When you think you've had a long, exhausting, or downright horrifying travel day — remember that things could always be worse. From natural disasters to visa drama, here six travelers share their craziest, longest travel days ever.
1. When Devastation Created a 40-Hour Trip Home
What happened: When Lara Miller decided to climb in Kathmandu, Nepal, she didn’t anticipate her journey would include an up-close-and-personal experience with a natural disaster. While she was there, Nepal was severely damaged by a devastating earthquake, and while she was OK, her flight was — unsurprisingly — delayed by three days. With no place to go, she endured sleepless nights at the U.S. Embassy. When her trip was rescheduled, she had to arrive more than 10 hours before takeoff due to the chaos. Even though she was already uneasy, scared, and exhausted, her travel hours were just beginning. “My flight was delayed four hours leaving Kathmandu. And going to Abu Dhabi from there, I missed my direct flight to San Francisco and had to be routed through Dallas, after another seven hours in the airport in Abu Dhabi. All in all, it took around 40 hours to get home. I was pretty shell-shocked and devastated from what I went through in the earthquake, so it didn't bother me that much,” she shared.
How she dealt: After finally making it home, Lara took time to recover, relax and try to process her experience. Not letting the situation leave a sour taste in her mouth about Nepal, she decided to return last year to make new memories. “I went back to Nepal last year to climb again, and I told the counter agent in Nepal how wonderful their airline had been the year before, with all of the chaos, and they upgraded my entire flight to business class,” she said.
2. The Self-Inflicted Visa Drama
What happened: During a two-year journey traveling with a bucket list of 100 goals to achieve in 100 weeks, Ian Usher skipped over an important requirement for traveling to India: a visa! He was attempting to make it from Kathmandu, Nepal to Delhi, India, just a few days after the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption. An already chaotic experience was made crazier when his lack of visa prevented him from boarding his flight. The Indian Embassy was closed for another two days, and he had no cash, nowhere to stay, no flight, and of course, no visa. “I returned to the very cheap hotel I had been staying at and asked if I could stay there again, promising to get hold of some cash soon. They helped me find a ‘fixer’ who could help me avoid the queues at the embassy, and he also managed to get another flight booked,” he shared. Eventually, he made it to India, hopped in a five-hour taxi ride to Agra, where he arrived five minutes too late to get into the Taj Mahal.
How he dealt: The keyword for this nightmare? Staying calm and being unafraid to ask for help. Thanks to the kindness of locals, he wasn’t stranded, even if he was anxious.
3. The Time the Airport Electricity Went Out
What happened: In 2013, former CPA finance professional and now author, Nancy O’Hare was used to flying from Lagos, Nigeria to London, United Kingdoml; her executive MBA classes required that she travel four days a month. Normally a smooth, steady six-hour overnight flight where she could get some sleep before heading to the classroom, she didn’t think much of it when she left her office in Nigeria at 4 p.m. However, as soon as she found herself in unusually heavy Lagos traffic, she knew something was off. “Once at the airport, I found the electricity was down. Even the forever rumbling back-up generators had been silenced on this occasion. With no air conditioners or fans operating, the normally slow queues were even slower as I shuffled along to be manually checked-in on a paper list, have my bags endure the customary physical rummage and then obtain my hand-written boarding pass,” she shared. It took her more than 10 hours to finally get to London at 6 a.m., just in time to get to class.
How she dealt: Thankfully, O’Hare had access to British Airways’ Arrivals Lounge at Heathrow, so she was able to take a shower and chug some strong espresso. Beyond that though? O’Hare says it was all about her attitude. “You just have to pull from inside, push through the feeling of being shattered, and enjoy a few laughs to clear the fuzz,” she said.
4. The Time the Police Had to Aid in an Escape
What happened: When Logan, a digital nomad who prefers to go by his first name only, was making the home-for-the-holidays journey from Boston to Michigan, with a connection in Detroit, eight years ago, he definitely didn’t expect that ultimately, he’d have to drive the rest of the trip and be freed from a plane from police. Thanks to several 30-minute increment delays, the connecting flight was behind by several hours. Though out of their control, Logan says the crew was working double-time to make the unfortunate situation cheerier. In addition to keeping the crowd calm, the crew was inching toward the maximum amount of hours they could legally work before being restricted to fly. When the pilot announced he "found a plane," they rushed to board. “But we didn't get a place in the take-off line and ultimately the crew hit their deadline, so we couldn't take off. Unfortunately, the airport crew went home for the night, so we were trapped on the plane. The crew in their forever-awesomeness started giving out shots to the crowd and we were in reasonably good spirits at how comical this all was. Eventually the police department came and let us off of the plane,” Logan shared.
How he dealt: Being in an unusual situation together gives you a sense of camaraderie, and thanks to chats with fellow passengers, Logan wasn’t stranded in Detroit. “I luckily overheard the business travelers making rental plans and they were gracious enough to let me tag along. They had a premium rental membership and we got one of the last cars — ultimately, I was able to make it home that night."
5. When Daylight Savings Time Messed Everything Up
What happened: Brittanae had done all she could to prepare for her return trip from Beirut, Lebanon to the United States. One tiny detail she missed? That her vacation fell over daylight savings time. “Instead of a casual morning with ample time to finish packing and make it to the airport, I woke up before my alarm to learn I had only an hour to catch my flight,” she shared. Though she made it — barely — the turmoil was only just beginning. Her flight from London back to her home in the states was delayed four hours, so she spent time browsing around the airport. Once she arrived home (with a big sigh of relief), her credit card company informed her of unusual charges. Her information had been stolen at Heathrow, and fraud charges were piling up.
How she dealt: With alcohol, of course! “Once I knew I was in the clear and would make the flight, I treated myself to a cocktail, or two, and took a nap on the plane to decompress from the mad dash.”
6. That Time a Mom Dealt With a Puking Baby On a 16-Hour Flight
What happened: As any parent knows, traveling with a toddler requires quite a bit of finesse — and patience. Now picture a 16-hour flight with a sick kid and watch your pulse race just thinking about it. That's the situation Marianne Perez de Fransius found herself in when she took a solo trip with her two-year-old son from New York to Maputo, Mozambique, via Johannesburg. To start, the flight was fully-booked and the flight attendants weren’t helpful when her son threw up twice at hours five and hour six, taking 20 minutes to bring her two napkins to clean up the mess. With still 10 hours to go, she wasn’t exactly feeling fresh or comfortable.
How she dealt: “Luckily, I'd done this trip before, although usually with my husband, so I knew a bit of what to expect. Thank goodness I had actually decided to buy a seat for my little one, but I suspected that the flight might fill up and having a 20-pound wiggle worm for 16 hours on my lap would have sucked big time."
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