Don't Do What I Did

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Eight readers reveal their travel-related mishaps and mistakes—so you can avoid falling into the same trap.

A stranger in the next seat
For our trip to London on Northwest, my wife bought her ticket online, while I redeemed miles. We made sure we were on the same flight and even reserved seats next to each other. My wife later received a flight-change notification from the airline that said she'd been moved to another flight. Because we had booked our tickets in different ways, our reservations weren't linked in the computer system, and the airline didn't realize we were together. My wife ended up getting a seat on my flight, but we had to sit rows apart until my neighbor offered to switch seats with her. Larry Deloria, Ishpeming, Mich.

Don't get left behind
My family and I had just arrived at our gate for a flight out of Houston when the airline, Continental, announced that there would be a three-hour delay. The gate agent gave us coupons to buy dinner while we waited, and, figuring we had a lot of time to kill, we wandered off to a different part of the terminal to eat. When we returned to the gate an hour later, we found that the delay had been lifted and the plane had departed, along with our luggage. Pat Alter, Marlboro, N.J.

What's the damage?
My hotel room in Cancún was perfect—ample space, great balcony views—with one exception: The bedspread had a large burn mark on it. My friends and I joked about the scorched comforter, but since we were in vacation mode, we forgot to mention it to the front desk. During checkout, I was shocked when the hotel charged me $80 to replace the burned bedspread. I tried to explain to the manager on duty that I wasn't at fault, but he said that since I hadn't reported the damage when I checked in, I was responsible and would have to reimburse the hotel. Judy Genao, North Miami Beach, Fla.

Stamp of disapproval
As I was checking in for a flight to South Africa, the ticket agent told me the South African government requires visitors to have a completely empty page in their passports for an entry-visa sticker. I flipped through my passport and realized I didn't have one. And because it was a holiday weekend, I wouldn't be able to have new pages added for several days. I had to cancel my entire weeklong vacation. Edwin Austen, Voorhees, N.J.

How to look like a tourist
My husband and I had just gotten off the subway in Milan, Italy, loaded down with shopping bags from boutiques. As we rode the escalator to the street, a man cut in between us and bent over to pick up a cigarette lighter, causing my husband to lose his balance, while another man behind us snatched his wallet. The men took off before we knew what had happened. We soon realized our mistake: Nothing screams "tourists with money!" like bags from fancy stores. Sarah Salter Levy, Stuart, Fla.

Put it in writing
My sisters and I don't speak French, which is why, on a recent trip to Paris, we were careful to give ourselves plenty of time to get around. The day we were to take a train to Switzerland, we left the hotel more than three hours early to reach Gare de Lyon—we weren't taking any chances! In our best attempt at French, we asked the taxi driver to take us to the station. When we arrived, however, we couldn't find Gare de Lyon's famous Le Train Bleu restaurant anywhere. We finally asked an English-speaking attendant, who informed us that we were at Gare du Nord. Fortunately, we still had enough time to get to the right station. But we learned our lesson: It never hurts to write down destinations for taxi drivers in places where you don't speak the language. Janet Kauder, Neshanic Station, N.J.

You gotta know the rules
I bought a case of wine at my favorite vineyard in Napa Valley and packed it in a Styrofoam-reinforced box, planning to check it on my flight home. At the airport, however, the ticket agent told me that the TSA limits the amount of alcohol a person may transport on a plane to five liters—and I was over the threshold. I was early for my flight, so I had time to ship the wine home at a nearby UPS store for $50. Back home, I looked up the regulation online. The five-liter limit only applies to liquids with an alcohol content of at least 24 percent. In other words, the wine would've been just fine. Bob Mathews, Fredericksburg, Tex.

Keep the airline in the loop
My wife and I were at Chicago's O'Hare Airport during a layover on our way to Indianapolis when bad weather struck and the second leg of our trip was canceled. Rather than spend an uncomfortable night at the airport, we rented a car and drove to Indianapolis. A few days later, when we were checking in for our flight back, we were told that our return tickets had been canceled because we never completed the first part of our trip. Luckily, the plane wasn't full, and the airline issued us new tickets so that we were able to get home. Now we know to inform the airline if we decide not to take a flight. Lynn Lyen, Westminster, Calif.

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