The Consummate Traveler: Lessons Learned From a Nightmare Trip (Part 2)

BY Michele Goncalves TIMEJuly 9, 2014 PRINT

In my last article, I recounted the horrible travel mishaps of a colleague of mine while on a return business trip from Shanghai to Newark, New Jersey, via a connection in Chicago O’Hare. Highlights of the many issues he encountered included being diverted to another airport due to weather, missing and rebooking a connecting flight, getting an extra special security pat down, facing a dead mobile phone battery, having his luggage lost, and being locked out of his house because he brought no key.

The first two tips shared previously included keeping an eye on weather forecasts the day before you travel and avoiding connecting flights in the U.S. Let me now share with you additional advice on how to handle this travel mayhem.

1. Security lines and patience: You know the old saying “Patience is a virtue,” well this is even more true when you are going through an additional pat down in security. At random, or for a specific reason, passengers can be selected to go through additional security screening. This includes having your entire body patted down (including sensitive areas) as well as having all of the contents in your carry-on luggage taken out and examined. The goods are then swiped with a swab and run through a machine for detection of explosive residue.

The most important lesson to remember here is that the more stuff you have in your bag, the longer this process takes. Imagine each and every item in your makeup bag or handbag taken out individually and examined. If you are pressed for time or will have short connections, please keep this in mind when packing your bags. I have been through this process once in Heathrow for accidentally leaving my iPad in my handbag, which took me 45 minutes to go through. There is a frequent shift change of personnel (like every 20 minutes or so) that added to the time in my case.

2. Recharge your phone battery: It is so important to ensure that you have a fully charged up mobile phone on the day you travel. Emergencies or last minute travel itinerary changes necessitate this.

I always keep my mobile phone charging all night long the night before a trip so I don’t forget to do this. In my colleague’s story, due to the change of his connecting flight, he had to rebook his car service to take him home. However, his phone battery was dead, so he had to borrow one from another passenger on the plane. While he found someone who was willing to do that, I am sure there are those out there who would not be keen on lending you their phone.

Another important tip is to keep the electric cord for the phone with you in your carry-on luggage in case the airplane seat has an outlet. These are becoming more common as airplane fleets are being modernized and upgraded.

3. Let your lost luggage come to you: If you arrive at your destination and you have no luggage, stay calm and immediately go to the appropriate lost luggage desk usually in the baggage claim area.

If this is an isolated case with just your bags being lost (versus the entire plane’s luggage being lost) it is critical that you have the baggage claim ticket that was given to you when you last checked your bags. This will help the agent search and locate your bags much easier. You should be asked to give your contact information such as name and phone number, as well as your destination address (home or hotel) so that the airport can contact you when the bags arrive and have them delivered to you.

I would not recommend waiting at the airport for your bags to arrive if the agent indicates they are coming shortly on another flight, unless you absolutely have to (like going on a cruise or bus excursion). There is no telling how long this process will take, and my experience has been that the missing bags arrive within hours or no longer than the next day.

4. Take your house keys with you: This seems so obvious, but each person traveling should always have their house keys with them in addition to keeping a spare set strategically hidden on your property or with trusted neighbors. Much to my surprise, my colleague told me that he never travels with his keys because his wife is always home waiting.

On this occasion he arrived at 2 a.m. and his wife was asleep and did not wake to hear the doorbell ringing after quite some time had passed. After an exhausting day of nightmare travel, why end the whole event this way when it is 100 percent preventable?

As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels!

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