For travelers: Aside from the usual tips, 5 essential things to remember
Bags packed. Farewells done. All set and ready to go. Wait a minute – have you checked this out? (READ: 5 tips in planning your first solo trip)
Flying groggy from Bangkok, I headed straight to a domestic counter in Manila requesting for a window seat and my bags prioritized. Philippine Airlines’ friendly check-in staff looked for my name and never found it. “You were not booked, ma’am,” they said.
After a two-week travel combining holiday and work in Thailand, I totally forgot I haven’t bought my connecting flight to Cebu City. Embarrassing! But what if it was an international connection? It would have been an absolute nightmare especially if you have spent all your money on shopping and can’t afford to buy the connecting flight ticket.
If you’re flying at 12:00, look again. Is it midnight or noon? I once sauntered languidly at Jakarta’s international airport thinking my 12:00 flight was at midnight only to find out it has left 12 hours ago (while I was enjoying lunch with friends).
Many airlines and travel agents are now conscious of this confusion and puts am and pm clearly on the ticket. But then, it’s good to check one more time. Remember the difference on military time. It is much better than getting through the trouble re-booking and spending an unwanted extra money on missed-flight-penalties. It was good that the Philippine Airlines booking office in Jakarta followed up on my re-booking and even called me at the hotel to make sure things were in order.
I learned big time on this mistake. Flying to Tbilisi, Georgia from Erbil, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for my 5-day holiday, I relied on an online article vetting that as a Filipino I can get visa upon arrival in the country. The Turkish Airlines staff didn’t allow me to board (but they did from Erbil to Istanbul) and I had no document to show them that it is possible. (READ: 6 safety tips for women traveling solo)
Apparently, airlines are held responsible to fly you back if you are not allowed entry for lack of visa. I spent 24 hours sleepless and stressed at Turkey’s Ankara Airport with my holiday blown to pieces. Just check those visa requirements, and never assume. (READ: 7 things to remember to avoid being offloaded)
Be sure you have enough time to run to your boarding gate. In large, busy airport, the gates take ages to reach – if your schedule is tight, be careful. Never forget that 30 minutes before departure, as soon as the gates have closed, no amount of howling and pleading can get you in. (READ: 4 things you should never do when you travel)
The duty free shops are surely tempting and you can lose yourself sampling the dazzling luxuries – enough to forget you have a flight waiting! I felt bad looking at a couple in the Dubai airport who missed their flight for Warsaw, Poland by few minutes. The plane was still there but the gate has closed. Better be early than sorry.
If you can, the lighter your luggage, the breezier your travel will be. I brought two bags during my last trip to Germany. From Frankfurt Airport, I had to get down to the ground floor and catch my train to Karlsruhe. While there were escalators and the signs were helpful, the distance was challenging I almost dropped dead upon reaching the waiting terminal.
It was wintertime but I was sweating with the unscheduled exercise of brisk walking. Putting it on the carriage bin as required on the train was another story. But I should say a lot of the Germans I met along the way were so nice, I didn’t have to ask for help. They just stood up and got my heavy bag up. One woman even went back to me while I was maneuvering my bag on the stairs and helped me carry it. I was so touched!
Documents and gadgets you cannot afford to lose should be in your carry-on bag. I haven’t experienced losing a bag (spare me this one please) but I have seen ripped ones in some airports I don’t want to name here.
When my bag went to T’bilisi without me and was sent back 5 days after I got home, it was a terrible wait – but I am glad all it contained were my clothes and toiletries which were hard to lose but still replaceable. A cabin bag with rollers made my traveling life very convenient – sparing my shoulders and back the burden.
No matter how tough and challenging, there can never be any substitute to the amazing things you experience while traveling. Just stay smart, learn your lessons, enjoy the journey and carry on. As Helen Keller aptly put it, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Rappler.com
Cecil Laguardia is currently based in Southern Africa working as communications manager for a humanitarian organization.
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