There is a definite Groundhog Day familiarity to flying.
You land at your destination happy to be back on terra firma. The aircraft taxis along the tarmac for some minutes as hushed conversations take place between neighbours who share their plans for the coming days. Soft elevator music fills the cabin as the plane gently touch parks at the terminal gate. The Captain powers down the jet engines and then it starts.
Like maiden horses bolting out of the gates, a field of twitchy passengers ignores the illuminated fasten seat belt signs to scramble over strangers and salvage their carry on bags from overhead. Once reunited with their possessions they can’t wait to check their mobiles for fear that they have missed a life-changing Facebook post while in the sky. Negative. Then, when the Captain requests the crew to disarm the aircraft’s doors, they lurch forward, necks craned as they jostle each other to ensure they disembark first and arrive at the baggage claim carousel before their luggage or anyone else does.
Personally, I’d rather watch a pot of water boil than watch an empty luggage carousel. You see, I don’t fly often enough for it to be tedious. To me, flying is still an adventure, and I am very happy to prolong the experience and take my time to disembark. In fact, I actually enjoy waiting my turn so that I can take a detour via Business Class to snoop on life beyond the drawn curtain. (Is it just me, or do Business Class passengers seem to evaporate once the plane has landed?) Inside the terminal, my passage to the baggage claim area usually involves a toilet stop and possibly even some window-shopping or wine tasting. I just don’t feel the need for haste as I know there will be an inevitable wait at the carousel to be reunited with my luggage. If only those other impatient passengers would realise that the speed and order in which the baggage hurlers handlers unload luggage from the aircraft has neither rhyme nor reason. Disembarking from the cabin first does not mean that your bags will be unloaded first. Have they ever reached the luggage carousel to find their bags have beaten them? I think not.
Several years ago, after taking our time to disembark from a lengthy international flight, we reached the luggage carousel almost 20 minutes after landing. The Groundhog Day roundabout continued as we watched familiar faces from our flight hoist their suitcases onto luggage trolleys and head for the taxi rank. I hunted down a trolley while he kept an eye out for our bags. “Things are so efficient in Singapore,” I said on my return, pleased that I was able to secure a trolley so easily.
Some 15 minutes went by as we watched the same old bags repeat the carousel circuit; passing us by like old plates of unwanted California Rolls on the sushi train.
“You know what?” he said. “I reckon our bags will come off the plane last because we were pretty well the first passengers to check in at Brisbane this morning which means that our bags will be buried at the back of the plane.”
“He’s a thinker,” I thought. Maybe there was rhyme and reason to the baggage handling system afterall? Then we heard our names paged over the loudspeaker system.
The distant voice requested that we make our way to a nearby cupboard of an office called Lost and Found. Hey – maybe someone had found our bags?
Being optimists we loaded our luggage trolley with my handbag and his man bag and reported to the office as requested. We joined the end of a small queue of other ever-hopeful but slightly concerned passengers. A few minutes later we were called to the front counter where an airline delegate confirmed the worst.
“I regret to advise that your bags were mistakenly offloaded by airport staff in Brunei during your stopover this morning,” he said. “The bags have been identified and redirected and will be delivered to your hotel tomorrow morning. For the inconvenience please accept this amount of 100 Singapore Dollars with which to purchase some necessities for the next 12 hours.”
Not panicking, we accepted the donation and checked ourselves through customs, taking a taxi to our hotel. It was almost midnight when we arrived and that’s about when the bloody inconvenience of it all began to sink in. There were no shops open at midnight in which to spend our 100 Singapore Dollars. We had no toiletries. No change of clothes. No clean undies. No deodorant. Ugh. All we had was a handbag, a man bag, two passports, a camera to photograph the experience and 100 Singapore Dollars. We had been travelling for the best part of a day via Brunei to Singapore and we were far from fresh. Then we remembered that we were booked on a City Sights of Singapore tour at 8.00am the next morning – before the shops would open. Ugh. We did a travel wash and went to bed.
The next morning we did the tour and saw the sights. We kept to ourselves in case we were smelly. We returned to our hotel just after lunch and unlocked the door to our room, expecting to see our suitcases laid out on the ‘his and hers’ luggage racks. The room was bare. We rang reception, we rang the concierge – noone had seen our bags. We rang the airline. They could not identify where the bags were other than they were in Singapore somewhere and ‘on route for delivery’ sometime this afternoon. I pretty much freaked. We were scheduled to meet our brother-in-law at Raffles at 5pm for some obligatory Singapore Slings before dinner in a fancy-pants restaurant. I was dressed in comfortable sandals and the same travel clothes I had been wearing for nearly 48 hours. It was now 3.00pm. We contemplated heading out to spend the 100 dollars (and then some!) on new outfits for the evening – but we did not want to leave the hotel on the chance that our luggage might arrive. There were tears. We opened the minibar. The bags were delivered just before 4.00pm
First world problem – yes, I know – but my Travel Tip#2 is Keep Calm and Pack Carry On Luggage especially if you are flying internationally or if you have a significant event in the first 48 hours of your arrival.
Things to consider including in your carry on:
- Simple toiletries. Your hotel room will usually have soap, shampoo and conditioner but you can’t be guaranteed of toothpaste, a toothbrush, a razor, your favourite facial cleanser and moisturiser or makeup.
- Underwear. At least one change. Travel washing sucks.
- Clothes. Pack the clothes that you need to wear during the next 24-48 hours after landing (bathers, wedding outfit, interview suit etc)
- Medicine. If you are taking drugs (I mean antibiotics, the pill, heart tablets etc not pot) carry it on you not in your suitcase.
- Shoes. Travel sandals or trainers won’t cut it at Raffles although I did see some poorly dressed drunk Aussie bogans there. They’re bloody everywhere!
- Hair straightener. I’m serious. Hotels have hair dryers but not hair straighteners and there’s no room for Singapore Frizz!
Is there any carry on essential I have missed?
Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below. Happy travelling!