msnbc.com
updated 11/20/2007 7:06:33 PM ET 2007-11-21T00:06:33

As millions of Americans take to the highways, skies and rails for the holiday, we asked our Gut Check America readers to share their worst travel nightmares, either the recurring kind found in daily gridlock or the ones that ruin vacations or spoil holidays. Here are some of their stories:

Intimate apparel everywhere!
While traveling, we had a couple layovers on our way to our final destination. In Seattle from my viewpoint I was able to see our luggage being loaded and that it was still in one piece. 

However when we went through San Fransico, apparently TSA needed to re-inspect my luggage. Whoever was inspecting my luggage was in such a hurry they zipped their buttons off their "uniform" in my luggage thus breaking my zipper. I know for a fact those were not my buttons, because who in God's name would wear silver dollar-size, red tacky buttons! 

When we landed in Texas my luggage came down the ramp and was everywhere. And I mean everywhere. It is incredibly embarrassing to gather up all your intimate items, especially when you are on your honeymoon. My husband had to go climbing up on the ramp to retrieve the rest of my personal items, because apparently no one has heard of duct tape or personally delivering the bag.

This luggage was brand new, so brand new that I even had my receipt for it in my purse. When talking to TSA at the airport they claimed it wasn't their fault and that I should file a report.  So I filed a report, documenting all the details and submitted pictures. After months of arguing and talking to the next manager or supervisor, nothing was ever resolved. ... Thanks to TSA I had to buy new luggage the morning my cruise ship was leaving just so I could continue to travel!

Now before I travel I thoroughly inspect all my luggage and I have even gone so far to take pictures before, so that way they next time my luggage will hopefully be able to be replaced. I also include a polite note on the top of my personal items saying I know that you are only doing your job and that you must work quickly but to please respect my property. I've even used to recycle the TSA fliers in my luggage making it appear I had already been searched.  Honestly I think its an uphill battle, but this is what America and the world has come to today. Sad.
— Jill Summers, Spokane, Wash.

Sopping wet on a trans-Atlantic flight
When returning from overseas after a tour of duty in England, my wife, two toddlers in diapers and myself were delayed in Germany. A 1:00 p.m. flight to DFW had mechanical problems and we were advised that we would leave by 5:00 p.m. At 7:00 p.m., they advised that we would not leave until the next day so they started the process to put us up in hotels around the area. We finally got to the hotel around 10:00 p.m. Put the kids to bed, as we had no luggage, (already on the plane) my wife hand washed our clothes and hung them up around the hotel room. We finally got to bed about midnight. At 1:30 a.m. the phone rang and they told us the plane was ready to leave and to be outside of the hotel within 30 minutes. Needless to say we got the kids up, put on wet clothes and headed to the airport. By the time we got to DFW, we were a mess.
— Mike Lewis, Dallas

Give me a break!
On board American Air Lines, Flight 1632 on Nov. 15. I boarded the plan in Phoenix heading for DFW (home). When the plane landed in Phoenix they started working on landing gear problems.  So why were we loaded on the plane to sit for 2 1/2 hours at the terminal — not even out on the runway? You bet I wanted the landing gear fixed no matter how long it took. But it was not necessary to load passengers prior to be problem being resolved.  Give me a break American!

Also, I have a luggage lock that is FAA approved. So why was my suitcase pried open? There was no note left inside my luggage to indicate it had been search by the baggage handlers, so I'm not sure if someone just rummaged through it and not finding what they wanted just sent it on. Nothing was missing, but it should not have been pried open!

I've always preferred to fly American but no more.
— Bob Trainham, Euless, Texas

You can't get there from here
Traffic in and around Seattle is so bad that most of us say "you can't get there from here."   There have been Tens of millions spent "exploring" transportation options, but so far nothing is happening. We are hampered by the bodies of water around us, but there has to be a solution. Perhaps they should put a moratorium on all the building of homes and other buildings. We are more like rats in a maze than people with lives.
— Janie Shervey, North Bend, Wash.

No, you really can't get there from here
On arriving at my United gate at the Jacksonville, Fla., airport to catch a flight to Charleston S.C., I was surprised to find the lights off and no staffers in sight. Eventually I was able to get someone from another airline to track down United to explain the situation.  About 10 minutes later a very grumpy woman in a wrinkled uniform, looking at though she'd just crawled out of bed, showed up and turned on the lights.

She assured the passengers ticketed to Chicago that they'd arrive on time because United had decided simply not to go to Charleston. Then she put down the microphone and started to walk off, her work done.   

I reminded her that some of us still wanted to go to Charleston, even if United didn't. She mumbled some suggestions about what we should be doing about it. It took some time to convince her that SHE needed to take some action and fast. (The travelling public — so demanding and unreasonable. They buy a ticket to a city and then expect the plane actually to go there.)

Back at the United ticketing counter, I asked for a mailing address for United's corporate customer relations department. The equally grumpy man behind the counter slapped a piece of paper down in front of me and kept on typing.  

The response I received weeks later from United's corporate staffers was a form letter with my name and the date scribbled into the blank spaces.  Gracious to the end.
— Shay Lynn, Centennial, Colo.

A wedding trip from hell
We had reservations on Jet Blue in February 2006 (President's Day weekend) from New York City to Virginia to attend our friends wedding.

When we woke up in the morning, I checked the flight status, and even though the weather was perfect, our flight was cancelled. ... We checked other airlines, and all the flights were booked. We checked Amtrak and there were trains to Washington, D.C., but we would have to rent a car and still drive about two hours. ...

We called the groom to let him know we didn't think we could make it to the wedding. He said that he would find us a car...on his wedding day. Half an hour later he called back and said he found us a rent a car at the Washington, D.C., train station — supposedly, one of the last cars available. ...  We tried to make an Amtrak reservation on our cell phone while taking a taxi down to Penn Station, and all the coach class tickets were sold out. We now had to pay twice as much for first class seats. Keep in mind, our original flights to Virginia on Jet Blue were $69 each way. We finally got to Amtrak to catch the train. We missed the ceremony, so we went straight to the reception. I changed in a Burger King on the side of the road. During the reception, I called our hotel to confirm our reservation, because we never stopped at the hotel before the wedding, as originally planned. They had the reservation. At the end of the night, we drove to the hotel, about 45 minutes away and were told they didn't have our reservation and they hotel was booked. It was now 1 a.m. in the morning.  After some cursing, the clerk suddenly found a smoking room for us. Not a great way to end a very long day, but we did make it to the wedding.
— Heather Bloom, New York

No exit to Tucson
We absolutely have the worst road conditions in the entire state. Our city planners find it necessary to have our entire county under construction at any given time.  Case in point: Ten exits are closed on I-10, which is our only freeway through Tucson. This makes it impossible to get to our downtown area now and the traffic backup is ridiculous! I mean why would anyone plan to have our lifeline closed off for two years! This decision has hurt our economy downtown and has worsened the traffic flow, and I NEVER thought it could have gotten worse.
— Aurie Clifford, Tucson, Ariz.

Liquids, liquids everywhere
On our family's last trip home from visiting The Mouse in Florida, I had a separate bag with our family's toiletries. It was easily slung over my shoulder and I carried it as we went from hotel to car to airport. We got to the airport and used the handy curbside luggage drop off, while making sure to keep our personal carry-ons separate.

We stood in line for 30 minutes to get through security. As we reached the front of our line, of course, they close the security checkpoint and merged us near the back of the other lines.  Finally, we put our bags on the conveyer belt and walk through. Almost immediately, the belt stops and one of the security agents holds my shoulder bag up and says "whose bag is this?"  Immediately, I realize I've violated the 3-ounce liquid container rule by a lot. I admit it's my bag and explain my stupidity. He was very kind and suggested I run back to the curbside check in and drop the bag off there, or he can rummage through it and pick out the acceptable items, but I would have to toss the rest. I send the rest of my family through security and tell them I'll be right back. I rush all the way back through the airport and out front, only to be told that since the plane would leave in less than an hour I can't drop the bag there. They suggest I see the airline's regular ticket counter, where I am soon told that I can't check any bags in within an hour of the flight's departure. So I head back toward security and stop in the ladies room, where I stand in front of the trashcan and proceed to dump the contents of the bag.  Face cleanser, toner, body lotion, face lotion, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, makeup remover, nail polish remover, after shave lotion, toothpaste, everything larger than 3 ounces gets dumped.

After I walk away, I realize that a trash can full of bottles might arouse suspician. As I head toward security, I can imagine someone alerting security, them watching the incident on some kind of security camera and tracking me down. I am expecting the tap on the shoulder as I wait in the security line again. I can see my family on the other side looking impatient. Finally, my 2-ounce bottle of perfume in the duffel bag makes it through security and I meet up with the rest of my party so we can run to the tram and make it to our gate. At this point I am practically in tears, but my family is being very understanding.  We make it to the gate with no time to spare. After we enter the plane, the flight attendant closes the door and announces to the cabin that "now that the last of our guests has arrived, we are ready to take off."  You can imagine the stares and looks and grumbles.  I spent the entire flight looking down, not daring to look anyone in the face. Needless to say, we were all ecstatic when the plane finally landed and we could just go home. Of course, I spent that afternoon at the store replacing all of my 'trashed' items.
— Andrea King, Chesapeake, Va.

Toddler or terrorist?
The Christmas after 9/11 my daughter — who was a baby at the time — and I had to fly home from Seattle to San Jose after visiting family. In the airport I changed her clothes from the warmer ones needed in Seattle to pair of light pajamas that were form fitting. I also changed her diaper so that I wouldn't have to do it in flight.

Unfortunately we were randomly selected to undergo additional screening procedures. The full impact of 9/11 on my life didn't hit me until we were at the gate and two armed security guards were holding my screaming 14-month-old baby spread-eagle on a table while they frisked her and went over her with a metal detector four times. I don't know where they thought she was hiding her explosives, but they seemed pretty certain that she was carrying something. ... The funny thing about it was that they didn't even search me that accurately. They glanced through my purse and only went over me with the metal detector once.  They didn't even frisk me. I don't think I have ever been so upset in my life.
— Rachel Sessum, Seattle

A happy ending
I needed to get to Kansas City quickly. I flew America West. The End.
James Call, Glendale, Ariz.

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