Goof ups during travel are inevitable and the best made plans may also go haywire. Sometimes things just happen without any ill-intention but more often it is because of the ignorance…
On our maiden trip to USA, we were confident of our habits. We knew we would not be the kind of tourists who create unnecessary nuisance, complain about every possible thing and are generally pain in ….!! We definitely did not want to let anybody think that Indians are bad visitors so we tried to follow the system as much for our month-long vacation.
Inspite of arming ourselves with all information that included driving a rental car across the country we could not prevent few silly mistakes and man, were we glad to have narrowly escaped some serious altercations with law enforcement guys !!
So here are our silly mistakes…Laugh all you want at our goof ups..but luck might not favour you always as it did us..
Mistake #1: Discharged battery translates into a lost GPS signal
My husband Aby, being a pilot swears by the GPS. I, however, am little less into using the services of an accented girly voice who confuses me with ‘Naaeee Sarrack‘ instead of ‘nai sadak‘… after all there are enough ‘bhai-sahabs‘ and ‘bhabhi jis‘ on our roads who will guide us to a shop or an address…better still one odd might even offer to direct us to the address personally if only we were willing to give them a ‘lift’ till the ‘kone ki dukan(corner shop)’or the next ‘chauraha(crossing)’
Any ways, there we were enjoying a ride, marvelling at the sprawling meadows that lingered past our car, the early fall colours that peeped through the green foliage, the huge trucks with shining chrome, cars with boats trailing behind them… our cell phone guiding us through.
Past the open lands and colourful trees
In all our wide-eyed fascination that usually affects people visiting America for the first time, we failed to check whether the charging cord was connected properly to the cell phone.
Last leg to Niagara
As we neared Niagara, it started pouring and simultaneously our phone battery drained off. Cars whizzed past us…there was no ‘bhai sahab‘ willing to stop by and help us, no auto -rickshaw walah to pull over along side our car to ask ‘kidhar jaana hai saab?‘ We kept driving, crossed the huge flyover and got LOST! A small insignificant board with words ‘Niagara lane’ pointed to our right. Since there seemed no other option, we took the turn only to find ourselves in a residential area with not a soul in sight.
We drove into someone’s driveway and after much thought decided to ring the doorbell unaware of the law against parking in stranger’s drive way. The house owners were away for the weekend and nobody answered our call. By then our phone which we re-plugged for charging showed just enough activity for us to call our hotel and ask for directions. but since we could not tell them our location properly, they could not help us!!
We sat there panicking and at our wits end… Only after half an hour or so when the cell phone revived and GPS signal was re-established then we realised that we were just few minutes away from the hotel. The rain had stopped by the time we reached our hotel but it was late evening and we missed the last boat ride to the Niagara falls, for the day.
- When travelling abroad with family, it is better to take two cell phones with GPS and keep a check on charging!
- Never park in someone’s driveway. Had the home-owner been there that day, he could have charged us with trespassing or worse shot at us if he felt threatened by our presence( I was told about such incidents later by my cousin)
- It is always better to contact local police if in trouble.
- LOVE THY GPS!!
Mistake #2: Sleeping in the rear seat
On every road trip that we took within India, our daughter used to doze off on rear seat and free herself from the seat belt to lie down on the rear seat because sleeping in a seated posture was uncomfortable. I most times ignored it…
On our second road trip from San Jose’ to Los Angeles, the various stops along the picturesque Pacific Coast highway, tired her and she dozed off again. Being an outsider in a foreign land, I had instructed her not to remove the seat belt but due to habit she did take it off.
Cruising along the pacific coast highway
And then we were stopped by an officer of Highway Patrol(full story here). After confirming our credentials he left us with a warning.
- Never ever forget to wear seatbelt even in the rear seat!
- Be HONEST and ACCEPT your mistake when dealing with police.
- Have all important documents including driver’s licence, rental papers, hotel bills and itinerary details in order when travelling abroad.
- Do NOT argue when in a tight spot.
Mistake #3: Domino effect?
This one caught us off guard. Who knew x-ray machines get fooled by a harmless playing stuff?
While in San Jose’ my cousin gifted our daughter a box of domino tiles ‘Jenga’ which stacked up make the basic column and each player has to retrieve a tile taking care not to topple the column. With our suitcases packed to their teeth, we really did not have enough space in the check-in baggage. Running out of time to reach the airport I stuffed the game in the hand baggage.
At the airport, first the self check-in machine malfunctioned and by the time the airport staff helped us we were quite late and ran for last hand-baggage clearance before boarding. While we were cleared one of our bags, obviously the one with domino tiles was held back.
People had started the boarding but we were called back. A huge security personnel in army fatigues stood along with the airport staff near the bag. Panic clutched my heart and when asked to open the bag I kept fumbling. They took all things out scanned the domino box again through the X-ray and finally with a broad smile waved us off!
- No sharp items allowed in hand baggage stands true for toys too 😦
- Keep enough extra space while packing for souvenirs, gifts or last minute purchases.
- Whatever things are not needed for immediate personal use should be sent with check-in baggage.
- Obey when asked to show contents of your baggage at check points.
Lady luck was on our side may be because we met only people who understood our predicament and were ready to help in restaurants, in airports, shops. But with our lessons learnt, I am ready for another travelling experience…
Have you made some silly mistakes on your travels? How did you escape from consequences?