It seems that once one thing goes wrong when travelling it doesn’t take much for it to spiral into a terrible travel experience. My worst travel experience was when I was still and young and tender child, only about 8 years old, on a family vacation to Disney World in Orlando Florida. I still remember much of the trip, despite my age, possible because the travel back really was the worst journey I’ve ever experienced.
There were three of us travelling – My mother was chaperoning after my father stayed on in the United States on business, my sister, who was about four years younger my junior, and me. As is normal for a trans-Atlantic flight, the plane was due to leave in the evening, fly overnight and then arrive early the following morning in London. We had our car at Heathrow airport and would drive the remaining 60 or so miles back home.
We arrived in plenty of time for flight, were walked to the gate by my Dad who left us there to go and find his own plane. We boarded, again without incident and the plane left reasonably close to on time. Dinner was served and the crew turned off the light, which was the signal for my sister to suddenly need to run up and down the aisles of the plane. My mother attempted to calm her down but her antics kept us (and every other passenger) up the whole night.
The travel was made even more interesting because I had suffered an ear infection a few days before we had left and had to fly back with a stuffed and painful ear, which was only intensified by the pressure changes on the plane. Even if my sister had been quiet, the pain made it too intense for me to get anything close to sleep.
We landed in London early and went to collect our bags. After waiting for an hour or so we discovered that our bags had gone to Moscow, courtesy of British Airways, and would be delivered to our house some time later. Wonderful. So we made the best of it and headed out to collect our car from the long term parking lot for the drive back to our house with just what we had carried with us.
In typical travel disaster style, we were travelling in early December during one of the coldest winters on record and without our suitcases we were still wearing the shorts and t-shirts that we had left Florida with. It was well below freezing when we jumped off the bus and dragged our tired and sorry selves to the car. We piled in, cold and tired and found out that we had left the headlights on when we had parked the car two weeks before, and didn’t have any juice left in the battery.
My mother found a couple who gave us a jump and allowed us to leave, only to discover the cars second problem – no gas. Still without enough power in the battery to re-start the car if we shut it off, my mother filled the tank without stopping the engine and fortunately also without any problems. We began the hour or so journey home from Heathrow at long last. We made the journey home without incident, although we did stop a few times so my poor exhausted mother could take naps.
We take a step back from the story at this point to explain something else. We had recently begun updating our house from a fireplace heating system to a centrally heated one, and doing this required about a week without heating. We had scheduled it to be done while we were travelling because two weeks was plenty of time to complete the job and we had no worries that it would be done. I think you can see where this is going.
The heating was not completed and was hooked up to neither system and the house was, quite literally, freezing. We must have looked a sorry lot as we turned up on the door of a neighbor’s house begging for a cup of tea. We were finally home and unable to even go into our own house. Fortunately we were able to warm a little in there.
The day ended with us settling down to sleep in front of the fireplace for another cold and restless night. The heating was fixed the following day but the journey has stayed with us ever since and every time we have trouble travelling we always remember that it’s not the worst travel experience we’ve had. Frankly, I hope this one stays as the worst travel experience of my life, I certainly don’t want to be that cold again!