you can imagine, the mistake put me into a bit of a funk. The night before, we’d had dinner at a place where the waiter offered us shots from a gallon jug of tequila with a rattlesnake in the bottom. We declined, but now I considered going back and chugging the whole thing, rattlesnake and all. Our condo was on the fifth floor and had floor-to-ceiling windows that opened to the sea – a running jump would put me out of my misery. Mexican work permits and a cheap apartment were a somewhat less drastic option.
As is often the case, however, our dilemma was nothing that a whole lot of money wouldn’t fix. The airline was willing (and probably delighted) to change our reservations so that we could come home Saturday as planned if not for my lame brained mistake.
The price: a little over what the drop-dead gorgeous condo cost for two weeks! Missing your flight isn’t as expensive as oral surgery, but it’s close.
Yes, now that you mention it, it does still sting.
There are, however, a couple of bright spots. One is that I’ve relieved myself of the responsibility of making future flight reservations. From now on my wife, who is smarter, will make them.
The other bright spot – this would be the cautionary-tale part – is that in the future everyone who’ll be traveling with us will check and double-check the reservations. It shouldn’t be up to one fallible human (some of us being more fallible than others) to make sure everything is correct. Take it from someone who has learned the hard way. If you’re booking a trip for you and your spouse, have your spouse back you up. If friends or kids old enough to read are going, have them check the details. If the dog is going, have the dog check the details.
And now you’ll have to excuse me. It’s time for me to leave for the McDonald’s job I got to pay off the credit card.

Tim Woodward’s column appears in The Idaho Statesman every other Sunday and is posted on http://www.woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@hotmail.com.


2 thoughts on “A Travel Blunder for the Books

  1. Tim
    Good to see I’m not in exclusive company – life sucks when you can’t count or read! That said, very much enjoy your Idaho experiences and articles! So when can we expect a Destination follow-on? Kimmel (Jim’s smarter/older Brother)


    1. Hi, John. Nice to hear from you. I can count and read; I just can’t remember. As I recall, we both left for active duty in the Navy at about the same time. We won’t talk about how long ago that was.


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