It’s Only Change in Pockets

by Nancy Bestor

h2This statement is going to surprise no one, but things don’t always work out the way I want them to. Life isn’t free of hiccups and mishaps, and neither is travel. Our most recent family spring break in Hawaii was relaxing and full of beautiful vistas and fabulous whale sightings, something Maui is renowned for. It also, however, included a lost rental car key, which might sound like a minor ordeal, and in the grand scheme of things, is a minor ordeal. It did, however take many, many hours to resolve, and many, many dollars as well. Here’s how it went down.

It was our first full day in Hawaii, and we got a fairly early start to Kapalua Beach on Kapalua Bay, a tranquil site with gentle waves for swimming, stunning fish close to shore for snorkeling, and perfect temperatures for sitting on the beach sunning and reading. We enjoyed all of those things for several hours, and when it was time to head out for lunch, we gathered our many belongings and began walking back to our rental car. It quickly became apparent, however, that one “key” belonging was missing, the rental car key. We retraced our steps, emptied all our bags, and looked everywhere we thought we had been, but the old saying “looking for a needle in a haystack” could not have been more fitting for this situation. We were looking for a single car key, on a sandy beach, where hundreds of people were coming and going. You might say it would be next to impossible to find anything you had dropped, let alone a single car key. So we called Avis to ask for their help in getting us a new key.

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The Avis rental car agency is about 50 minutes away from where we were “stranded,” and the Avis office had not been particularly quick when we picked up our car the day before. (It was taking 1-2 hours for customers to get their cars.) But things move really slowly in Hawaii. So what we thought might take 2-3 hours ended up taking about five.  Sadly, Avis couldn’t just bring us a new key for our rental car. They had to call for a local tow truck company to drive a tow truck to the airport rental agency, put a new car on a flatbed truck, bring it to us, and take our car back to the agency on the same flatbed truck.

There are so, so many worse places that we could have been stranded. We were fortunate enough to be on a beautiful beach, with all the gear one might want along when hanging out at the beach. After a walk to the grocery store, we even had enough food to sustain us.  And we had a phone with us, so we were able to stay on the beach until the driver called to tell us he was close by.

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By far the hardest part of this mishap was arriving back in Ashland, Oregon to a letter from Avis notifying us that our lost key had cost us an additional (gulp) $400, which was almost double the price of the rental car for one week. Our car rental insurance clearly stated that it did not cover any costs in situations such as these, so we had no help there.

It’s hard to believe that’s really what it cost Avis, but we had no other options, save for renting a metal detector. So yes, this didn’t really work out the way I wanted it to, but I didn’t lose any sleep over it. There are far bigger mishaps that can happen in travel and in life as well. This was just a bump (albeit an expensive one) in the road.

Well Dark Clouds Are Rollin’ In

by Nancy Bestor

Last month, when returning from a week long vacation in the Caribbean, my family’s final flight home from San Francisco to Medford, Oregon was canceled. This was after we had already been traveling for nearly 24 hours. The weather in San Francisco was rainy, and there was a light fog outside of the airport, but I’ve seen much worse weather, so it came as quite a surprise to me when United first delayed and then canceled our 10am flight.
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Once we realized what had happened, Bob and I quickly went to the United customer service counter to see what could be done for us. The United agent informed us that due to the weather, our plane (one of the small jet-propelled types that flies in and out of Medford) could not land in San Francisco, which was the reason our flight was cancelled. There were two more flights for Medford scheduled that day, so she put us on the stand-by list. We were numbers 4-7 on the list however, and knowing that the small planes only seat 25ish, we figured our chances of getting on the flight were slim. The agent said those flights also had a high likelihood of being canceled, and she could not confirm seats out for us to Medford until Monday, two days later, on another airline. Finally, she told us since the delay was weather related, United would not offer us any hotel or meal compensation.

We really needed to get home on Saturday, as our oldest daughter had a ride scheduled from Medford back to college in Corvallis (go Beavers!) on Sunday morning. We could take a chance on getting four stand-by seats later in the day, on a plane that may or may not have been able to arrive in San Francisco, or we could cut our losses and rent a one-way car. We cut our losses.
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We booked the car from our iPad while we were walking to the car rental agency in the airport. I had learned this lesson after friends of ours were stuck in a similar situation in Seattle, and the people in line in front of them booked the last one-way rental car available at the airport. Ours wasn’t cheap. The one-way rental cost $225. And we had to drive five plus hours, AND return the rental car to the airport. But our options were pretty limited at that point. By the time we drove our rental car out of the airport parking lot, several other United passengers who had been milling about our gate were in line to pick up cars too.

I can’t fault United Airlines in this situation (I know, shocking, right?). United really was doing all it could to get us home, there just weren’t any planes to do it. I can’t even fault them for not offering us hotel or meal compensation. San Francisco is an iffy city for weather. If they offered compensation every time a plane was delayed or canceled due to weather, they would likely not be in business.

The bottom line is this was an unfortunate situation that was out of every human’s control. We spent an additional $225 on our trip, and five hours in the car, but we made it home on Saturday, only several hours later than we would have made it home had our 10:00 am flight left on time. Travel doesn’t always work out the way you plan it. But then again, neither does life.