I couldn't access gmail from my iPhone Safari browser because lately it's been freaking out on me and not loading, and I haven't bothered to look into solving that technically issue. I now realize I could have used the search function on my iPhone email program, but I'd never successfully used it before because every time I tried, it seemed to take forever to load, so I thought it didn't work. Frankly, that didn't even occur to me, which perhaps shows my technical ineptitude. The point is, I didn't think I could access my reservation via email on my phone.
I have a virtual assistant who helps me with reminders, proofreading, and other tasks, and has access to my email. I called her, but she was in a meeting. I called my boyfriend, who confirmed that Spirit doesn't fly out of JFK. I considered asking him to check my email, and while I trust him, that felt awkward to me, and seemed unnecessary if I just needed to get to LaGuardia. My focus shifted in a flash from anger at myself for being in the wrong place to absolute focus on getting to what I thought was the right one.
I paid $5 to exit the AirTrain, then found a TLC-approved black car (not an official yellow taxi) to take me to LaGuardia for $25, and tipped the driver $5. I was smiling when the Spirit clerk told me they allow you to check in up to half an hour before the flight; it was only 12:05 by then. But my name wasn't in the system. It was then that it started to dawn on me that my flight was very likely on Sun Country airlines, a new airline for me; I'm not sure exactly how I mixed the two up. I had flown on Spirit in February, so perhaps it was on my mind. Whatever the reason I'd gotten mixed up, I realized it was too late to figure out exactly where I should have been and that I wasn't going to make that flight, even if I'd known where it was leaving from. I immediately went into triage mode, and did call my boyfriend, who found me a 7 p.m. flight on US Airways to Minneapolis by way of Dulles in Washington, D.C. The cost for a one-way ticket was $310.60, which was a bargain compared to the other available same-day flights,, and I grabbed it since I need to be there the next day for the first day of the Minnesota State Fair (read my cheese curd-happy writeup here).
This was an expensive and easily avoidable mistake. Part of me feels very stupid for having been organized enough to leave my apartment early enough to make the flight and thinking I had everything under control, then making such a ridiculous error. But while I'm not glad I made this mistake, but I am grateful I had the money to cover the new flight, and that I didn't cry or freak out and make it worse. I've done that before, and have also spent hours and days berating myself heavily for things like missing a connecting flight because I got engrossed in a book and lost track of time. Ultimately, if you miss your flight, no matter what happens next, you'll still have missed your flight. You can't go back in time, and recognizing that fact as fast as possible means you're further along the way to figuring out a solution.
Here are 4 travel trips that you should note so you don't make the same mistake I did:
1. Always print out or write down your travel information on an actual piece of paper or in a notebook, and put that paper/notebook somewhere easily accessible in case you don't have access to your email.
2. Checking in online saves you time at checkin, will confirm the flight and airport information in your mind, and sometimes, will give you extra frequent flyer points (I've earned them in the past with JetBlue's TrueBlue program for using web checkin).
3. Someone on Twitter recommended TripIt and I've signed up for it. You can access it via iPhone or iPad app or their website, and it collects all your travel details in one space so you don't have to do the frantic searching I attempted. You just forward them your itinerary after booking your flight, and they store it. Yes, you may get a few emails from them trying to upsell you hotels, but it's worth it to have easy access to your flight details, especially if you travel so much that you may not remember airlines and times off the top of your head.
4. If you do miss a flight, or realize you may miss your flight, contact your airline ASAP. They may be able to rebook you or allow you to recoup some of the cost. If I had checked in on my Sun Country flight online, and for some reason still gone to the wrong airport, I very likely could have saved myself some money. According to their website, if you have checked in, you can contact them "prior to or within two hours of flight departure to retain the value of your ticket."
One extra tip that applies to more than just travel: don't panic. Staying calm will buy you time and emotional well being. I've missed flights before and sometimes have been able to fly standby on the next one for free, while other times have had to pay small or large fees. Being able to handily access your flight information will help you negotiate any changes you need to make.
In the next few months, I'll be flying to Long Beach, Dubai, Little Rock, Houston, Austin and Scottsdale. I love traveling, and don't have any plans to stop, but I promised myself as I waited so many hours I wound up buying a copy of Garden & Gun even though I'm not the target audience in any way that from now on, I will travel smarter.