Here’s a tour travel story that happened to me last month when I was playing for the ArtRock V festival with my band Mystery, a nice progressive rock festival in Germany.
Touring is not always easy. Well, it’s never easy on the body. Especially when you do a lightning fast trip in Europe from Canada during one weekend just to play in one festival. Three days of trip for one show. 7 hours of plane each time + a lot of waiting and driving… this is crazy! You don’t have the time to adjust to the jetlag, nor have you the time to sleep enough at all. The kind of sacrifices you make to have the opportunity to play internationally… and it’s well worth it!
After our show in the last day of the festival, we stayed to chat with the fans for several hours and slowly packed our van. We went to the hotel and could barely sleep a couple hours before a 3 hours’ drive back to Frankfurt airport. We were in ‘’Reichenbach im Vogtland’’, which is pretty much in the east of Germany near Czechia. Since we were very tired, we opted to sleep two more hours and leave at 2 am instead of midnight. Our plane was at 10 am, so we still had 8 hours which was plenty of time (3 hours driving to Frankfurt Airport and 5 hours waiting at the airport). So we got up at 2 am and embarked on our van that was packed like this:
We entered our destination, Frankfurt, on our GPS. We went to fill up the gas tank, took some coffees to go and went on for our 3 hours drive. I can say to you that what people are saying on the Autobahn in Germany is kind of true… no speed limit! We were seeing cars in the left lane that were driving almost to 140 mph! Totally crazy!
After two and almost three hours driving, we heard our GPS saying: ‘’turn right after 250 metres’’. We then embarked on a little country road that we didn’t remember seeing when we first came three days ago. We started to get a little bit worried. We stopped on the side of the road and checked our GPS. We were right to be worried. Check this map:
As you can see, there are two cities named Frankfurt in Germany and our GPS brought us to the wrong one. Total opposite direction. We were almost in Berlin! Now our plane was taking off in 5 hours and we had a… 5 hours drive to get to Frankfurt Airport!
Everyone started panicking. Some band members were realistic and told the others that it was technically impossible to get to the plane. Some others were very optimistic and said that if we drove faster, there was a way to get there just in time and delay the plane. Either way, you could feel the tense.
We called our flying company to tell them there was a good chance we would miss our flight. We tried to find other solutions. We were very close to Berlin, maybe we could take a flight there? After 30 minutes talking to them, they went to the conclusion that there was nothing we could do to go back to Canada the same day. They even told us all the flights back to Montreal were booked for the next week! We now had 1h to call them back and take the decision to cancel our flight and get 250$ back on our tickets (which is not a lot).
During that one hour we drove even faster up to 110mph, but our little van started to have difficulties. We could not even stop to change the driver or go to the bathroom. This was intense. We were checking the prices for last minute tickets for the next day… 1700$ per person. We are six musicians in the band. If you do the maths, this makes: 10 000$ for the band. TEN GRANDS!!! This was not possible. Losing that much money was not an option. How could one little GPS mistake could get us into such trouble, into such a debt? This was horrible.
After one hour, we decided to call the company and at least get our 250$ back. What a shame. We asked to talk to their boss or at least someone higher to try to find a solution. This was our last resort. He said that he finally found some places in the plane for the next day and offered us a 300$ fee per person for readjusting our tickets. Wow! This is not the best conclusion, but losing 2000$ compared to 10 000$ was much better in the situation.
We finally stopped driving on the side of the road. I rarely lived a more stressful situation, but it was over. We could finally go to the bathroom, take something to eat and started to call our family and people that were picking us up at the Montreal airport to tell them not to pick us up because we missed our flight. We even saw a strange upside-down restaurant.
We booked another hotel near the airport and slept almost all day. It was a lot of trouble for everyone. I had to cancel my lift to the airport, call my job and cancel my guitar lessons at home that were supposed to be the next day.
We finally took the plane the next day and flew back to Montreal. But you know what was the most frustrating thing? They told us at first there were no solutions and that the planes were overbooked for the next week. But in fact, there were LOTS of places in the plane. We were sitting all six next to each other. When there was a baby crying, the attendant told us: ‘’If it’s bothering you, you can sit on the back on the plane after take off, there are a lot of free seats’’. What?! Clearly there were not a third of the people who cancelled their flight last minute. They wanted us to pay 10 000$ for new tickets instead of giving us real solutions to help us, until they got no choice. Disgusting!
Now that’s it’s been a month, we can start laughing about it! But we now know that even 8 hours in advance is not enough time to get to an airport. Next time, we’re going to double the time and leave 16 hours in advance, just to make sure.
Do you have awful travelling stories to tell us too? I’m curious 🙂