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When Your Best-Laid Travel Plans Go Awry

We’ve all been there: You take the time to carefully plot out your transportation during a perfect trip. You get everything lined up, and it seems like nothing could go wrong.

Or so you think.

As the following travelers prove, despite the best possible planning, something can always go wrong when you’re far from home and trying to find your way.

Train Track Trek

During a Europe trip, Nicky Sundt of Washington D.C., kept all his important documents together in a plastic pencil case to ensure they were protected from wear and tear. While on a train in Greece, however, a friend accidentally tipped his bag over, and the pencil case slipped between the baggage rack slats and fell out an open window.

The conductor and engineer stopped the train to let him and his friend out. They retraced the route and found his travel documents. It was perilous, however, because it was a single track route, and he had to cross a narrow bridge.

“Let’s just say,” Sundt explained, “that sprinting on railroad ties across a trestle bridge with a train bearing down on me was one of my greatest athletic achievements.”

An Uphill Battle

On the first day of a meticulously planned, two-month, 2,300-mile bike trip last summer, Paige Metzman of Ithaca, New York, cycled 30 miles up a rather steep hill in Washington state, believing it would lead to a mountain pass.

“We got nearly to the top before a kind stranger informed us that in fact there was no ‘down’ side. At the top of the mountain was just a ski resort and a U-turn,” Metzman said. Apparently, she missed an important turn just five miles into her epic ride.

Seeing how dejected she looked, the stranger crammed Metzman and her friend, plus their gear and bikes, into his car and drove them to the starting point.


Colin Birge of Vancouver remembered seeing a warning in his guidebook: “Eventually, if you are driving in Provence, you will end up in a ditch.” Near the village of Lacoste, that very thing almost happened.

He and his wife drove up a hill to catch the view, and the narrow lane simply stopped with no warning. “I tried a three-point turn,” he explained. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the road clearly, and the back wheels slipped off the road bed.” The rear-wheel-drive vehicle ended up with the rear wheels dangling off the ground.

Who came to his rescue? Oddly enough, a group of American muscle car owners, who heard the commotion from their gathering in a nearby park. “Of course we stopped by the show afterwards to thank them,” Birge said. “My favorite was the guy with the ’60s Mustang who had reupholstered seats wrapped with the American flag.”

Missing the Boat, Part I

During a trip to Italy, John Rega of Brussels planned to meet several cousins. His ancestors had emigrated to the United States in the early 1900s, and this was the first time that any family members were meeting in person.

Rega and his wife spent the night in a hotel less than an hour away from a port, where they’d catch a boat to his cousin’s village. They woke early, packed and proceeded to the lobby to check out and get a cab, with ample time to spare.

Yet the hotel desk remained unattended all morning, and they couldn’t find a taxi. They ended up missing their boat and showing up four hours late. “Lesson learned: Pre-arrange any tight logistics, especially if someone is waiting on the other end,” Rega advised.

Directionally Challenged

Agie Yatsko of Alexandria, Virginia, dutifully packed her GPS unit to prepare for a driving trip across Costa Rica. After picking up her rental car and heading out of San Jose, she and her friend realized the GPS wouldn’t work. After a few days, they returned to San Jose and tried to find the car rental agency. They got so lost that they had to pay a taxi driver $20 to lead them to the agency — which was less than a mile away.

Missing the Boat, Part II

Usually conscientious when it comes to small details, Robyn Porter of Rockville, Maryland, admitted that she misjudged her cruise’s departure time from Puerto Rico. “We ran up to the ship screaming as they were pulling in the gangplanks. Luckily they allowed us to board as they were pulling in the last gangplank.”

Beached on the Wrong Beach

Marsea Nelson of Falls Church, Virginia researched in advance New Zealand’s best beaches before she and her friend settled on the one they wanted to visit. They purchased bus tickets, packed a bag and embarked on their trip.

“Except there were TWO beaches with that name, which we learned because we got dropped off at the wrong one,” Nelson said. “They weren’t close enough to each other to correct our mistake. We were bitterly disappointed.”

But they decided to make the best of it. Following a hike to a waterfall, some great meals and a night in a spectacular hostel, Nelson said the unexpected detour led to “one of the best and most memorable experiences” of their New Zealand trip.

“That’s one of the things I love most about traveling,” she said.” Mishaps can turn into the greatest adventures.”

See? You’re not alone. So admit it: Despite your best-laid plans, what mistakes have you made while traveling?

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