Worst travel mistakes I've ever made as a speaker ... learn from me
Since we travel constantly as speakers, it's not surprising that sometimes travel goes awry. Sometimes travel goes "awry-ably horrible" ... like my most recent experience.
While we can't avoid weather and other unforeseen issues outside our control, what can be most devastating are the issues completely within our control.
This post will help you avoid some of the worst travel pitfalls I've already made over the years as a speaker. So learn from my mistakes ... so you don't make them.
I've got plenty more than the three I'm sharing with you below:
... my first "worst" travel experience was in 2007 when I forgot to book my flight to a huge college campus keynote in Kansas City, Missouri. I didn't realize my oversight until I was looking for my flight reservation the night prior to the event. I had one hour to rent a car, pack my bag, pack my dog as car companion, and drive 15 hours non-stop from North Carolina to arrive in just enough time. I arrived 30 minutes before I was to be introduced. After the keynote, I drove 15 hours back to then fly to my next gig. I returned the 2-day rental car with 2,254 miles added on. Enterprise Rent-A-Car was not happy with me ...
... my second "worst" travel experience was in 2013 when I was traveling to a Human Resources conference (SHRM). It was the largest audience I had ever spoken and the most I had ever been paid. I was flying Southwest Airlines to Kansas City, Missouri (again!) ... but I got off the plane in St. Louis - the wrong airport!
At flight check-in, they only gave me one boarding pass because my connecting flight in St. Louis was on the same plane to Kansas City. So when I landed in St. Louis, I actually thought I was in Kansas City! I didn't realize my mistake until I arrived to Enterprise Rent-A-Car ... in the wrong city.
( ... notice a city theme and car rental company theme yet?)
Luckily, upon return to the airport and dripping wet with back sweat, I finally found a Southwest ticket agent who worked magic to get me on the next departing flight. I arrived 20 minutes BEFORE I was to be introduced for that keynote presentation.
My third "worst" travel experience was just two weeks ago - hence my motivation to share this post with you.
(Btw, hopefully one of you will write me and tell me you did one of these same things so I'll feel better about myself.)
I was presenting a Monday morning conference keynote (IIA auditors state association) in North Carolina at 8:30 am. At 11:15 am, I flew to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to be the closing afternoon keynote for another IIA auditors state association. From Philly, I was renting a one-way rental car (yes, Enterprise) to drive up to Vermont to keynote for a college campus that Tuesday afternoon the next day.
Being a bit nervous and preoccupied about catching a flight in between two keynotes in one day, and getting to my third keynote in two days, I neglected to check my wallet to ensure I had my credit card. I didn't realize my mistake - accidentally leaving my credit card at home - until I arrived to Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Philly. All I had was a debit card ... which they do not accept to rent one-way cars to states like Vermont which border other countries (i.e. Canada).
I visited every single car rental company at the airport and pleaded my case. No LUV though like what Southwest was able to provide for me on mistake #2.
I exhausted every option I could think of to figure out how to get to Vermont ... a true case of planes, trains and automobiles.
Finally, the only option that would get me there in enough time was a 14-hour Greyhound bus ride with five stops from Philadelphia, PA to Montpelier, VT. The bus stopped in New York City from 2:15 am and the next bus didn't leave until 5:10 am. At the bus station, one person next to me urinated on the floor and another person vomited. It was horrible. I never slept.
When I finally arrived to Montepelier, I had to take a $100 Uber to the university. I arrived 45 minutes before I went on that campus stage. I was exhausted, frustrated, and feeling like a fool. However, 10 minutes before I was introduced I went through my regular "game time" ritual to get mentally right. By the time I was introduced, I was ready. The audience never knew and neither did the campus meeting planner.
After the evening keynote, I took a $150 Uber to the Burlington airport and arrived at 1:30 am. My flight was at 5:45 am so I just slept in the airport. The night before I cat-napped on a Greyhound bus.
When I arrived back at my home airport in North Carolina, my car battery was dead. 45 minutes later, help arrived and gave my car a jump start.
Folks, it was a profitable 2 days for me - I keynoted 3 times. However, I felt like a traveling nightmare.
Why am I sharing these cray-cray experiences with you???
.... because I have a PASSION for helping others. You see, I used to be embarrassed by my mistakes and failures. I wanted to hide them and run far, far away. But it's been through speaking that I've realized every great failure has teachable moments I can use for GOOD to help others. So puhhh-lease learn from me. Otherwise, you likely will be learning directly.
Plus, every crazy experience I have is yet another good story to share with a future audience. So expect to hear my talk about these 3 experiences in an upcoming keynote presentation sometime, somewhere :)
(1) Triple-check that you actually purchased a flight.
(2) Always know if you have a connecting flight.
(3) Quadruple-check you have a credit card, debit card, and $500 cash with you every time you travel.
... and bonus:
(4) Be very cautious of the Kansas City airport!
(5) Always use Enterprise Rent-A-Car!
You're welcome ... :)
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