When a Layover Goes Bad

As far as I’m concerned, my trip’s adventure begins the second I arrive at the airport. There’s just something about being in a bustling airport, especially in Las Vegas with its rows of (usually occupied no matter the time of day) slot machines, that makes me feel like anything is possible. And hey, it usually is. But sometimes, you end up spending a bit more time in transit than you’d like. After years and years of tears and calls to Mom and lost luggage and who knows what else, I’ve accepted that when you travel as much as I do, these things happen.

So when my Buenos Aires travel buddy, Kirsten, (this is us in Argentina after a good night’s rest) and I got stuck with a whopping 24 hours in the Atlanta airport, we took it in stride.

Hey, we hadn’t seen each other in a few months, so anything we did would’ve been fun. And what’s not to love about a surprise stay at the local Comfort Inn? Argentina could wait!

The original plan

Kirsten leaves for Atlanta from Charlotte very late-night Monday night and waits all day for me in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, I catch a noon flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta.

We meet in Atlanta, eat a nice dinner, and get a good night’s sleep on the overnight flight to Buenos Aires.

Arrive in Argentina fresh and ready-to-go.


What ended up happening

Almost to Atlanta, I glanced up at the little airplane flying across the moving map on my individual screen and to my absolute surprise, it was doing a U-turn. I looked up, as two flight attendants were rushing to their seats, the pilot’s voice crackling over the speaker: “Please sit down, everybody. We have a radar malfunction and will be landing in Memphis.”


After a few hours sitting on the Memphis runway, we do finally take off again and land in Atlanta… An hour after our flight took off for Argentina. Kirsten waited for me (such a good friend!), so I tore through the terminals on the search for a) my travel buddy b) food (12 hours of traveling, and all I’d had was a tiny bag of pretzels) and c) the Delta counter to figure out where we’d be sleeping.

Did you know that the Atlanta airport all but shuts down by nine pm? I raced to my favorite hotspot, One Flew South, where I’ve spent many too many hours to count. As always, the bartender turned out to be a saint. The kitchen was closed, but they’d make me some sushi and Kirsten some plain rice. Saved! I ran to get Kirsten, ran back to the bar, ate, took down some wine… all while eyeing the Delta counter. God help us if that closed on us, too.

Within an hour, we’d bought cheesy Atlanta T-shirts to sleep in (us, modeling them above) and were on our shuttle to the super-posh, luxurious … Comfort Inn. And lucky for us, its La Fiesta Mexican restaurant was open until 10:30! We’ve never laughed so hard, drinking awful margaritas in our ridiculous Atlanta T-shirts.

Delta gave me $18 worth of food vouchers for 24 hours, which amounted to exactly one round of white wine the next evening back at One Flew South.

Thirty-six hours later, both travelers and sets of luggage arrived safe and sound in Buenos Aires, the real adventure about to begin!

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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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  1. I feel like the start of our trip should have been an omen to me re: how the rest of the trip would be. But what made it all bearable, and in the end amazing, was having you as a travel buddy. I love us!!!!!

  2. At least you made the best of it… long story, but I ended up missing my flight home to Toronto from BA, after a 10 hour layover in Mexico City… I spent my time crying and yelling at people HAHA… I’m classy

  3. @Kirsten I TOTALLY love us!! And for a few nights, our hours at La Fiesta were some of my happiest times haha. Then we got rolling — loved BsA!

    @Lindsay Oh, trust me, I’ve had plenty of those times, too. That’s how I learned to roll with it!

  4. Great story! No matter how many wrenchs get thrown in your travel plans, it always works out in the end…

  5. ahh the dreaded hotel airport! last time i stayed in one i cried for an hour straight at the easy jet counter. clearly i have not yet learned the “rolling with it” lesson! and ps u girls are really working those atlanta shirts!

  6. It is sad that we consider ourselves lucky when we actually get free accommodation and food vouchers when our flights are canceled or delayed.

  7. There was no way I was sleeping in that airport — but those teensy vouchers were RIDICULOUS. You can’t even eat at McDonald’s for that! So we cheers to our free glasses of wine instead, like they bought us a round.

    @Jenny I think it helped ward off tears that we weren’t missing anything, save one more day of our trip.

  8. That’s the fun part about travel. You never know what to expect. Think of the fond memories you will have now. Sounds like a great trip was had by you and your friend 🙂

  9. Haha yes, Joallore! I don’t even know where to begin on posting the actual trip. So much to write about!

  10. Isn’t airline travel so glam? If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that a clean change of clothes in your carry-on is always a good idea. Stuff like this is never fun, but at least you usually get a good story – and in your case an oh-so-fashionable t-shirt – out of it.

  11. Wow – she missed her flight for you?! She MUST like you! As for the crappy margaritas and shirts, I think that memories like those will stay with you for a while.

  12. Whew — that’s a long layover. But sounds like you made the best of it. Good to be spending time with a good friend, especially one so nice to miss her flight for you!

  13. Haha yes, the opposite of glam, Emily! But friends make the most of it, right? Besides, it was like a tourist destination to a part of Atlanta I’d NEVER normally see, wearing something I’d NEVER ordinarily wear 😉

  14. No one ever said the actual act of traveling was easy … but then again, isn’t that what makes it fun? Love the Atlanta shirts, by the way.

  15. And to think that you were emailing me with your Blackberry after missing the flight… good thing you took it all with style!

  16. @JoAnna Totally! The longer the flight, sometimes the farther away I feel like I’m going. Even if that’s ridiculous…

    @Federico That’s funny — and I’ll bet that’s the only time the word “style” is used in conjunction with this post!

  17. I love the t-shirts. If I ever had a nightmare layover I would want to share it with you.

  18. Awwwww!! Agreed — we’d find some fun trouble for sure!

  19. What an awesome story. And what are the odds? Two people stuck in transit together, both nice, and with great attitudes. But, wow… what a day 😉

  20. Oh, H-J. Such a good lil’ airport. 😉 I didn’t like it when I had stopovers there, and def did not like it when it was my home airport. But, that sounds like a good time — and making the best of a situation is always more fun when you have a good travel buddy with you!! 🙂

  21. I love how you turned something annoying into something fun and the Atlanta t-shirts will be such a fun reminder, but an $18 food allowance for 24 hours? Shame on Delta. Have fun in Buenos Aires.

  22. Kirsten was such a good friend to wait for you! Looks like you ladies made the most of it!

  23. Sounds like you managed to find the silver lining in the misadventure! Looking forward to more travel tales from Buenos Aires!

  24. When I started reading I thought omg, I totally know how this feels. When I ended reading I thought, wow that sounds a lot of fun!

    I like your attitude and I can imagine how the rest of your trip was.

  25. I’d title this “When a Layover Goes Awesome”–you seemed to handle this far better than many others would! Glad you could turn the bad into the hilarious with a good friend by your side.

  26. Haha Lauren, I love it!!

  27. I got stuck in Atlanta when a Delta flight to Mexico went bad and they put me in that same Comfort Inn! I was supposed to be in Mexico, instead I had imitation Mexican at a crappy hotel in Atlanta!

  28. Rease, that’s hilarious!! Wasn’t that restaurant awful? We just had to laugh — eating Mexican at a Comfort Inn in Atlanta…

  29. Glad you 2 had each other! I will always remember the moment I got an email from you in air saying that you were making an emergency landing…

  30. Oh, man- I’ve been stuck in the ATL airport too and can totally understand your pain. Good idea about getting a drink! Glad to know you made it on finally and had a good time!

  31. What a great way to turn a crappy situation into a fun one!

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