Last year my family decided to go to Spain to visit a friend I hadn’t seen for nearly 20 years. Amazingly we found a flight, not only direct from NYC to Malaga — a relatively obscure destination for most Americans, but we found those tickets for only $550 each! This was over $400 off of the normal price for tickets to Spain.
The one glitch? The website I bought the tickets through didn’t offer any kind of insurance at checkout.
Interestingly enough, I had recently been investing in the additional $20 or whatever price it is on every trip I had bought online over the past few years.
Even though it wasn’t offered, I kept saying to myself that I’d purchase the insurance before the trip. Unfortunately, a string of bad events kept me from making that purchase.
First, I got MSG poisoning on my trip to Jamaica 6 weeks earlier… and it lasted for 6 weeks. In fact I was only better at the beginning of the week that I was leaving for Spain.
Then my daughter got sick from swimming in a friend’s pool (they didn’t tell us that their kid had a virus!). So I spent the entire week before the trip, not only packing, but trying to nurse my child back to health.
Finally came the day of the trip. We planned 5 hours to get to the airport because driving into New York on a Friday afternoon in summer is sketchy. Even so, we had done the trip before and it only took 2 hours max.
We loaded into the car and got on the road. So exhausted from the week and lack of sleep the night before. I closed my eyes as my husband drove. As we got a few miles away from New York — TRAFFIC! Everything came to an almost complete stand still. I couldn’t believe it!
Instead of checking the directions the GPS was giving us and comparing it to the directions from the parking garage, we blindly followed the GPS directions which brought us right through New York City! Usually we go around through Staten Island, but by the time we had recognized the error — there was no turning back. There was no way to get off!
Finally, we arrived to the airport… ten minutes AFTER they closed the check-in counter! Needless to say, we were horrified.
So then, we spent the next THREE hours on a line for people who missed their flight — that didn’t even look that long when we got on it. When we got to the front of the line. The dude at the counter barely spoke English and his boss (an old black guy named Ivan) refused to sell us tickets for the following day’s flight for less than $3000 each — yes, that’s three THOUSAND! He gave us no compassion for having gotten stuck in 5 hours of traffic and could care less that he had us waiting on the line for 3 hours with a 5 year old. It was not 11pm and we didn’t even have a place to sleep that night!
I was so proud of my husband. He immediately called Delta’s customer service and explained the case to the agent and was able to procure 3 tickets for the next evenings flight for only $2000! I know this seems like a lot, but since we had gotten the first tickets so cheaply, this was a blessing because it still brought our tickets to a price similar to what most of the other people on the flight were probably paying.
So here are the lessons we learned from this experience:
1. ALWAYS get some kind of travel insurance that covers things like missed flights, lost baggage and health (especially if you’re doing any kind of adventure travel or are elderly). For a nominal fee, it can save you a lot of headaches.
2. NEVER trust your GPS! These can be handy devices (in fact, ours has European maps installed and helped us find the tiny street we were staying on in Granada), but often will not give you the best directions. Get MapQuest directions to compare or download directions from the destination you are going to (such as the airport).
3. If you miss your flight, get on the line designated for people who are stranded, but start calling customer service for your airline IMMEDIATELY. Try to do anything possible to avoid standing on line for three hours.
4. DON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER! You can always get a better deal if you have to deal with a belligerent customer service agent.