A romantic getaway. That’s one of my favorite types of travel. Nothing beats sleeping in, taking a dip together in the pool, watching sunsets with a glass of wine, and candlelit dinners. What happens though when things don’t go according to plan? For Jugo and I, our plans were flipped upside down not once but twice where we were left stranded in Europe! We call it the curse because it happened first during our honeymoon and then again a year later when we were celebrating our one-year anniversary.
Honeymoon Gone Bad
Let’s start at the beginning. Jugo and I had just landed in Rome for the first time, excited to eat a lot of pasta and taste the local wines. By evening, our taxi pulled up to our hotel in the heart of Rome. This is when things took a turn…
First, the manager couldn’t find our reservation. We were shocked because just a month before I had called to confirm and they said everything was fine. The manager investigated further and discovered just two weeks ago the booking had been canceled. We didn’t understand what was happening and how the booking could be canceled when we never canceled it. The manager offered us to use their phone. When we called the agency (hoteling.com), all we got was an automated message. We were starting to feel stressed and had a sinking feeling that something fishy was going on. Turns out, we were right.
Hoteling.com had gone bankrupt, canceled our pre-paid reservation and taken our money. We were stranded in Rome!
Stranded in Rome
Unfortunately, as it was the peak of summer, the hotel was fully booked. We’ve traveled a lot and stayed in many hotels but a situation like this had never happened to us before. The stress of it all was making me want to burst out in tears.
Crying wasn’t going to help anything though so instead, I whipped out my iPad and began searching on Booking.com for a last minute reservation. Our plan was to book just for a night so that Jugo and I would not be stranded. Tomorrow, we could find something honeymoon worthy. Within a few minutes, I found a hotel that was close by and made the booking. Feeling a bit relieved to know we wouldn’t be sleeping on the streets, we picked up our luggage and started walking to the new hotel.
At the new hotel, the employee at the front desk made a nervous look when we told him our names. He told us that they made a mistake and were in fact sold out. We couldn’t help but laugh at our situation by this point. The employee looked very sorry and offered to contact the local hotels in the area to help find us a room. It took around 20 minutes of calling around when he finally had found a room for us. He called the bellhop over who then took our bags and walked us to the hotel. We finally checked in and went for a dinner with the pasta we’d been waiting for. The wine also helped get rid of our stress from the day.
Starting the Honeymoon
Feeling better, the next day I went back online to search for a hotel for the remainder of our stay. Since it was our honeymoon, I wanted it to be nice, a place where you can feel pampered. I was able to find this at the Hotel San Anselmo.
When we arrived there, they had immediately sent up a complimentary bottle of champagne and some fresh strawberries. This was a wonderful treat. Finally, our honeymoon in Rome had started!
When we returned from our honeymoon I called my credit card company (Visa) which offers protection for these kinds of things. The process is simple. We had to submit a fax which included:
- a summary of what happened;
- the booking receipt;
- and anything else relevant to our case.
Within three weeks, we had received a reimbursement for the entire booking.
Flash forward one year later.
Jugo and I are now in Barcelona, Spain for the first time. Barcelona is a very popular destination which means prices for accommodation are extremely high (around $150-$200 for just a cheap room). This time, we decided to book with Airbnb. We decided to go with a new host on Airbnb. She had no reviews but was offering a great deal to stay.
A week before our arrival, the host sent me a request for payment. I thought this was strange since to make the booking, I already had to pay and explained this to the host. She apologized and then gave us directions to her place informing us that her father would be waiting there. After traveling 2 hours from the airport we made it to the place but the curse struck again…
The host’s place was in an apartment building. The address didn’t include an apartment number so didn’t know where to go once we reached the building. We tried calling the host but her number was out of service. Also, we sent her a couple messages through the Airbnb app. After 45 minutes of waiting around and no response, we called Airbnb. Our agent Theresa, was very nice and told us not to worry. She would try to get in touch with the host and if either of us hadn’t heard from the host in that time, she would help us. So Jugo and I walked next door to a local cafe had some beers and waited.
Stranded in Barcelona
After an hour had gone by and no response from the host, Theresa called us and told us that she canceled the reservation and that our payment would be refunded.
Again, we were stranded in Europe!
It was 8:00 P.M and we were starting to worry about being able to find a place. Theresa said that Airbnb would pay an additional $40 extra a night to help with the cost of booking last minute.
So just like last year, I went back to Booking.com and found a place for us to stay. Arriving at our hotel at 10:00 PM, Jugo and I headed straight to the closest taverna that offered tapas and sangria to forget about our latest problem.
In the end, we paid $475 to stay for three nights in a hotel in Barcelona that was about a 45-minute walk to the attractions (or 15-minute bus ride) compared to $283 for our original Airbnb booking that was in a town about an hour from Barcelona (the host had told us it was only 30 minutes away when we booked).
We’ve always enjoyed our experiences with Airbnb in the past (so much so we got married on a property listed on Airbnb) but it’s just unfortunate that we had a problem with this booking. We would have liked Airbnb to cover the full additional cost however their agent Theresa was great and she made this experience a lot easier to go through.
What we learned
- Always book hotels, flights, vacation packages with a credit card. Make sure the card has protection so that you can recover your cost if a company goes bankrupt
- We booked our hotel in Rome from Trip Advisor’s hotel search which shows you the best deals. Hoteling.com was one of the sites listed so be careful about booking through 3rd party sites. We thought since it was on Trip Advisor, it would be safe
- Always keep your receipts
- As long as you book before midnight, you can easily find accommodation on the same day. I used Booking.com both times and got great last minute deals. Some other sites I’ve used before which you can also try are: Agoda and Expedia
- Having a cell with minutes and data is very useful when you land in a new country. I don’t know what we would have done without one! You can easily buy them at the airport when you arrive.
- If you are using Airbnb, always communicate with your host through their messaging system and not by private e-mail. This will provide a trail if ever needed. If you are in trouble, call their 24/hour helpline
- Lastly, if you are left stranded without accommodation try and not let the stress get to you (yes, I know that’s easier said than done). You’ll find after a couple glasses of wine you’ll soon be able to laugh about it 🙂
Next year, we do plan to celebrate our anniversary again in another destination.
Fingers are crossed that the third times’ the charm and everything can go as planned.
Want to hear about European adventures that went according to plan?
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