Airplane tickets, broken lamps, and Crazy Glue: David’s Travel Tips

on a planeI’ve been doing a lot of traveling the past 7-8 years, mainly for speaking and consulting engagements. And I have picked up some travel tips along the way, including:

1. The airline doesn’t always provide a room for the night if your flight is delayed, even if they promise they will.

2. Some airports are more comfortable to sleep in than others. (see #1)

3. If you return your rental car in great condition, but then the rental car company wants to charge you for a bunch of damage, your insurance agent can help (apparently one of the airport rental car employees banged up the car after I returned it, and tried to blame it on me. Didn’t work).

4. If you travel internationally, bring along some familiar cold and flue meds. Just in case. (Hat tip to Sarah Houghton for this one).

I have two more things to add to my list of interesting travel tips that I picked up on my trip to Monterey for Internet librarian 2013 (great conference, by the way – I picked up a bunch of useful stuff this year! If you’ve never been, you should think about attending).

What did I learn?

5. You have to communicate with the airline if you miss your flight, or they will automatically cancel your whole round trip ticket.

I booked my Kansas City to Monterey flight pretty early. Then my travel plans changed, and I needed to go to Chicago for a meeting first, and then travel to Monterey from there. And to complicate things further, my family drove me up to Chicago (to see my oldest daughter).

Instead of flying out of Kansas City, I needed to fly out of Chicago … but I already had a round trip ticket from Kansas City to Monterey and back. And of course simply canceling my first ticket included a $200 dollar cancellation fee. Yikes!

So, instead of paying a cancellation fee, I booked a second one-way flight for about $170, and just ignored my first flight, figuring that I’d be a no-show, and everything would be fine for my return trip home, since it was already booked, and I hadn’t canceled anything. $30 bucks saved, right?


On Wednesday night (last night of Internet Librarian), I tried to check-in to my return flight. I opened up my United iPhone app, tried to check in, and received a “this trip is canceled” message. Huh? So I logged into my Expedia account, and found the same thing. Canceled.

Uh oh.

Then I called Expedia’s customer service (after hunting for their phone number – not easy to find), and explained my situation to them. They helped me book a one-way ticket back to Kansas City (my home airport).

Who knew? When I’m traveling and a flight gets delayed, I get all sorts of warnings and reminders on my iPhone. Texts and emails from Expedia and the airline, and alerts from TripIt Pro (an iPhone travel app I use), all warning me of impending doom and plane delays. United even calls me with one of those silly automated “you’ve been delayed” recordings. Multiple times.

But when you don’t show up for your flight? No calls. No texts. No emails. They “helpfully” decide to cancel everything and take all your money anyway.

Lesson learned (three plane tickets later): if your travel plans change, call the airline so they don’t cancel your return flight.

6. When you accidentally break a lamp in a hotel room, the hotel replaces it and they don’t charge you.

This was a first for me. I knocked a lamp off the table in my hotel room. The lightbulb shattered, and the fish tail statue on the fancy lamp broke in two.

Well, that’s embarrassing.

It’s especially embarrassing if, say, you sheepishly decide to prop up the broken fish tail statue on the lamp so that it looks “normal,” and hope the cleaning staff won’t notice.

It’s even more embarrassing if you decide to visit Walgreens to buy some Crazy Glue to “fix” the lamp, then get back to your room and discover that the hotel has already replaced it. Thankfully, the hotel didn’t charge me for that (’cause, you know, I’m gonna need that extra money to pay for those three plane tickets).

Lesson learned: when you break a lamp, the hotel finds out anyway and replaces it. No questions asked, no extra charges given. At least at the Monterey Marriott. Your mileage may vary. Probably a good thing to just report it to the front desk.

Do you have any weird or useful travel tips you’ve picked up along the way? Share them in the comments!

  • Walt Crawford

    Good list. Two quick notes:

    1. American’s Terminal D in Dallas (the newer squarish one) is not a bad place to spend a night, as I and several hundred other folks found out one thunderstormy summer day. As American handed out a couple of hundred foldable cots…
    2. YES, airlines automatically cancel remaining portions of an itinerary if you’re a no-show without notifying them. (I accidentally changed a red-eye such that the first leg was on the previous day. Oops. American fixed it, although it meant spending the entire day at SFO–which, with a $50 Admirals Club pass, wasn’t all that bad.) I see *why* they do it, but it’s one thing you absolutely have to watch for.

  • davidleeking

    Wow – they put out cots? That’s pretty cool.

  • Walt Crawford

    They handed them out–and sent people to get as many pillows & blankets out of the stranded planes as they could. We didn’t all wind up with cots (I slept on the floor), but AA tried its best. Texas summer lightning just shuts things down. (Also, AA’s methodology for getting us out the next morning was transparent and fair.)

  • Walt Crawford

    Which is to say: You could watch your number in the standby queue go down from flight to flight, with clearly no favoritism for very frequent flyers.

  • Sarah Houghton

    In addition to my sicky-mcsickerton advise regarding familiar cold and flu meds, I recommend bringing: tissues, tummy upset meds, allergy meds, and any prescriptions you need regularly (e.g. if you get sinus infections or dislocated joints frequently, let’s say). This applies for all trips, especially anything over 5 days. It’s so much easier to reach into your bag for Pepto-Bismol than to try to figure out where there is a pharmacy and find your way there while your tummy protests the whole way. And for all prescriptions, bring that stuff in the original container–the TSA does not take too kindly to random-looking pills floating in a plastic baggie (I learned that the hard way many years ago as I tried to explain they were not ecstasy).