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When the Adventure Unravels

Updated: Dec 26, 2022

stranded in boston, finding safety in boston, travel stress, travel frustrations, unpredictable travel events, getting to safety
This was me after a stressful few hours, finally and safely headed to a hotel for the night

You plan. You research. You read reviews. You start weeks, months, or even years ahead planning your next big adventure. You are so excited, that you start packing a few days ahead of time. You might even pack for every season or every possible scenario that happens. Maybe you overpack. You tell your friends. Your family. Where you are going. What you are doing. You hire a pet sitter. A house sitter. You get travel insurance. You do ALL the things. But then somehow, some way, some little mishap, issue, delay, or even disaster slips by all your contingency planning. And then what? And in my case, my most recent adventure involved a cancellation by the accommodating "hosted stay", leaving me stranded in Boston and having to figure out, what now?

In my last post, Plan, Do, and Review, I briefly discussed random, unfortunate, and frustrating experiences that have happened to me in my adventures along the way and some strategies I have used to cope and get through them. Now I am wondering if I should start a series on this. What to do if there is a flight delay. What to do if your flight cancels altogether. Preventive planning for potential disasters back home. Or when your host cancels your stay. All of the above has happened to me, despite my planning, or should I say my over planning personality.

As much as I love spontaneity and as much as I love to not think of life in terms of worst-case scenarios, unfortunately, my scenarios are not just made up in my head. My planning tendencies and my personality style have been shaped by such scenarios. Death, disaster, losing things, disappointments, rejections, betrayal, dishonesty, pick-pockets, theft, and the list could go on ranging from mild, moderate, severe to catastrophic. So no, my anxiety and my personality style are not a result of made-up scenarios that have never happened. They have happened, and each time something happens, I just add it to my list of contingency planning for my next life decision or adventure.

But for this post, let's talk about my accommodations being abruptly canceled without warning, how I coped, what I did, and recommendations for you should you find yourself in a position in which accommodations are canceled. Because despite your best planning efforts, there are some circumstances you will be unable to control or predict, and what other people do and the choices they make, are among some of those circumstances.

In February of this year, I pre-booked an apartment stay in the city of Boston through a third-party site for dates in June. And if you know how third-party sites work, they are not the owners of your accommodations. It's just a booking platform. After you book, you are then put in touch with the owners of your accommodations, whether it is the hotel or a private owner of a hosted stay. In this case, it was supposedly a company who manages various types of lodging, and one of them being an apartment style stay instead of a hotel. Although I will not use space in my blog post to namedrop the actual company that owns the property, you can read my public review here.

Nearly $1500.00 had been charged to my card back in February of 2022 by the company managing the property for my booking. The site I used to book is a popular site, one I have used for years. The reviews on this site about this property were positive. I have booked a hosted stay through this site before, though it is not this site's specialty, as they generally list hotels, however, they have started listing homes, rooms, and apartments by private owners or companies who own them. I had no question in my mind as I have never had a negative experience before. I had done my research, checked off the boxes, paid the fees, and all was set, right?

A few days before I was scheduled to check in, I was beginning to get anxious. I had not yet received any reminder emails that I usually receive a few days before checking into a property. I tend to notice when something isn't following a usual pattern or routine, and this was a situation that was giving me red flags. I dismissed it and assumed I was overthinking. A couple of days before check-in, I tried reaching out to determine when I might receive check-in instructions for the property I booked. I received a response stating that I would receive those instructions on the day of check-in when the property is vacant and that timing is used as a safety measure.

Okay, I thought. I gave them the benefit of the doubt. The property is in Boston. Maybe they have had something negative happen before. Maybe they were truly looking out for the safety of the current tenants, the cleaning personnel, etc. But something just didn't feel right. I again dismissed it.

Excitement about flying, I love to fly, flying to Boston, airport excitement, travel addict
The giddy excitement of flying to Boston, not knowing what was going to happen later that day

The morning of check-in came in, and my flight to Boston was to land around 9:30 A.M. I had hoped I could either check in early or store my luggage. But something told me this property was not going to be open to this idea so I planned to store my luggage at South Station and kill time in Boston while waiting for check-in. As the morning dragged on, I still had not received instructions. Again, I emailed them to find out at least the time that I would receive those instructions so I could prepare. I received the same type of email back, not giving me a time. By now, it was mid-day. Previously, when booking a "hosted-stay," I would have received instructions by now. In fact, I often receive instructions a day or two before, though I can understand why some wait until the day of check-in. And though I wanted to give this property the benefit of the doubt, my intuition was screaming that something isn't right.

I sent yet another email asking again for them to tell me what time I would receive these instructions, and while I understood their concern, I needed to plan accordingly due to storing my luggage. I asked if I would be receiving instructions exactly at 3:00 pm, the check-in time. By now, it was 2:30. They responded stating that someone would contact me at 3:00 pm. to give me instructions.

Meanwhile, I began to run through scenarios in my head, trying not to panic. What if they actually cancel? What if this is a scam? I tried to ease my mind and not jump to conclusions, but something just didn't feel right. I visited the third-party site to read recent reviews of the accommodations, in hopes to find new or comforting information. What I did read, was this property tends to delay giving out the information to their tenants. One reviewer stated that when they finally received their check-in instructions, the property had been left unlocked and it wasn't even the address that is listed on the third-party site. This reviewer had even expressed concern they, too, were not going to be able to check-in, but eventually, it all worked out and was fine. I hit "like" on that review indicating that it was helpful. No sooner than 30 seconds when I hit like on that review, five minutes before check-in time, I received a text from the property stating that my accommodations have been canceled. WTF?

City metro, Boston metro, MBTA, Boston transportation, hanging out at the subway
Reacquainting myself with Boston's metro system. It was a hot, tiring day.

At the time I received this text, I was on the train/subway killing time around Boston, trying to make my way back to South Station to pick up my luggage. But this news sent me into a shaky panic. That day in Boston was abnormally hot, and I was not dressed for warm weather. Having been to Boston before, I was dressed for possibly cooler-than-what-I-am-used-to-weather, and maybe windy. But it was hot. It had also been several years since I had been to Boston, and though I had somewhat of an idea where I was, how to read the subway map, and how to get from point A to point B, the panic had set in and my brain was a foggy mess. Who do I call? Do I call the property owner? The third-party site? My bank? My friend, who is supposed to fly in tomorrow? What if I am late picking up my luggage? Where do I stay? Where do I spend my energy first? Where am I right now? What do I do? When will I receive my money back? How will I pay for accommodations again? All these questions flooded my mind, and I honestly wasn't sure where to start.

I imagined sleeping in the subway station. I imagined sleeping on a train. I imagined not getting my luggage in time. I imagined picking up my luggage and having to carry it around with me everywhere. I imagined canceling the trip altogether and flying home. I imagined all these scenarios, and with my shaky hands, I attempted to call all the parties involved in this transaction.

I could not get a hold of a live person with the property. I called several numbers, several times, to no avail.

I could not get a hold of a live person with my bank. In fact, their system could not seem to register my banking information, and I was going around and around on the automated system which led to nowhere.

I also found it difficult to get through to the third-party site that manages the booking. I was on hold for several minutes. They required my reservation and pin number after each prompt on the automated system, which required me to have to keep going back to the screen and then to the keypad, causing the system to time out each time. I finally memorized the information so I didn't have to keep playing musical screens.

While trying to complete the above tasks, I repeatedly missed my stops on the subway in order to change trains to get to South Station. I also was keenly aware that onlookers could tell that I was overheated, frustrated, and about to cry. I wondered if I was being filmed by someone who enjoys posting videos of people in distress in order to get views on their Tik Tok account. Rather than assist, it does seem that people would just rather film you in distress these days.

I finally got off at a train stop and surveyed the subway map to plan my route back to South Station. Time was ticking away. I had to stop spending my energy making phone calls that weren't going anywhere so I could focus on getting my luggage out of storage. From there, the plan was to find a cool, quiet, place at South Station and focus on what to do next-- ultimately, figure out where to stay tonight--or the rest of the week for that matter.

I finally made it to South Station, and eventually to the luggage storage at precisely 4:00 pm. There was a chance they were gone home for the day. I was previously told to pick up my luggage at 3:30-4:00 pm, so it was a shot in the dark. I somehow managed to make it as they were closing up. The gentlemen there were very kind and comforting--something much needed and increasingly difficult to find anymore.

After finding a place to sit at South Station, and taking time to cool off in the air conditioning, I attempted to ground myself from the panic that was trying to take over. I desperately wanted to cry. I was embarrassed this was happening to me. Shame and negative self-talk from countless negative experiences were surrounding me. Why does bad luck follow me wherever I go? Can't something just go smoothly for once? I didn't want to post about this on social media because of the shame. It seemed it must be me, right? People often comment, "you have the worst luck," and honestly, I am tired of this impression that I appear to give others.

As I sat on a bench at South Station, with my luggage, and nowhere to go, I absorbed the sights and sounds and smells of where I was and attempted to comfort my weary and frightened soul. The statements and questions below are not necessarily in the order in which they occurred because my brain was a flurry of activity happening all at once.

Happy to be in Boston, I love Boston, Boston is my favorite city, 3rd time in Boston
After landing and dropping off my luggage, but before I found out my accommodations had been cancelled

You are in Boston. You have been here before. This is one of your favorite cities. You are somewhat familiar with where you are. You have stayed in this area before. Where did you stay before? What were the names of those towns? Those hotels? Look them up online. No availability? Okay, call them. Maybe somebody canceled and they haven't listed their availability online. Where have you wanted to stay? Salem? Okay, try Salem. What are some places in Salem that look interesting? So, you don't have an apartment in the city now, but what would be the next best thing? Where are places that at least have access to the train? What are the financial resources you can pull from? Call your friend that you had split the lodging and let her know what happened. What are some financial obligations you can delay until you get this sorted out? Okay, make arrangements for those so you don't have funds deducted from your account this week. Call the third-party site. Maybe they can assist you in finding a place? Look up old emails from the reservations that you stayed in before so you can call that hotel.

The Hawthorne Hotel, Salem, Massachusetts, Historical Hotels, Historical towns
Happy to arrive at The Hawthorne Hotel, my replacement accommocations

Out of all those questions and options in trying to find a place for the night or week, what ended up helping was, calling a hotel in Salem that I had considered before that was not available previously, just to see if they had availability and they actually did. I cannot commend them enough. The staff at The Hawthorne Hotel were amazing at combing their records to see where they can fit me for the night and what availability they might have the rest of the week. It involved a change in rooms and just three nights instead of the full week, but I felt I could finally let out the breath I had been holding in because I at least had a place to stay for the night.

The next idea that worked, was booking a hotel in a town where I stayed before, in Wakefield, Massachusetts, that had access to the train to and from Boston. Though the actual hotel where I had stayed years ago, did not have availability, another hotel in the same town did. Finally, I was able to book the remainder of the week. I shuffled funds around, delayed some financial obligations, contacted my friend, and notified her of the situation, and she also sent funds for her share of the lodging. though I wish she didn't have to deal with this either. I was glad that I was there a day before so I could sort it out for her and we weren't both stranded on the same night.

There is so much more I could go into, about what didn't work and what wasn't helpful, but for the sake of time and space, I want to highlight what was helpful.

  1. Get to safety: If you find yourself in this situation, in which your booking is canceled without warning, do not waste your time and energy contacting the parties involved first. It seems counterintuitive, but it takes up a lot of time and mental space that often leads to frustrating automated systems and no live person. Instead, focus on your current surroundings and how to get from point A to point B safely, so you can ground yourself and think clearly.

  2. Ground yourself: Once you get to safety, take five minutes. Just five minutes, or more, if needed, to think about where you are. Remind yourself that you are safe and there are options. Those options will not reveal themselves to you if you are flustered and foggy. So, take five minutes for the fog to clear.

  3. Arrange resources: If you need to transfer funds, transfer funds. If you need to stop any deductions from your bank account to get you through this, stop those deductions. If you need to call a friend or family member for financial help or contact the person that might be sharing expenses with you, then make those calls.

  4. Explore available options: Have you been here before? What is familiar to you? Call hotels directly. Do not waste time trying to book online. Availability is not likely accurate. Look for areas nearby or access to transportation and make old-fashioned phone calls. There will be something. It may not be what you originally planned, but there will be something. Consider what safe hostels might be available. At least that gives you something for the night. I experienced my first hostel stay in 2019 when stranded in NYC after my connecting flight to Montreal was canceled at midnight. Though the circumstances were not ideal, the stay turned out to be a positive experience.

  5. Pay attention to the hunger or thirst signs your body is giving you. Even if you are on a time schedule, take time to nourish your body, especially with water. You will not be able to think clearly if you are dehydrated or your blood sugar drops. This step needs to be evaluated at every stage.

The above is just a few of the main steps I took in managing this particular unpredictable situation. There are many variables that will be different for different people. For instance, in this case, I was solo-traveling, so I didn't have someone with me that day to brainstorm and sort the situation out. Though my friend was due to fly in the next day, for that day alone, it was just me to figure out everything. Some of you may have friends or family with you which might make the process a little less confusing and chaotic. Some of you may be solo-traveling in a completely new region which may make the circumstances more confusing and chaotic than what I was experiencing because I had actually been to Boston before.

Now that I know that accommodations are capable of canceling on you, the steps my planning in the future will involve:

  1. Researching accommodations through Trip Advisor. Although I have used Trip Advisor in the past, I have come to rely on the reviews through the booking sites. However, the booking sites only list completed stays. There is no way for someone to review lodging that has not been completed. Therefore those reviews are inflated. Trip Advisor will likely have information for those times in which a property has canceled on the guest. I didn't think of this until after the fact. When I read the reviews of the company that charged my card, the same type of situation was coming up repeatedly. The property location I had booked was not the only property location they had canceled on guests.

  2. When using a third-party site, pay attention to how they list their accommodations on the site, what emails are sent to you, and who charges your card. While I understand that DBA's (Doing Business As) are common, in this case, it was suspicious, that the name of the property on the third-party site, was different than the name and address of the business that was sending me emails, versus the name and address of the business that charged my card. Follow up to be sure you can get a live person. Read the fine print. Are there different area codes, and states? I will no longer be booking properties that have this level of business confusion.

  3. While I am a huge advocate of traveling on a budget, and I have traveled in the past on a bare-bones bank account, if you are planning a big adventure, put money aside for trip disruptions and cancellations. Place extra funds in a bank account that is commonly known in most areas so that if needed, you can easily transfer or withdraw funds. You might prefer your local or regional bank, but consider using a backup bank or two that is well known across the country.

  4. Obtain your own travel insurance. If you book flights through a third-party site, do not buy the insurance listed on the third-party site. Buy the travel insurance directly through the company that offers it. I bought travel insurance through the third-party site where I booked my flight. Unfortunately, because of that, the insurance only covers the disruptions with the flight. Had I purchased travel insurance through the insurer directly, my additional expenses related to the accommodations would have been covered. From now on, my travel insurance will be purchased directly through the travel insurance company. It is a small expense to pay for such unpredictable situations and an expense that has paid off for me in times past.

If you have had any crazy experiences with travel, please share them in the comments below. I would love to know what happened and what you did to get through it and what contingency planning you now put into place because of it. Let's all learn from each other's mishaps!

The view from the 6th floor of The Hawthorne Hotel, Salem, Massachusetts, Sunset over Salem, view of Salem Witch Museum
It all worked out in the most beautiful way. Serendipity

All this being said, my trip to Boston turned out to be amazing and I will be writing more about it in future posts.

If you haven't already, subscribe to my newly established YouTube Channel. I have posted this information in a traveler beware video, in which I reveal the name of the company, who I do believe are scammers. Additionally, the channel will include videos of travel experiences and travel ASMR. I look forward to seeing you there!

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