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Travel Nightmares: Beijing Edition

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This summer, we've enjoyed collecting some of your travel nightmares - trips where whatever could go wrong does go wrong and all you're left with is a good story to tell. Well, today's story comes from Teresa Parod of Evanston, Ill. Her husband had to go to China on a business trip. She and their two young children came along. They packed light to bring back plenty of souvenirs. It was in Beijing that they realized there was one thing they forgot to pack.

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TERESA PAROD: In the middle of the night, I woke up, you know, like 12:30, and my husband had this panicked look on his face.

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PAROD: I looked at him, and I'm like, well, what's wrong? And he said, I don't know if the flight is at 4 a.m. or 4 p.m. And I said, well, don't you have the itinerary? And he said, I threw it away because we were packing so light. First, we try to call the airline. And it was in Chinese, so we couldn't get through. And I said, well, we have to figure this out. Now, I don't have a math gene in my body, but my husband has a degree in math. So he tried to calculate the time and when we were supposed to be home, and we realized it was at 4 a.m.

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PAROD: We started just packing everything like crazy. So we're throwing in our bags wet laundry and clothes and boxes of noodles and all these souvenirs that we bought. And we had two scooters. We had seen them at home, and the kids had wanted scooters, but they were real expensive. But they were so much cheaper in China. So we bought them there.

We go downstairs. We toss the keys at the staff. We go outside, and luckily there's a taxi because there's no one out. But there is a taxi. So we go to the taxi, and we tell them we need to go to the airport. And he doesn't understand us because we're speaking English. So we all start flying like airplanes, and he gets it.

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PAROD: He starts driving. It's, like, a six-lane road, and we are the only car in either direction. We finally get to the airport. We get out. We get the kids. We're climbing up the stairs with all this junk. We get to the top. We go to the door. We put our hands on the door, and the door is locked. I started getting an inkling that perhaps the flight was in the afternoon. So we are standing there, and there was no one around. There's no taxis to go back. It's now about 2 in the morning. And we wondered what we were going to do to keep the kids entertained until it was time to go.

I take the scooters out, and I said, kids, get on your scooters and ride around the airport because this is the only time you're going to be able to ride scooters at an international airport. Now, this was a long time ago. Our kids are grown. But in our family, whenever anybody gets really stressed up, we always say to them, well, is it 4 in the morning or is it 4 in the afternoon?

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SIMON: Travel nightmare from Teresa Parod of Evanston, Ill. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.