I flatter myself that I’m an expert traveller. I know the tricks. I also love free stuff and beating the system, so I always volunteer to get bumped from my flight if it’s overbooked. As you may know, airlines often oversell flights, counting on one or two passengers not showing up. In that case there’s no problem and everyone present gets a seat. In the case that there does end up being more passengers than seats, the gate agent will ask for volunteers who are willing to take a later flight (for free) in exchange for a credit to use on another trip of their choice. A pretty good deal if you’re not in a hurry. Traveling home from Boston a week ago, I heard the word “volunteer” and was up and at the desk before the agent could finish the sentence. As it turned out, the next Austin flight was the next morning, but Southwest was offering to put me up at a hotel AND give a $700 credit. No. Contest.

The gate agent made a reservation for me and gave me a voucher to show at the hotel. I hopped on the airport shuttle. But when I showed the voucher at the check-in counter, the concierge said, “Oh, this is actually for the downtown location.”

Okay… “How do I get to that location?” I wondered out loud.

“I’ll call you a cab.”

It sounded weird. Why wouldn’t the airline make me a reservation at the airport location? And I’m supposed to pay for a taxi? Twice?  But I went with it. I figured I was still going to come out of this 700 airplane dollars on top, so whatever. Right. Well, I arrived at the downtown hotel twenty taxi dollars later, and Catherine at the front desk frowned at my voucher: “This voucher is for the airport location,” (I KNOW RIGHT?) She called the other hotel and then the airline to investigate (more love to Southwest, whose rep promised that they’ll pay for the cabs if the hotel won’t). I decided that the Catherine and I are basically best friends when she pours me a glass of Prosecco while I wait.

Yep. Half an hour later, I’m in another cab. The driver, BTW, ALSO thought it was really weird that the first hotel sent me away. Basically everyone in Nashville was on Team Clare. Back at hotel #1, the manager apologized profusely and promptly got me $40 in cash to cover the cabs.

Confession: I get as excited as a kid in a ball pit to have a hotel room all to myself. SO MUCH JOY. It makes me feel like a fancy grown up grown-up. And having spent quite a few nights in dorm-style hostels this past year, the fact that there is no chance that a bunch of giggly teenagers are going to come into the room at three in the morning and turn all the lights on is very sweet. As it turns out, by the way, this was a $200 a night hotel. There was a fountain in the lobby, y’all.

One of the great ironies of travel is that pricey hotels always charge for internet access, and crappy motels rarely do. All right, it’s not very ironic. People whose budget is $30 a night aren’t going to spring fifteen to waste time Facebook. Imagine my unexpected delight, upon settling in, to find that I was in range of the free lobby wifi. It was 6pm by this time, and with an early bedtime in my future, I began to asses dinner options. It was going to be $2 at the vending machine or $20 at room service. Not relishing the thought of a 4:30 wakeup time with nothing but Gardettos and M&Ms in my stomach, I went for the roasted vegetable and mozzarella focaccia with sea salt French fries. Pricey, but delicious. (note: spellcheck wants to change “Gardettos” to “garroted.” That would make this story more exciting.)  You can imagine how tired I was after all this, and the bed was exactly as comfy as you’d expect for two hundred bucks a night, so I had no problem falling dead asleep by 9:30. I even managed to wake up six minutes before the alarm! Even better, my receipt for the hotel came by email the next morning, and I found that they had comped my dinner.

So, airline credit + fancy hotel stay + comped food/taxi/wine. If I make the logic work for me, which is a talent of mine, I made almost $1000 in two hours. More importantly, the universe is obviously trying to communicate that I was not meant to come home at all and should sell my furniture on Craigslist and travel for the rest of forever. Obviously.

P.S. I must share this bit of snark from the perky BNA > AUS flight attendant before we took off: “Ladies and Gentlemen, if we could pretend to have your attention for a moment…If you are traveling with a small child, someone who might need assistance, or perhaps someone who isn’t paying attention right now, be sure to put your own mask on first…In the unlikely event that Southwest Airlines turns into Southwest  Cruiselines, your life jacket is located under your seat. Blah, blah, blah, blah…” LOL