My mom and I were supposed to arrive in Paris at about 5:00 p.m. on August 16th. Well, in case you haven’t guessed yet, things did not go as planned. We didn’t get to Paris until almost 10:00 a.m. on the 17th. That means it took us 40 hours to get from Prescott to Paris. And that doesn’t even include the three hours it took us to get from Charles de Gaulle to our hotel. I should’ve walked.
These 40 hours did not pass smoothly. First, our flight from Phoenix to Dallas was delayed an hour. No problem. But then, once we arrived in Dallas Fort Worth we discovered that our flight to London was also “delayed,” as the American Airlines agent said. “Delayed,” for 12 hours. This so called delay meant that my mom and I had to rebook our flight from London to Paris and cancel our hotel reservation for that night. American Airlines would be giving us a place to sleep, along with two free meals.
We hopped on a shuttle with all of the other London bound travelers and headed to the hotel. We were relieved by the prospect of sleep, but our relief turned quickly to bafflement. When we pulled up at the hotel we saw that all of the guests were standing outside in their pajamas and a firetruck was parked near the entrance. There had been a fire. Of course! we thought. Of course. It wasn’t long until I started laughing, laughing at the absurdity of it all. I chuckled along with the cartoonish voice of the emergency alarm, mimicking the warning until I had it memorized.
My mom and I caught a mere two hours of sleep that night. Our flight to Heathrow left at 7:30 that morning. The next night, at a hotel in London, we slept for about 3 hours.
If arriving in Paris had meant the end of it all, then this would be an ordinary scenario. But no. Our journey was far from over. Once we landed in Paris, we still had to get from Charles de Gaulle to the sixth arrondissement, which requires a train ride and a metro ride. This meant lugging not only ourselves through the underground, but my classical guitar, one backpack (stuffed to capacity), my mom’s carry-on bag and my two suitcases, both of which are the size of mortally obese 8 year olds. When we began this voyage, getting through the metro with all of this seemed manageable. WRONG. Paris has zero ramps. Zero drinking fountains. Zero elevators and/or conveniently placed escalators. We dragged, rolled, tugged and kicked all of our luggage up and down every stair, through every tunnel, between every ticket booth. By the time we clamored to the street we were soaked in sweat and heaving, thirsty and starved.
And that brings me to…
Savannah’s 6 tips for conquering travel fiascos:
- Accept your situation and have faith. When you’re stranded at an airport it is hard to be positive, but try to look for a bright spot– it’s better to have a flyable plane than to crash in the middle of the ocean. My best friend told me to think of it this way: “In accordance with the conservation of misfortune, you used a lot of your own quota of misery on the trip over, and as a result the rest of your stay will be much nicer!”
- Make friends with your fellow travelers. Perhaps the only pleasure I enjoyed during this mess was getting to know the people I met along the way– Louise from Aberdeen, Michelle from Florida, that Italian guy. We became a cohort of sorts, and we kept each other going.
- Give yourself some time to rest. My impulse was to power through to the end, to stick it out and suck it up. But your body and your mind needs to recuperate, so give yourself time to rest when you can. Nap, stop and sit a while, eat.
- Enjoy where your are, whether you planned to be there or not. My mom and I didn’t get stuck anywhere at the right time to get out of the airport and visit, but if you have half a day or so until you’re back in the air, get out and explore a little bit. Go to a pub, stroll through the streets, have a meal. Why not?
- Take pictures; you’ll laugh later. Looking back, I really wish I’d taken more pictures of this experience, albeit mostly miserable. I love the picture I took of the firetruck and the sound I recorded to go with it!
- Do some drugs. Meaning buy an over-the-counter medicine like Tylenol or Advil that will soothe your aching bones and help you sleep on the plane. Traveling across time zones and sandwiching into airplanes can make it hard to rest.
Bon voyage! I hope you have more luck than we did!
Smiles and all the best,