Always check your tickets

Hypothetical Situation:
I am on my way down to Italy. Having enjoyed the first leg of my journey from Prague to Vienna, I am looking forward to some well deserved rest from Vienna to Rome in my reserved bed in the sleeper car. I get inside the car and find my reserved bed occupied by some strange Albanian man who is just settling down. I think that I must have the wrong bed..I look on my ticket to find that I have the right bed, but the wrong month. Oh yes…my tickets that I bought a month ago were for October 15th instead of November 15th.

This could have been me. It could be you too if you don’t check your tickets ahead of time.

Lucky for me, I made the executive decision last week to alter my travel plans. I thought that all I would need to do would be to go down to the train station and have my tickets changed to the new dates.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the train station scares me. It’s big and it’s confusing and I would much rather prefer to just do all of it online. Unfortunately I couldn’t do that and had to go down in person. Of course, with experience on my side, I went straight to the correct window. In broken english, the woman at the counter told me that I couldn’t change my reservation after the reservation date. I informed her that it was before the reservation, and she held up her side of the story. There was a bit of back and forth until she took the tickets that I had handed her and put her finger underneath the date.

I had purchased the tickets on October 13th. At some time during that mess of a day, my travel plans had somehow gone from being communicated as November 15 to October 15. Being so overjoyed to actually get the tickets on that day, I never bothered to double check the tickets.

As soon as I realized that she was, in fact, correct about the dates, I humbly apologized and took my tickets and sat down in the middle of the train station. I sat and stared. I could not believe I had never thought to double check the tickets.

The Resolution

This all happened a couple of days ago. I contemplated writing out a post about it at the time, but thought better of it almost immediately. I don’t want to turn this into a LiveJournal or Xanga full of angsty posts about hating the (train station) establishment for something that is ultimately my fault. So I promised myself to wait until things got worked out before I wrote out the story. And now things are. Officially.

With the jarring discovery that I was out a couple hundred dollars because of this train fiasco, I decided to take a much more frugal route in getting down to Rome. When I was first planning the trip, I was up in the air between train and bus. I hastily made up my mind about the train tickets and figured the price would be worth it for having a scenic and comfortable trip down. At least, that’s how I justified it to myself so I could sleep at night. So I didn’t even explore the possibility of taking any other form of transport because I was set with the train. Since I was no longer set with the train, I asked around about busses down to Rome.

My friend Oriana has quite a bit of bus experience, so she offered to come with me to the bus station to find out about bus tickets since she knew the process well. After getting the schedule and prices, we were talking about my options and she brought up the possibility of flying. She was actually going on a trip down to Italy with some of her friends that same weekend and they were all flying down. I had put the idea of flying out of mind up to that point because I figured it would be more expensive and mean that I would miss out on the sights from a train or bus. Given the new circumstances, I decided it was worth a look. Between missing the sights of the journey and missing the journey, my choice was clear.

I’m glad I did. Oriana pointed me to which had some pretty nice deals for direct flights from Prague to Rome. The flight I booked ran me $112. The ticket for the train from just Vienna to Rome had been $120. Off to a good start.

For the return trip, the only flights back that they had would have cut my visit to Italy short by 2 or 3 days. I already had a round trip ticket from Vienna to Rome that is good until October, so I went back to look into train options. I’m also very glad I did that.

Mike has suggested I try the TrenItalia website back when I was first organizing my trip. I had, and found out about the Prague-Vienna-Rome train which I ultimately bought tickets for. I couldn’t buy the tickets for the whole trip online, so I had to go to the train station. I had gotten a student discount on the Prague-Vienna legs of the trip, but couldn’t get any discount on the Vienna-Rome leg because it was out of country. I figured that made sense and didn’t make too much of an issue out of it. But now that my tickets for Vienna-Rome were invalid, I went searching for tickets for just that stretch. I found the same train that I would have been on before (without the sleeper car reservation, of course) and noticed that now I could buy the ticket online. I guess since it originated in Italy, the TrenItalia website could process the transaction.

After registering on the TrenItalia website, I went ahead and started the process of purchasing the ticket. When it came time for the price quote, there were quite a few options aside from standard fare. None of them had the word “Student” or “ISIC” involved, but I did see something about a SmartPrice option. The standard fare for the ticket was 100 Euros, but the SmartPrice fare was 29 euros. Which means I save almost 90 dollars. Not too bad.

So despite any sort of hiccups along the way, I should be all set to get down to Italy and back again. I spent more money than I should have, but it’s been a learning experience. I’m definitely going to see about booking trips in segments if possible. Also not going to act impulsively when it comes to things I should shop around for.

Oh, and I’m definitely going to check the dates on my tickets.

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