Things are getting SPOOKY at PRA this October with the Travel HORROR Story series! If you’ve traveled, you’ve encountered hiccups — lost luggage, canceled flights, crummy food, the list is endless. Since PRA staff are some of the most well-traveled folks around, we have gathered a collection of truly terrifying travel stories for your reading pleasure. A new post in the series will be posted each week during the month of October!

Read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here.

In our third installment, staff members share some of their most memorable hotel experiences!

Pam: It could have been much worse…and taught me to lock my door with the bolt. I had checked into my room and was laying down on the bed when in walked a stranger with his bags…he turned right around and I was clothed and awake, otherwise it would have been scary.

Raquel: When I was a junior in high school, my sister studied abroad in London. My oldest sister and I went to visit her. Kristin was living in a flat in Kensington Square, a historic and beautiful neighborhood. It looked very promising…until Ingrid and I checked into our hostel, which was walking distance–but clearly we weren’t in Kensington Square anymore. The place was a total dive with an eerie feeling. The rooms were up a stairway that you would recognize from every scary movie you’ve ever seen.

We had our own room, with one twin bed, through a door that revealed a little foyer for two rooms. There was only a single bathroom for the whole hostel, and it was on the first floor. And when I say single bathroom, think airplane bathroom. Ingrid and I decided that we would not separate at all, so if one of us had to go to the bathroom, we both had to go to the bathroom. We were getting ready for bed, and headed to the bathroom. We opened a door and there was this man standing in the little foyer outside our door. Ingrid screamed in his face. He screamed back–a misunderstanding, I’m sure. Our first friend in London!

We headed to the bathroom and both squeezed into this minute one-room bathroom. Because after all, what would be worse than having your sister abducted while she was standing outside waiting for you to come out of the loo? When we were done, we went back to our bed and suited up for bed. I say suited up because we both agreed that it would be best to not allow any exposed skin to touch the bed: sweatshirts with the hoods up, pants, high socks, sleep with your hands on your stomach and don’t you dare think about using that blanket. We said goodnight and silence. 20 minutes or an eternity later (I really can’t be sure), Ingrid asked, “are you sleeping?” “No.” Silence. Twenty minutes later, “are you sleeping?” Neither of us was sleeping. “Should we just leave?” Ingrid asked. We both jumped out of bed, because walking the streets of London with no accommodations at 2:00 a.m. was more desirable than staying in this dive hostel.

We dragged our bags down the stairs, through the deserted lobby and out into the cool London night. We walked until we saw another hotel that at least looked nice. We went into the lobby and asked to see a room before we paid. The front clerk obliged and took us to a room. He opened the door to what he believed was an empty room, but revealed a couple sleeping. Oh boy, this was not going to be our place, either!

We continued walking until we decided to head to Kristin’s flat and figure out our accommodations in the morning. We showed up on her stoop with all of our bags in the middle of the night. We crashed on her living room floor, and there we slept for the duration of our visit. In the morning, we went to formally check out of the hostel, but we didn’t need to since they had already checked us out. We didn’t quite understand how they knew we had checked out since it was the middle of the night, and no one was around. Proof that the walls had eyes and we were justified in our creepy feeling that we were being watched at all times.

Despite these early hiccups, it was an incredible trip and so worth the hassle. Plus, it makes a very entertaining story!

Holley: I was going to Austin for my first professional development experience with PRA. I was excited, and wanted to make a good impression with the conference attendees I would meet, so I chose my outfits and packed my clothes very carefully.

I arrived at the hotel the morning of the conference before the official check-in. No problem–I checked my luggage, and went off to the sessions without a care in the world. That evening, after the sessions and before we were leaving for dinner, I went to pick up my bag from luggage storage. The attendant could not find my bag, but that was no problem as I was going to dinner.
When I returned, I went again to retrieve my luggage. The attendants still couldn’t find it. It was lost. I was so confused — how could it be lost? I had my ticket! I called Beth, our Meeting Planner and Logistics Coordinator, asking what I should do. She told me to call security and the hotel manager to get this sorted. I left them both a message, and waited. And waited. My phone calls were not returned until the next morning, after I had dressed for the day in the same clothes I had worn the day before (luckily the conference gave out a t-shirt, so at least there was something clean). The hotel staff told me they were reviewing the security footage to see what had happened and they would get back to me.

The security office called me that afternoon with some news — they had no idea where the luggage was, but they were going to check every room in the hotel. In the meantime, the hotel manager told me that they were sorry and that this was the first time this sort of thing had happened in 20 years! To apologize for their error the hotel staff took me shopping to replace the clothing they had lost. A junior manager, who helped me pick out new clothes, escorted me around the mall, which was only slightly awkward. I selected a new blazer, sweater, shirts, jeans, shoes, and jacket, and went back to the hotel and thought the ordeal was done — I had lost my clothing, but at least I had some new clothes to get me through to home.

Two days later, as I was checking out, the hotel called me and said that they had found my luggage! The luggage attendant had mistakenly given my bag to someone else when they were retrieving their luggage, and my bag sat in their room for the 5 days they were there – apparently, they didn’t notice the discrepancy until they were checking out. The best part? I got to keep all the new clothes!