The Wait Is Over: Check Out the Winners of Our Travel Horror Story Competition! Mary Zakheim October 31, 2016 Contests, Personal Travel Essays We asked, you delivered. Though we received a TON (we mean a TON) of amazingly horrifying travel horror stories, we managed to somehow narrow it down to the top three. Sure, there were some staff disagreements, but in the end, this is a democracy and majority won. Read on if you dare and discover the terrifying tales of your fellow travelers: Editor’s note: We have added GIFs to the last two posts in an effort to make the reading even more *spooky* and fun. Breaking a Leg in Macedonia – a Haiku by a Seasoned Traveler By Kristen Gill Photo via Kristen Gill. Why not break a leg while traveling the Balkans? I did, and then some Bleak hospital is something out of the ‘50s or, maybe older Stray dogs roam outside while chickens run through the yard i hop in wheelchair And pass the smokers hovering outside the door to get in long line So many people waiting for socialized care while I pay cash NOW Doctor Dragon asks, “Does this hurt?” “Hell, yes!” I said. “You get X-ray now.” Lie on cold steel bench, no lead apron for safety watch as rays loom close Unrolling the film, he said with a smile “It broke.” “You go get cast now.” Photo via Kristen Gill. Men talk urgently in a language i do not understand. Help me! Jazz on radio dirty knife lies next to me I cannot watch this Papier-mâché wrap goes all the way past my knees Did not expect this! Coptic church outside I go in and light candles prayers might help me now Back to quaint hotel where sweet proprietress gives me dog for healing Four border crossings plus fifteen flight hours back home and I am a wreck Six more months in cast then I will soon be able to travel again Note from author: The funny thing about this story is that for the five days previous to breaking my leg I had been doing all sorts of adventurous activities such as rock climbing, hiking the second tallest peak in the Balkans, kayaking, spelunking, and more. But how did I break it? By running in my flip flops to get into the final group photo on the trip. DOH! Is That an Illegal Baton in Your Pocket? By Victoria Pombeiro My husband and I were on route from LA to Philadelphia, where he was due to be best man at his brother’s wedding. As our hand luggage went through the scanner, my husband realized he’d forgotten to unpack the baton he carries for protection when he goes running at night. This would be bad at the best of times — airport security doesn’t take kindly to people attempting to smuggle deadly weapons on planes. But in California, it’s apparently a felony to even own a baton (we had no idea, we ordered it on Amazon)! My husband, a former Navy officer who has never been in trouble in his life, was handcuffed and escorted out of the airport, our luggage took off en route to Philadelphia, and I had to tearfully call my in-laws and explain the entire sorry situation. After three more panicked phone calls, I found out where my husband had been taken, bailed him out of jail, and convinced the bondsman to allow us to leave the state for the wedding. We arrived in Philadelphia at 3 am on the morning of the wedding several thousand dollars poorer, and my husband incorporated the ordeal into the speech, which he’d rewritten on a stack of airplane napkins during the flight. His family has never let him live it down. How I Beat the Odds: An Epic Tale of Airport Survival By David Reid Hello readers, Below is the story of how I beat the odds to get home. I have edited the text to make it PG, however you are free to use your imagination. It was June 21st and I was flying LGW-KEF-SFO after being denied entry to an AIRLINE #1* flight four days earlier for showing up with less than 60 minutes till boarding. It turns out that even though I showed up with only 45 minutes till boarding and was denied a boarding pass because the desk agent told me I wouldn’t make it – the plane was delayed for another two hours. So I could have made it with AMPLE time to spare. Back to June 21st. Well, the plane was coming from KEF to LGW and couldn’t land on the runway in England because of rain, yes rain. Don’t ask me, because I don’t know why rain is a problem in a city where it rains 164 days a year. So the plane landed 30 minutes north at STN. **These budget airlines don’t have gates predetermined; they just use whatever gates are open. Because of this they don’t tell you what gate to go to until the plane is in a gate.** When the plane then arrived at LGW like 8 hours later they told us to go to XX gate. So we all go, and then they tell us 5 minutes till boarding. 15 minutes later they tell us that if our final destination is SFO and that we need to follow some person and they’d put us on a plane the next day. HAHAHA, forget that, I wasn’t about to get trapped in UK after already being here for four days longer and missing work. Some passengers were heading to LAX, so I called a friend and we decided that if I make it on the flight and get to KEF and then get on the LAX flight, he’d drive down to pick me up. So when it comes time to board, I talk my way onto the plane. I made it. Everything is good. Doors closed. I’m heading to KEF. Wrong. They reopen the doors and they bring big guys onto the plane and basically eject me. Back off the plane I beg and plead to get on the flight. I ask for a supervisor and the whole nine yards. I explain that I am fine being rerouted to LAX. The guy looks me in the eyes and tells me “The LAX flight already departed KEF”. He tells me that if I want to get a flight the next day that I MUST go to the hotel they provide me. Now it doesn’t matter even if I made it to KEF, I’d have to get a next day flight anyways. I submit, I give in and go find the rest of the passengers who were headed to SFO. Finally, I find them and we get sent to a hotel an hour and a half away in the center of London. When we arrive, the hotel didn’t know all 45 of us were coming and never got called from AIRLINE #2*. They put us up in rooms because they know under EU law that AIRLINE #2 has to pay them for our accommodation, so they’ll settle the bill later. I figure that AIRLINE #2 is scrambling to get everything sorted and that in the morning everything will be good. 6 AM comes and I go down to the lobby to see what the situation is. Still no info from AIRLINE #2. Perfect. AIRLINE #2 forced me off the plane, forced me to come here and now abandoned me and 45 other people in the middle of London. I do what any normal person would do, I relax, read the news and eat some free breakfast. During my breakfast I take a quick look at AIRLINE #2’s Twitter. Remember that KEF-LAX flight that I was told already departed? Will it didn’t depart until 4 AM, a whole 6 hours after I was told it already departed. The hours pass by and it’s 10 AM. Nobody has gotten anything concrete from AIRLINE #2. I get tired of this and go to the train station to get a train back to LGW. HA, little did I know the train workers were on strike, so no train for me. I go back to the hotel and wait around longer. Finally someone is able to get some info from AIRLINE #2. So, if you think what I just described is an adventure, then get ready for the story you are about to hear. It is a little past 11 AM and we are all crowding around this one person who is on the phone. 45 of us. He says that AIRLINE #2 has put us on flights, and the flight leaves at 1:30. He says AIRLINE #2 has no transportation for us to get back to the airport. Perfect, how else is AIRLINE #2 going to mess with me today. So we start grabbing taxis. 99 pounds to get to the airport. There are four of us in a taxi, in a Mercedes Benz. The car had a digital and manual speedometer. The manual speedometer was in KM, but the digital one was in miles. Now remember how the hotel was 1 hour and 30 minutes away from the airport? I didn’t think we would make it with enough time to get everything sorted, I was worried and nervous. This is the point where my luck turned around. After being denied entry for my LGW-OAK fight and after being ejected from my LGW-KEF-SFO flight, and after ALL the other stuff, things were looking up. Our driver pushed 90-100 miles an hour to get us to the airport. I’ve never gotten to an airport that quickly. We get to the airport and we have to pay. Out comes my travel rewards credit card, because even in cluster ***** like this, I gotta think about the miles. We get to the airport and quickly figure out that not all 45 of us are on the same flight. 18 of us are on one flight, 16 are on another and the remaining people weren’t on a flight at all. One of the 45 people starts reading through the first list of 16 and my name doesn’t get called. Then the second list starts getting read. With each passing name I get increasingly worried. At last my name is called. I’m on a flight to LAX on AIRLINE #1. I got lucky that it was just me needing to get a flight. There were whole families that were on different flights. Kids separated from parents, etc. ** It is important to note that AIRLINE #2 got the terminals mixed up for the flight with 16 people on it and because of this many of them were unable to make that flight** Anyways, the flight is at 1:30 and it’s nearly 12:30. Now remember, I wasn’t allowed to get on the LGW-OAK flight a few days earlier because of this supposed “60 minute rule”. They announce that this rule will be voided. HA, so the “rule” – the whole reason I’m in this mess – doesn’t even really exist…. What. The. Heck. So I get on the flight and get to LAX. What now? I don’t know! All I know is that they put us on a flight to LAX, how do I get to SFO? We are still on the plane and starting to deplane. Well there were 18 of us on this flight LGW-LAX. It turns out this guy, who’s about my age(20), had overheard someone who overheard someone else that supposedly we were put on an AIRLINE #3* flight from LAX to SFO. He has the flight number written on his hand. On his hand, not on paper, scribbled on his hand. My best chance at getting to SFO is all dependent on some letters written on a hand of some guy who overheard someone else overhearing someone else. I’m doomed. I Google the flight number and it turns out that it IS an AIRLINE #3 flight from LAX to SFO. Only problem is it leaves in an hour and a half. We landed at around 5:30pm and the flight departs at 7pm. I should be able to make it. After all I only have a carry on and I should be able to get through immigration quickly, things are going to work out. When I get off the LGW-LAX plane, I start running. I’m getting to SFO, yes I am. OHHH… No I’m not. So immigration was so backed up that they had planes full of people waiting wayyyy back in the hallways you use to walk to immigration. I’m American and not British so I don’t queue for anyone. I cruise past hundreds of people, hundreds, to get to the front. I’m still waiting in a hallway, not even close to immigration. Why is immigration backed up so much you may ask? Well CheapOair, refugees. Yes, on the one day I’m in a rush to make the impossible happen – refugees are here and apparently they need the whole immigration center to themselves for security reasons. They aren’t aliens (no pun intended), they are just people so I’m not sure why that was the case. But I welcome them as refugees, of course, so I wait patiently. Finally they let us through and I run faster than I’ve run in a long time. I get to immigration finally! I get through quickly. Now I’m back on US soil, but in the international terminal of LAX, an airport I’ve never been in before. It’s 6:15 PM. I need to get to terminal 3. I figure out where it is and just run. I’m jumping over things, dodging people, I’m Usain ******* Bolt. Finally I get to the AIRLINE #3 desk. Sweating and out of breath I try and explain the situation to this desk agent who has no idea what I’m talking about. He asks for my passport. He starts searching for my name. 1 minute passes, nothing from him. 2 minutes go by, still haven’t found my reservation. I know at this point I’m not getting to SFO, I’m stuck here in LAX. AIRLINE #2 has beaten me. I got this far but this is why I fall short, this is where I fail. Then, just as I think all hope is lost he says “Ah, yes, here it is.” When he said that I wasn’t sure if I believed him. I mean could it be? Could I be heading to SFO? Is this the best AIRLINE #2 has to throw at me? I take my ticket and go through security. Very quickly. Thank god there were only metal detectors and not the little air machine things because I always opt to get patted down. I get through, I run to my gate. They are already boarding. I look around. It is just me, then I see two more AIRLINE #2 passengers come up. We board the flight. There were supposed to be 18 AIRLINE #2 passengers getting on this flight, and there were only 3. Let that soak in. Out of 45 people that started the day with intentions of getting to SFO, Only three of us did. Three. Only 6 percent of us made it. Numerically, I only had a 2% chance of making it to SFO. Sitting on the empty flight to SFO I reflected on how lucky I was to be getting to SFO, and to be out of the mess I was in. I beat the odds and beat AIRLINE #2. *Editor’s note: We have edited out the names of the airlines mentioned in this post with the author’s permission.