In the wise words of Buddha, “It is better to travel well than to arrive.” Lucky for me, all I did was travel, because I missed my flight to Thailand which made it impossible for me to arrive. At least not until three full days later.
Let’s make like Fat Joe and lean back for a second:
A few weeks prior, I had made my own connecting flights to save hundreds of dollars to get me to Thailand from Rome. After careful research, I saw the best and cheapest route would be to book a ticket with one airline from Rome, Italy – Cologne, Germany. This flight would leave Rome at 9AM with a five hour layover in Cologne’s airport, where Damon had planned a layover so we could take another 10 hour flight to Phuket together that left Cologne at 6PM the same night. I planned to have a long layover just in case my first flight was delayed. Especially since I knew there was no “easy rebooking” policy since I booked two separate tickets on two different airlines to save money, capisci?
But as the title of this blog suggests, I missed my damn flight to go to Phuket and was stranded in Rome’s airport trying to find the Italian words to say “phuck it,” put me on the next flight out to Germany.
The beginning of the end:
Like most travel stories, this one started at 5:30 AM. I wiped the crust from my eyes while trying to throw all of the stray items into my backpack in a rush because I had a flight to catch in a few hours. The Roman sky was gloomy and dark, all to add to the somber moods of the following events. The goal was to get to Termini, catch the bus to Ciampino, and get on my flight to Germany and get on my next flight to Thailand; HA, what a joke.
In order to be as efficient as possible on this crazy travel day, I made sure to book my bus ticket from Termini train station to Ciampino Airport the night before. I spent $4 on a one way electronic ticket for a 7AM bus ride.
After lugging my massive backpack and little 360º carry-on luggage (that I have grown so fond of) up and down the stairs through the Roman metro system, I finally arrived in Termini. My frantic energy gets the otherwise uninterested Termini employees to point me in the right direction towards the bus stops. I made it in record time; I didn’t miss my bus, despite arriving at 6:56 AM.
Stress level at 29%
Time until flight: 2:30 hours
As I stand in line squished between honeymooners, hip Frenchys, and German families, I rummage through my inbox to pull up the ticket I had bought the night before. Usually, I’m a paper ticket kind of a gal, but when you already have hundreds of tiny receipts crumpled in your wallet, technology really saves your a$$ in terms of finding the tickets you need when you need them.
Proudly, I show the ticket to the bus driver; “I’ve bought a ticket for Ciampino, this is the right bus, correct?” The Italian man glances at my phone and tells me I bought a ticket for the bus behind us that had just left. But, that I could ride his bus to get “there” at the same time. To avoid being that person who indecisively holds up the line, I made a quick decision to ride this man’s bus. The bus had Ciampino and Fiumicino (Rome’s larger airport) written on the side, so I paid another $5 to get on this promising bus ride to my destination.
About an hour ride later, I glance at my Google maps to check out the distance left until arrival; this is when heat began to rise to my ears and my heart thumped faster by the minute. I couldn’t have been further away from Ciampino airport. I thought; ok, weird, but let me keep my cool because the distance didn’t seem impossible to reach within the next 20 minutes.
The bus arrives at an airport, and everyone gets off. Naturally, I get off, grab my luggage, and start peering at every corner for a sign to tell me where I actually ended up; in my gut I had a feeling that the unthinkable had happened.
I was at Fiumicino, not Ciampino.
And when I finally found the one tiny sign that confirmed my fear, the bus I had gotten off of had already left. Oh, and of course there wasn’t one person working the company’s stand to give me some form of customer service to fix the fact that I wasn’t at the right airport.
Stress level at 40%
Time until flight: 1:10 hours
Had I arrived at Termini five minutes before, gotten on the bus that I had originally bought the ticket for, I would’ve arrived at Ciampino at the perfect time to stroll on into Check-In like a boss. But because these things usually don’t happen in my favor (maybe for the sake of being able to tell my stories to help people who find themselves in similar shitty situations), I was stranded at Fiumicino with an hour to try and make my flight. I thought, I can make it; Ciampino looks like it’s 25 minutes away from Fiumicino, but I’ll have to risk it and spend money on a cab to get me there.
So in not-so-Damon-and-Jo fashion, I hailed a cab that costs, wait for it…
Trust me, I wanted to slap myself too; but my logic was – either I spend this $50 and maybe make it to the airport in time and avoid missing my flight, or I pay this $50 and still end up missing my flight. The risk was worth it because I knew for a fact this was the last plane leaving from Ciampino that would get me in Cologne in time for my flight to Phuket at 6PM. I avoided thinking about all the possible travel fails I could and was about to experience.
Luckily, there were cabs ready to basically steal your money outside of the airport, so I wasted no time and told the cab driver to step on it. The only thing missing from this moment was some high speed car chase commentary and electro music as we sped down Roman highways towards Ciampino.
Stress level at 68%
Time until flight: 0:30 hours
My cab driver drops me off shortly after taking the amount equivalent to a damn loan payment, and I start sprinting with three bags in hand. I was determined to cut lines to get through check-in and security and get on the plane. But it still didn’t matter because this is how I’m greeted by a Ryanair employee at the check-in counter: “You can’t go through ma’m, boarding for Cologne ended 15 minutes ago.” No, “I’m sorry.” No, “here’s what we can do to help.” Not one suggestion to solve my now, massive problem; which makes sense considering Ryanair flights are dirt cheap – there’s little value in what they offer.
She points me to the ticket booth where I had to explain that I had tried to cheat the system and save money by booking two flights and making my own connection, but ended up failing because I missed the first flight by minutes all because of a series of unfortunate events. So I do exactly that, in Italian, and still get no suggestions for solutions other than booking a ticket that would get me to Cologne at 6PM.
In the words of Kenan and Kel: Whhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.
To avoid missing my flight that left at 6 PM from Cologne, I thought of every possible solution; taking a flight to another city in Germany and taking a train to Cologne: not an option. Flying into nearby countries and taking a train to Cologne: not an option. Booking a ticket from Fiumicino airport (even if I would’ve had to pay another $50 cab ride and cringe my way through it): no flights available.
defeated in the airport
Stress level at 93%
Time until flight: 0:00 hours
So it was clear, I wasn’t making it to Cologne in time for the flight I had booked with Damon to go to Phuket. Usually, I can keep my cool under pressure, but the thought of possibly having to spend HUNDREDS of dollars to fix a problem that all started because a silly man tricked me into paying him $5 to take me to the wrong airport got to me. Just like that, for the first time in my travel career, tears welled up in my eyes and I was that person (for a whole 3.5 seconds) who was explaining problems to an info desk employee while trying to hold back an ugly cry.
Despite all the problems:
I’m a problem solver, as most travelers have to be; I could feel myself growing in my list of experiences (along with my long lists of travel fails and debt) despite the emotionally and financially draining day. I snapped myself out of the desperate tears and made a confident decision to just fly to Cologne. Screw it, I had to pay $200 rebooking fees for both flights, but at least I would be experiencing a new city alone.
While waiting for the only flight out to Cologne that night, I started vlogging about the craziness that happened. Mid vlog, I get “vlog bombed” by a random guy who had also missed his flight. St. John was his name, he was a cool dude from freaking Zimbabwe who was en route to London. Despite it being 10AM, he invited me to have a “life kinda sucks sometimes, but let’s make the best of it,” drink. After a few sips of wine we started talking about how he too could never accept a normal, stable life, and had made his income on yachts for the last few years. His day job lets him sail the seas to see the world, which he had pretty much done by his late 20s.
I might have missed two flights, lost $200, but I gained a new friend who I’m sure I’ll come across again, and some content to let ya’ll know if things go wrong, there’s always a solution.
Oh, and Cologne was adorable and highly recommended.
After my three days in Cologne, I scored my very first seat in first class because the desk attendant at check-in felt so bad for me after I told her I was stranded in Germany; there’s always a silver lining.
I’ll leave you with some tips:
- Keep in mind that the biggest risk in booking two flights to make your own connection is exactly what happened to me. I ended up missing both flights which ruined my entire plan. But that ain’t gonna stop my hustle, next time, I’ll probably just plan to do a full 24-48 hour layover, instead of just six hours.
- Always triple check what airport your flight is leaving from, and confirm the transportation to get you to the CORRECT airport.
- If you find yourself missing a flight, find a way to call customer service and pay a rebooking fee. Most range from $100-300, which might be cheaper than buying a new ticket. Check both options.