travel day
Europe, North America, Story

Worst Travel Day EVER

travel day
Sad pandas sitting in Heathrow.

Flying from Berlin to Austin this past March was probably one of the worst (if not THE worst) travel day that has befallen us.

Now, on a normal, regular priced ticket, I’m sure this flight shouldn’t have taken more than 15 hours to get from point A to point B. My cheapskate self put us on a 19 hour, 2 layover trip that had stopovers in both Heathrow and JFK.

Welcome to my hell (in neat, awesome bullet points!).

  • Woke up after 3 hours of sleep. We must love our friends in Berlin to have stayed out so late the night prior.
  • Shaun was a bit groggy and noticed he was sniffling and had extreme sinus pressure. This is something you want to avoid at all costs when on a trans-ANYTHING flight.
  • During our 3 hours of sleep, 1 inch of snow had accumulated on the ground. We trudged our way to the U-Bahn with our rolling suitcases.
  • We arrived at the U-Bahn stop for the airport bus and it ran late, leaving us open to the elements and the extreme snowfall (to be fair, any snowfall is extreme for us Austin peeps).
  • After checking into the slightly confusing Tegel airport, we went through our first security checkpoint.
  • At the gate, we notice that none of the planes had started the de-icing process.


  • We board onto the plane and sit for a while. The captain notifies us that we are 14th in line for the de-icing station. They have to physically drag the plane to a station and have no clue how long it will take.
de-icing plane
I should have known how the day was going to end when I took this picture…

  • I get seated in front of an unruly 5 year old who is kicking and violently shaking my seat. Shaun takes the middle seat and sits in front of the screaming 2 year old. Normally I don’t mind kids on flights but this parent had no control. I remind myself to take my birth control later day
  • Shaun’s head explodes on the flight.
  • We miss our connection in London.
  • After standing in long, windy line at the “Missed Connections” desk, new tickets are assigned to us for a flight to Dallas, TX departing in 3 hours (which would only put us an hour behind of our original arrival time in Austin!). I had to tell the lady what major airports flew home and we had to avoid NYC and Chicago as well due to impending Blizzard.
  • Re-check in and go through our second security checkpoint.
  • We get taken advantage of as there have been no other money exchange booths available to us and get 22 USD for 26 EUR. *OUCH*
  • As we sit on the plane waiting to be taxied out to the runway, another plane was being taxied behind us and their tow car broke down… DIRECTLY BEHIND US.
  • After no response from the airport, airline, or maintenance, we had to sit and wait for someone to rescue this random tow car.
  • After 1 1/2 hours a mechanic shows up and takes 2 minutes to get the car started and moved.
  • Shaun’s head explodes on the plane and we miss the connection in Dallas.
  • As we exit the plane, the airline already had new tickets printed giving us 30 more minutes of time. *armpump*


Photo by Evan Sheline
Photo by Evan Sheline


  • We run. I give Run, Lola, Run a run for the money. I continue to run even after my asthma kicks in.
  • Hopes are dashed as we come to the ridiculously long immigration line (to get back INTO the country) and no one really cares to help us get expedited.

  • I break down. Tears start flowing. We have reached 24 hours of travel. People in the immigration line stare while trying to figure out what is wrong with me.
  • We get let back into the USA and RUN to pick up our bags. Hopes are dashed again as we arrive at the ridiculously long customs line, with no less than 6 “S” turns. Shaun had to fight to get expedited with 5 minutes left before our boarding time.
  • We have to re-check our bags after leaving customs.
  • We realize our departure terminal is on the opposite side of the airport.


  • We run to the closest security checkpoint. A security worker tells us that the line is really long and that we should run to the next checkpoint as there will be fewer people.
  • We arrive at our third security checkpoint, throw our stuff on the belt, take off our shoes and wait.
  • The TSA decide to turn on and start using the full body scanner. They stop all processing while they wait for the machine to warm up.
  • We scan, grab our stuff, and run to the Skylink (the train to take you to other terminals) and barely make it inside the train as the doors close behind us.
  • We get off at Terminal C and run to the gate.
  • The gate had been moved to Terminal A.
  • We run back to the Skylink and once again barely make it inside the train as the doors close behind us.
  • We arrive in Terminal A huffing and puffing, having run as fast as we could to the gate.
  • The plane had already boarded and the gate doors are shut. 4 other people who arrived late from a delayed Minnesota flight were trying to convince the airline workers to allow them to board, to no avail.
  • I try to hold back more tears as we join the pleading.
  • Due to the fact we had just come off an international flight, they decide to open the doors for us and the Minnesota people (who are extremely appreciative that we helped get them on the plane).


  • We plop down in the first available seats, wheezing.
  • I fall asleep on the 35 minute flight to Austin (5 minutes added due to crazy lightning storm) while Shaun’s head explodes.


  • We sit at the luggage carousel, crossing our fingers that our baggage also made it onto the plane. We had been through the biggest ordeal out of everyone on the plane.
  • We do a victory dance when our luggage arrives.


  • Other passengers of our flight begin applauding.

It took us 26 hours 15 minutes from door to door and my mental state would be considered shoddy at best by the time we arrived in warm, balmy Austin, Texas. You can imagine my glee when my very awesome roomie was all smiles and on time to pick us up. I think any other issues and I would have gone postal.

Note to self: You have the money to pay a little extra for peace of mind. This was then solidified on our current trip to Guatemala when we missed our connection in Ft. Lauderdale and were handed a 2 day layover. WOMP WOMP

I’m scared that Shaun will want to start taking over the plans…

Who am I kidding?! 😛

What are your bad travel experiences? Do you avoid certain modes of transportation, or do you think it is something we all “just have to deal with”?

80 thoughts on “Worst Travel Day EVER”

  1. While in Buenos Aires, I had my luggage accidentally put on a bus to Mexico. I was going to Antarctica. I was freaking out, thinking all of my polar gear was gone forever. Thankfully the driver – not a cabbie – who was hired to take me to the airport contacted the bus, convinced them to turn around, and then put my bag on the next flight down to Ushuaia. I had no idea if it’d make it, all I could do was go and hope he’d put it on that next flight. He made it happen, got it there only a few minutes behind me, and saved me a ton of money I would have had to spend down there at the edge of the world to buy all new gear. So, while it’s a happy ending, it was a miserable freak out time when I thought it was all gone.

  2. Ours involved airline strikes, racing against failing to report for military duty and possible federal offences…

    Naturally, a boat saved us.

    Worst travel makes BEST stories!!!

  3. Aw, such a sad sucky story! I love the accompanying graphics though-they really help tell the tale!

    My story is that on a flight last year from Iceland to Vancouver, we had a stop over in Toronto. Some new people get on the plane. Then they make an announcement that there’s a medical emergency. We had to wait while they retrieved their bags. Then another announcement an hour later that the medical emergency person decided they were going to fly AFTER ALL! OK. Get their bags back on the plane. An hour later, another announcement. Medical emergency back on, they’re getting off the plane. Again. Just WHAT was this medical emergency? A panic attack. You could hear the entire place groan collectively. I know a panic attack can feel like a heart attack, but oh my lord-take some friggin’ Adavan or something before you delay tired people 3 hours! And why Air Canada pandered to this person is beyond me. Horrible!

    1. Oh man. Were people starting to heckle the person having the attack? I think I would have lost it. Seriously man – REMOVE the person. DEAL with the panic attack. Put them on ANOTHER flight.

      1. No one heckled per se… but there was a collective groan of every person on the plane that the person must have picked up on, because she got off the plane again. The comments flying around were pretty hilarious!

  4. To South Africa last month the same set of mishaps you had pretty much all the way from San Diego. I finally land in Johannesberg…sit down at a slot machine at a casino within an hour of landing and the man two seats down collapses and dies of a heart attack. Pretty close to losing it at that point.

  5. This sounds exactly like my 27 hour journey home from Dublin (which I wrote about). Delayed out of Dublin by 4 hours. Toronto closes airport due to tropical storm so we have to re-fuel in Montreal. Get to Toronto and everyone has to be re-booked. FInally get to Chicago. Read to take off for Sacramento when a storm hits.

    I wrote the entire post on the flight from Chicago to Sacramento.

    Whenever I fly internationally, there are certain cities I won’t fly into – especially during winter. I avoid the midwest and northeast like the plague.

    I definitely feel your pain. However, I ended up laughing at my situation. The more ridiculous it got, the more I had to write (and I ABHOR any of my flight plans getting screwed up).

    1. I can normally laugh at situations like these but I think I was just done with being in travel mode (which is a dangerous mental state to be in).

      This was the first time it had happened to me.

      1. I am actually the opposite. I tend to get annoyed and upset when this stuff happens. This was a situation where I actually laughed for once. The more ridiculous it got, the more I just shook my head.

        The bad thing was I got in at 3 am and had to work the next day.

  6. The worst travel day I have had, was the day I could not travel. The one year anniversary of my mother’s death, I had planned to get away from home. My flight ended up cancelled due to a Nor’Easter. That was all fine (well it was most certainly not FINE but…) What turned this whole thing into a nightmare was being on hold with Delta for something like 20 hours, literally.

    I left work at 1:00, got home by 2:00, called Delta and was still on hold the next day. I’m not kidding or exaggerating. I got home in the afternoon, was on hold all afternoon, all evening, all night, all the next morning. I was laying on my couch with the phone on speaker. For all these hours. I would bring me phone with me if I needed to go to the bathroom or kitchen.

    Please note:

    – I didn’t realize my charger wasn’t plugged in. At one point, my battery died and I had to start over.

    – At somewhere around hour sixteen-ish – the hold music ended and I hear a woman say “Hello?”. I jumped up and got so excited I could not believe it!!! Turns out that my call went to her on accident. She said she would transfer me to the right department. She hung up on me. I had to start all over.

    – The entire time I was on hold – Delta played the SAME THREE SONGS OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER. SAME THREE SONGS. I HATE THOSE SONGS.


    1. That sounds like a horrid Twilight Zone plot. Did they at least apologize? That sounds so horrible! What a way to exacerbate the situation.

      1. I honestly do not even remember if they apologized. I’m sure they did, but I can’t specifically remember. I do however, remember that after I finally got someone on the phone, they were able to put me on a flight that night (one night later than I was supposed to leave). I was so excited to both stop hearing those stupid songs over and over AND to get out of New York, that I don’t remember anything else from that conversation.

  7. Aw, man. That is a bad travel day. My worst travel day was when I was 18 and traveling back to NZ for university after visiting my parents in Indonesia. I was quite sick with malaria. When I arrived (in the middle of winter) I found out my bag had been lost. With all my warm clothes in it (because that suitcase contained basically everything I owned). If I hadn’t been sick then this would have been a manageable situation. But I was very weak and miserable so it was the final straw. I did eventually get the suitcase back but I spent quite a few days crying and shivering in bed before then!

    1. 🙁 I would have been so miserable. The only way I can handle cold weather is if I have the proper clothes for it. If not I become an angry, whining Erica.

  8. I had a very similar experience going to Italy AND back during my Christmas 2009 / New Years 2010 family trip. Things that I learned from the experience:
    1. Always buy tickets directly from airlines, otherwise they will not put you up overnight (fortunately I did purchase through airline).
    2. Never run when customs is involved because you will fail. This just makes you tired and more stressed out.
    3. NEVER fly through Florence. WORST. AIRPORT. EVER.

    1. Yeah, we were lucky to have had the same airline throughout the whole thing. I couldn’t imagine dealing with multiple carriers.

      Thanks for the heads up on Florence. Will avoid!

  9. Hope I don’t jinx us here….especially with our upcoming RTW trip…BUT we have never missed any flights ever…..I typically always try to leave at least 90 min layover….I hope we dont have any travel days like yours, but I am sure it is due to happen with a 2 year RTW planned….

  10. Car/camping trip. From Colorado to Arizona to do the Grand Canyon thing.

    Three water pumps later, we were passing around wires that needed to be clicked together every second or so to keep the car running.

    (True story. It sucked ROCKS. Through a STRAW.)

  11. OMG – that’s REALLY bad!

    My worst Travel day was in Germany, by Train. First, my flight from Switzerland was late because of bad weather and strong wind, later i got in a Strike of the German Railway Company “Deutsche Bahn”. Chaos all over Germany, no signs, no speakers – just me, my luggage, 1000000 other travelers and no trains :-(. I got picked up by car instead, and – of course – we got into a traffic jam! Several Accidents, a fire, hours standing in the car.

    If there’s any chance to fly directly to my destination – i love to pay a lot more! I would NEVER take a stopover flight to save money. Never.

  12. I’ve had a couple fun travel days. At least four times over the years I’ve been put up at hotels near the airport by airlines when my flight was delayed or cancelled (including once from Chicago to White Plains when White Plains was closed down, so we had to circle over Lake Michigan for over an hour burning fuel before we were allowed to land back in Chicago, at which point all alternative flights were closed for the night)

    My worst was a flight from Taipei->Hong Kong->Amsterdam->Marseille in which my fly from Taipei was delayed, causing us to land just under an hour before the flight to Amsterdam was to leave…at which time the next airline had decided to already give away my seat (and that of another passenger on the flight who also happened to be connecting through to Amsterdam). They wanted to send us both back to Taipei to try again the next day, but we managed to convince the airline to put us back on the plane we just left which was continuing on to Bangkok (they put us both in Biz for that connection) and then waited there for 13 hours for that night’s flight to Amsterdam. Only arrived in Marseille 20 hours later than the original expected arrival time…at which point my automatic rental car had been given away and I had to go through five different rental companies before finally finding one that had an automatic…which wound up costing 3x more per day than the original reservation!

    1. …WOW.

      I never thought about trying to connect through another major city. That is awesome that they upgraded. GIMMIE MY CHAMPAGNE.

      13 hours is rough. Been there.

  13. Makes my coach issues on my last trip seem so trivial. As long this does not become the main memory of your trip to Berlin. You just have to put it down to experience.

  14. OMG that sounds awful.
    I have to say I’ve often paid just a bit more to avoid an extra layover or much longer travel times.
    I know that money could get me a room for a night, or two, but I soooo dislike airplanes, luggage handling and all of that stuff.
    Luxury issue, I guess:/

    1. I will make the upgrade normally if it isn’t too much more but I think the price difference in the ticket was a couple of hundred dollars each. Apparently the price on my sanity is low. 😛

  15. We had a very similiar trip home from France- with cancelled flights and missed connections. Usually adventurous, we have always been flexible, and enjoyed when flights are delayed- usually taking in extra city tours. But this particular trip included cancelled flights, mised connections with the stomach flu- UGH! All those security check points and immigration with stomach flu ALMOST makes you want to swear off travel- but didn’t. But I tend not to book the milk runs anymore:-) As one of your followers said, these make the best stories:-) Next year, you can reflect on it:-T

    1. OH NO! Stomach issues are the WORST. I wonder what the immigration guy thought when you came up to the window looking like hell. 😛

  16. Oh, you guys! We could have commiserated as I was in the airport in Buenos Aires last week going on 15 hours of delay. I may blog about that one because it really was spectacularly awful from a customer service point of view as well as winning the award for biggest delay I’ve had yet after beating out two 14 hour-ers. I’m with you – I flew Aerolineas Argentinas to save company money knowing that they are often delayed and being ok with that, but after the horrible service experience I’m going to do everything possible to avoid them in the future.

  17. I’ve been there – maybe with fewer individual mishaps, but the result was still 36hrs of travel from Bangkok to Toronto. I thought that 4 hrs. would be enough time to make a connecting flight from New York to Toronto – I didn’t bank on it taking nearly 5 hrs. to get through US Customs. Pure insanity.

    1. 36 hours?! Did you get time to get a nap in? I think I would have been less pissy had the jetlag not caught up to me.

      …and FIVE HOURS?! HOW did it take that long?!

      Although, people in the US are always baffled when I tell them that I have to stand in line for an hour + when I come home. It is just weird.

      1. I kept wanting the nap at all the wrong times – like when I was waiting for a boarding call for yet another flight. Then I would get on the plane and feel totally awake and wired.

        And yeah, the 5 hour part – I don’t even know. There was like literally a million people, maybe 4 customs counters, and the line moved forward at a rate of 1 inch per 30 min. It was madness.

    1. I wanted to be HOME. If we would have missed our Austin flight from Dallas that night I was tempted to rent a car and drive the 3 hours home.

  18. I personally have never missed a flight but….my husband has missed many! For staying out all night since the flight was at 5 am…then forgetting he had a flight while he ordered more beer at 4 am…For falling asleep in the wrong boarding lounge…For buying me makeup at the dutyfree…

  19. Oh dear, what a nightmare. We’ve all had these days (ok, maybe not as horrible as this one), and they’re so painful. Hope this means you’ve had your bad luck for the rest of the year now. I’ve added this post to my new series of inspirational lifestyle & travel stories, as this is part of the travel lifestyle as well, even though we don’t like it…

  20. Pretty bad. Mine was actually in-country, Thailand, to be specific. Woke up late after way too many sangsoms and cokes the night prior, and had to walk 2-3 km to the nearest bus stop to catch a transfer in Phang-Nga. I arrived just a few minutes few, but all the direct buses continuing on to Chumphon had stopped for the day… leaving me the only choice of going way out of the way – Phang-Nga to Surat Thani, and hope there was a decent bus headed north that afternoon. Mess of a bus terminal, and the police helped ensure I would be scammed by a mini bus company operating the only service that day. Tight quarters for a 3-hour ride north, when a guy kept falling asleep and hitting his head on my shoulder. I was this close to just smacking him. Finally arrive, catch a two-seater into the main city, and throw my bags off at the nearest hostel. Actually ended up being a decent evening after I showered, shaved, and ate, but that day…

    1. Oh man I’ve had one of those days bus-ing through Latin America. At some point you’re just like, “I don’t care how much it costs just GET ME THERE.”

  21. Craptastic adventure Erica! You did get a fun post and we got a bitter-sweet dramedy to read with fun graphics so not too bad in the end. *grin*

    I’ll avoid all northern US airports (JFK EWR ORD) from November through March and fly out of HOU or ATL instead.

    Plane *issues* forced me down in Gander, Newfoundland on my way to Spain (see Wheels Down on my site 4 details) with an overnight layover. Flying with my dog – she (in her big ass crate) made the flight fine but they tried to bump me. Once spent 5 unexpected hours on the plane, on the tarmac at Shannon airport… emergency landing to refuel and shuffle luggage ’cause the flight was “overweight” (I’d have thought they’d have noticed that at take-off in Athens. *shrug* – those were probably the most inconvenient moments.

    I generally consider myself lucky if all goes without a hiccup 😀

    1. Dramedies are some of my most popular posts! LOL!

      Poor puppy! Were you freaking out about losing your dog? I know airlines have been known to do that.

  22. I’m so glad they let you get on that last connecting flight! It sucks running through the airport and finally reaching the gate only to be told “the gate is closed.” But the plane is right there!!! Let me on!

  23. OMG I have had some bad travel days, but nothing like this. Absolutely insane. As much as I like to save money, I am willing to pay a little extra to avoid extreme connections and layovers. I can’t believe how many problems you guys had and gate switching and all that. I would’ve been in tears too, Erica!

  24. That’s rough! I’m sure the experience in Europe was worth it though. I remember my ridiculous 48-hour travel day. Because of my “budget backpacker” style, I went from San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico via a taxi, an overnight bus, and three (maybe it was four) planes. Luckily, no sickness and no bad experiences… just complete exhaustion.

  25. Ouch the joys of travel huh? It must have felt terrible at the time but you got there eventually, safe and with a story to tell. yes I’m firmly camped in the Monty Python “Always look on the bright side of Life” encampment.

  26. I recognize ALL of it! This sounds similar to our recent travel break down:
    2 day layover, missed connections and tears.. OMG, no sleep for me was the main contributor.. Exploding head was not part of our experience. Hoping you guys are feeling better. Holy shit, I recognized this day, all too well.
    Oh, Miro says “hi”. 🙂

    1. I’m starting to think there is something in the air or that it is a really messed up rite of passage. I’m glad you guys made it home safe. Make sure to take those days in Lima to yourself!

  27. Yikes what an epic story!! At least you made it though! on my worst travel day US Air was delayed so I missed my connection and then refused to put me on another flight. I had t sleep outside that night (they closed the airport overnight) and then buy a whole new ticket to New Zealand. Oh and they lost my luggage for two weeks

  28. That sounds brutal. Iv had a few bad ones but nothing on that scale. I once arrive in Heathrow 10minutes earlier than scheduled and loads of time for our flight 2hrs later. Great. We sat at on the plane at the docking bay at the terminal for 2hrs without letting anybody off and we missed our flight!

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