Have you ever had a day when nothing is going right? Things start badly, keep going badly, and you just don’t seem to catch a break?

Travelling days are especially good candidates for this kind of snafu, since you’re often tired, jet-lagged, stressed out, and a little off-balance, having just arrived in a brand new place.

I had one of these days recently, when I flew from Reykjavic to Copenhagen, after spending four days in Iceland. Here’s what happened on that bad travel day.

Getting to the airport – Take 1

At 3:15 AM on the morning of June 30, my phone alarm rang out. I had arranged a Flybus pickup from a hotel a few minutes walk from my AirBnB accommodation to take me to Keflavik airport (the international airport serving Reykjavic). Needless to say it was a very short night: five hours of not very high-quality sleep. Fortunately, at this time of year it never gets dark in Reykjavic, so when I headed out around 3:45 AM, it was full daylight outside.

Reykjavic sky just after midnight. It was even brighter at 3 AM!

Reykjavic’s sky just after midnight. It was even brighter at 4 AM!

The Grand Hotel Reykjavic on Sigtún street is where the airport bus had dropped me off on arrival, so I knew exactly where I was going. By 4 AM, I was standing in front of the door with my luggage. The hotel and surrounding streets were very quiet, not surprising at this early hour. Around 4:15, I saw a Flybus drive by, but it didn’t stop. I was puzzled. Would it turn around? Was my bus a different one? At 4:25 I tried calling the company from my cell phone but couldn’t get through (another story). By then I had the distinct feeling that something was wrong, so I decided to go inside the hotel. The door was locked. What kind of hotel locks its front door? Unless…

Following my hunch, I walked around the side of the building until I found myself… at what was actually the front, and the massive front doors. (I suppose the name “Grand” should have given me a clue). All this time I had been waiting in front of some side doors (which, in my defence, is where the bus had dropped me off on arrival). So that was it. I had missed my airport pickup. My bad travel day had officially begun.

Getting to the airport – Take 2

I walked through the lobby thinking: “How stupid!”, “How stupid can I be?”. I told my story to the front desk attendant and pleadingly asked if he could call Flybus and see if they could come by on their next pick up. He complied, but unfortunately, they had no space until 5:30 AM. My flight was at 7:45, and it was a 45 minutes ride to the airport. I thought this would be a bit tight, so I asked him to call me a taxi. I had purposefully avoided taxis in Iceland, given how expensive the country is, but now there was no alternative. I figured if I could take a taxi only as far as the bus station, I should be able to catch the 5:00 AM Flybus that left from there.

After 10 minutes, a taxi pulled out in front of the hotel, but unfortunately he was coming to pick up somebody else. When he couldn’t find the person, he asked me to come with him anyway. Less than 10 minutes and a few kilometres later, we were at the bus station, and my wallet was lighter by the equivalent of CAD$20. I didn’t want to think about how much it would have cost to go all the way to the airport in a taxi!

3D map of Iceland at Reykjavic City Hall

Reykjavic is the large orange area and the airport is on the peninsula in the bottom right

I didn’t arrive a minute too soon, and managed to grab one of the few remaining seats on the big bus. “OK, good. I’m all set,” I thought. “Should be a breeze from here.” Of course there had to be somebody right behind me who kept coughing the whole time. Nothing I like more than a cougher behind my head in a full bus with closed windows. 🙁

Keflavik airport

We made good time, and it was 5:45 AM when I finally alighted at the airport, exactly two hours before my flight’s departure time. I was quite happy with how I had recovered from the original mishap, until I walked in.

Having a bad day?

Having a bad travel day? (Reykjavic sculpture)

Inside the terminal was complete mayhem. People were everywhere, with several lineups snaking into the distance. There was barely room to move. An attendant indicated that if I got my boarding pass from the machine, I could then line up in the shorter line to drop off my bag. Since I had already checked in online, all I had to do was print out my boarding pass and luggage tag. However, the machine had other plans. It gave me my boarding pass, but then displayed an ominous error message before it had time to spit out my luggage tag. So into the long line I had to go. And when I say long, I mean a line that coiled on itself about eight times! It took half an hour to go through. By now it was 6:30 AM and I hadn’t passed through security yet.

Fortunately, the security check went quickly. I was looking forward to finding my gate and plumping myself down for half an hour or so before boarding. Imagine my dismay to find a “gate” which was mostly standing room only – the few seats were already occupied – with no washrooms or water fountain. The half-hour wait turned into an hour as it became clear that the flight was late.

We finally boarded a bus to take us to the plane. I was really looking forward to some dozing time onboard. However, I sat in an exit row, and the seat did not recline. We left almost an hour late, and I spent the next three hours falling asleep and then immediately waking up as my chin fell to my chest. Now I know that I just can’t sleep in a straight seat.

Finally in Copenhagen

Copenhagen airport turned out to be just as crazy and busy as Keflavik. There was a lineup for the ATM machine, and I hesitated. I had managed four days in Iceland with just my credit card, and wondered if it was worth paying banks fees and waiting in line to get cash. In the end I did, and this was a very good decision, as you’re about to see.

The plan was to take the metro, but with all the different fares and passes, it wasn’t clear what I should buy from the machine. I asked an attendant who turned out to be a complete patronizing jackass, and the whole exercise was moot anyway because the machine refused to accept my credit card. So I had to walk back inside the airport and line up (again) to buy my metro ticket, in cash, from a teller.

At this point I was tired and frazzled and in a nasty mood, and really looking forward to a restful nap. I emerged from the metro in the rain in the middle of a group of homeless men, but quickly found my new AirBnB accommodation. Once inside, I discovered that I would be sharing the small apartment with a baby. (The owners had mentioned they had a daughter but omitted to specify it was an infant.) My room was OK, but the shared bathroom was the size of a closet with a shower head hanging from the wall.

Rainy Copenhagen

Rainy Copenhagen

Starving, I went out looking for food on the main street, and walked into the first café I saw. A cappuccino and a lousy half sandwich set me back CAD$15! Copenhagen is an expensive city, and food is no exception.

Back in my room, I connected to WiFi and found out that rain was in the forecast for most of my stay in Copenhagen. I opened the window to let in some fresh air while the rain had stopped, and of course that’s when the construction noise started!

What can you do?

Everyone has one of those days at some point or other. If you’re travelling solo, you have the disadvantage of not having someone nearby to commiserate, or help figure things out. (Although this could also be an advantage, depending on whom you’re travelling with.)

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Even seasoned travellers make mistakes, and being in a foreign environment makes it that much more challenging to recover. There is a reason why travel (and especially solo travel) teaches resourcefulness and builds character! The best thing to do is to get a good night sleep. As long as you’ve brought earplugs, things should look much better and less overwhelming in the morning.

Have you ever had one of those miserable travel days? Please share in the comments.

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