Volume 1: Greatest Fears while on a Vacation

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Thanks to those who have voted, I have compiled my experiences and tips for the top 3 greatest fears while travelling.

(1)   (Insufficient) Luggage Space & Weight

This is always a very big concern for ladies as we tend to shop, and shop, and shop, and shop a lot. Be it your checked-in luggage or your hand carry, don’t you find it so hard to just zip up your luggage bag? (This is just the first wave of fear.)

The second wave comes when you tip your bag over the weighing scale at the check-in counter.

The third wave comes when you fail in pleading for leniency at the counter staff, who might reply (with a poker face), “For every kg of excess luggage, it will be 50 USD. To check in this piece of luggage, it will be 250 USD.”

My luggage managed to tip the scale at exactly 30kg on my emirates flight =)

For those who have experienced this before, you might feel really miserable, wondering why the counter staff just refuses to allow your extra baggage to pass. The truth behind the strictness is that every piece of undeclared weight might risk the safety of the flight. Every time the counter is closed, information such as the total weight of the baggage for a particular flight will be given to the pilot. This information will be used to estimate the amount of fuel needed and other flight statistics. Thus, if the staff had been lax on the excessive baggage, allowing 3kg extra for all 300 passengers, it would be 900kg of weight unaccounted for by the captain! What a dangerous risk!

Let me share with you a somewhat ridiculous experience which happened twice to me. It was on my return trip from San Francisco back to Singapore en routing Taipei in 2010. It was a Sunday morning (where everyone should be sleeping in..) and I went out to the main road to flag a taxi into our hotel. I flagged for the taxi and agreed on a recommended price which I found online. After the taxi drove about 100m from the main road to the hotel lobby, he saw our (excessive) luggage (3 people probably have like 7 pieces?) and told us he was not fetching unless we increase the fare price by NT100 (approx 5 SGD).

Alright, that might seem like reasonable BUT we had absolutely NO money left. We were so afraid that he might just drive away (we were running late) and then my friend (out of desperation) said “If you don’t mind USD or SGD..” Taxi uncle gave a “whatever” expression and we entered the taxi feeling fearful =/

The next moment, he drove to a convenience store, stuffed a NT100 note into my hand and asked me to buy him a tea drink and something for myself and my friends at the convenience shop. In my head I’m like “What’s with the NT100 haggling earlier on..” Oh wells, he then explained that he had just driven a long journey customer and was feeling tired and wanted to go back to rest and he got a shocked at the size and the number of luggage which made him edgy. He asked if we were moving house, thinking that there were pots and pans inside our luggage, only to realise that we were just 3 months away from home..

This “refusal to fetch” because of excessive baggage happened again one year later (2011) in Korea. Our hostel booked a taxi for us and we waited outside with our luggage. The taxi driver came, got out of the taxi, saw our luggage and walk away, signalling that he didn’t want to fetch us! This was despite the fact that he could earn extra money from the booking fee! There was just 2 of us and maybe 5 pieces of luggage? It wasn’t excessive at all!!

I don’t know what made him change his mind but we were feeling bad, and we got him to drive us to a “further away” metro station, letting him earn more money. At that point in time, we couldn’t get another cab as we were running late (as usual).

TIP (ranked in order of damage to wallet)

(1)    Pack light. Most hostels provide washing machine for you to wash your clothes & for those who shop a lot, please take your (to be bought) clothes into consideration when planning for what to bring.

(2)    Always travel with someone who shops less than you, so you can tap on his/her remaining luggage weight.

  

Tip #2 hardly applies to me.. my friends usually shop more than me =/

(3)    Max out your carry-on baggage by wearing your heaviest clothing, shoes amd multiple jackets.
Bring a cabin baggage of the maximum size restriction and pack the heavy things in and cross your fingers they don’t weigh your hand carry.
(I’ve never gotten my hand carry weighed before.)

(4)    Check out the shipping rates at the country you are at. I once shipped back 22kg worth of stuff from Korea to Singapore. Price was 50,000W for 10kg.

(5)    Buy extra baggage allowance!
(Practice this option with caution. My friend ended up with 90kg of luggage between 2 ppl because she bought 40kg baggage allowance.
More luggage space = shop more = spend more money)

The luggage of 2 people for 2D1N in Batam.. 

(2)   Missing your flight

As much as we try to create a fool proof planning, accidents might just happen, and it might be a costly one. Since I started travelling, I’ve only missed one flight, Bangkok (Thank goodness!) to Singapore, and I almost miss one flight at the Taipei airport.

During my Bangkok trip (Jan 2010), we had our flights and hotel booked by a travel agent which arranged for a two way airport transfer for us. Trusting the timing planned by the agent, we left our hotel 3 hours prior to flight departure (the distance from hotel to airport needed only 30 minutes). Halfway through the journey, it started pouring like crazy and the water was up to shin height. Our van was stuck in this terrible jam which did not even move a single inch for like god knows how long. We started panicking but there was nothing we could do. It was so bad that I think an ambulance would be useless in such traffic.After we managed to escape the jam, the van started flying on the road and we felt like we were on a roller coaster ride. He didn’t slow down the vehicle even on humps =/

Anyways, we kind of reached airport either 15 minutes before flight or at departure time. Counters usually close 45 mins prior to flight departure. We strategized ourselves, two people running to the counter with all our passports, two people to get the airport trolleys and another two people to unload the luggage from the van. Despite all that planning, the check-in counter was closed and the plane flew off “ON TIME” (contrary to our misconceptions of budget airline), leaving us stranded at the airport. As moments past, we saw more and more people like ourselves, arriving at the airport late as they had been stuck in the same situation as us (being late due to the bad jam and rain).

LUCKILY, there was a Jetstar flight flying off 1:20 hours after the Tiger Airways flight which we missed. We waited in line at the Jetstar counter only to realise that the one way ticket cost $238 (can’t remember exactly). We had 6 people, a credit card with $500 limit and less than $200 of Thai Baht and SGD added up together.

*PANIC MODE ACTIVATED*

Contingency Plan #1: I called my mum and explained to her the situation and asked if I could borrow her credit card in making the payment.. I spend quite some time convincing the counter staff that if he doesn’t allow us to pay our transaction this way, we will be stranded in Bangkok with no money to go home or even stay for a night. Thankfully, he was flexible enough to know that it was really a crisis for us. (Anyway plan #2 was that if he didn’t allow,  I would have get my mum to buy the tickets from the internet.)

Lessons Learnt + TIPS:

(1)    You NEED a CREDIT/DEBIT (with money) CARD with you when you are travelling!
As it was some of my friends’ first time travelling, they didn’t bring that dangerously important plastic. However, the existence of that plastic will make you spend more & more & more.

(2)    Plan ample + buffer time for travel to the airport.
Relying on jam-less transport such as trains is highly advisable.

(3)    Buy insurance.
As rain + traffic jam was not a valid enough reason, the insurance company refused to pay for our extra air ticket. However, missed flights and travel delay is a common protection in travel insurance thus it is highly advisable that you purchase insurance.

Story No.2 (with lesser drama)

I almost missed my flight at Taipei’s Taoyuan airport as I “took my own sweet time” despite the “far away” boarding gate.

Having worked in the airport before, I think I fully understand how airline operations work.

One important rule airlines are supposed to adhere to is that “If the passenger gives a NO SHOW, the luggage assigned to him would have to be removed from the aircraft.” In my interpretation, I assumed that once my luggage is already inside the aircraft, there is a higher tendency for the aircraft to wait for me, or risk identifying my luggage amongst the hundreds. As a result of my mis-interpretation, I allowed my friend to take her own sweet time at the airport shop, before slowly find my directions to the boarding gate, which was painstakingly far away with the amount of hand carry luggage we had to carry. This was a major disaster when I saw that the whole boarding gate was empty. We ran and ran and ran, totally breathless, only to realise that we had to take an escalator down to the actual boarding. I think we were dangerously at -10 minutes to departure, which means that “Last Call” was over. Once I reached the end bottom floor, I saw only one counter staff and she was already arranging the queue poles, all ready to close the counter for good. I yelled across the empty hall, “还有我”which translated to “There’s still me,” took a 2 second breather, before dashing to her, and into the plane. I think we were the last passengers on board and people were staring at us. To add on to the frustration, we couldn’t find overhead cabin storage near our seats. I remember that I was still panting when the plane took off. I can’t imagine how things would be if I had missed that flight and had to pay for a one way ticket back home. I was already “so in debt” after my travels in the states..

Lessons Learnt + TIPS:

(1)    Do not count your chances – Check in early and be at the gate early.
I always request for front seats when I check in early. This is especially good when you don’t have any check in baggage. You will be the first one in line to leave the airport!
Being early at the gate would allow you to store your hand carry at the overhead compartment nearest to you, which allows for quicker exit.

You can always plan a tea party at the airport if you have nothing else better to do..

This shot was taken when we spent the night at JKF airport (to save one night accommodation/midnight taxi)

Also, do take note that some airports are extremely huge. You might have to take the skytrain to another part of the airport, or even board your plane after taking a bus. You have to factor in all these possibilities when calculating your time. STILL, the security scan queues can be insane. My friend missed her flight because of the extremely long security scan queue. They don’t give a shit about you missing your flight. My friend was still in the queue when her flight took off at London’s airport..

(3) Snatch Theft or Pick pocketed

Yes, it has happened to me before.

My camera got snatched when I was in Manila in 2009 for YEP. Alright, what happened was that I kind of took it for granted. It was my second trip overseas (without parents) and I guess I wasn’t careful enough to take good care of my own belongings.

I still remember it was a week day afternoon and we finished our lunch at the multi-purpose building which was situated outside a primary school. Well, I assumed that school area was safe and I wasn’t really cautious. Me and my friend went over to some road side stalls to look at things and I was in the process of choosing stickers. My camera was attached to a carabena which was hooked to my waist pouch. It was left dangling at my right side of my waist. Suddenly, I felt a tugged, and the next moment I saw someone running away. I can’t remember what I did at that instant, but I know that some on-lookers helped to run after the thief.

Everyone was very nice and kind after the incident. They brought me to the nearest police station and I think the whole statement recording process took more than 1 hour. This report was important as you will require it to claim insurance. (Luckily we bought insurance)

I was really upset with the loss of my camera. Not for the camera itself, but for all the photos that I have taken for the past 7-8 days? All that memories were gone just because of my negligence and the poverty situation existing in the country.

Lessons Learnt + TIPS:

(1) Do not leave any “expensive” item dangling away from your sight.

WHAT I DO NOW:

Hang my camera, sometimes phone, on a lanyard, surrounding my neck. These valuables will always be dangling near my chest and I guess it’s a safe place.

Ideally, you should carry your back pack in front of you, however we do understand how it is physically draining to do so. Thus, I invented a simple way whereby I use carabena for the zips of my backpack such that it is difficult to pull open my zip. Even though it is not hard to unlock a carabena, this measure serves as a deterrence to pick pockets.

(2) Use a money pouch to hide away your passport and money

This money pouch is a waist pouch which can be hidden inside your clothes. I use it to store my largest amount of cash and sometimes passport. Most of the times, you won’t be required to remove it when you do the security scan because that item is not made of metal which won’t get detected by the machine. I don’t think there’s anywhere safer to hide your money than underneath your clothes.

(3) Separate your money/credit card

This is a dangerous secret I am sharing. Hopefully the people I travel with do not sneak on me and steal my money. I usually separate my money into 3-4 places.

One should be the bulk, which is usually inside the money pouch and stay close to me all the time.Another place would be in my wallet (duh!) as it has to be convenient for me to make purchases. Another place would be inside my luggage (small & minimal amount). Sometimes I hide them in a pocket, sometimes I hide them in a book, sometimes I hide them in a  zip, sometimes I hide them in a (argh I shall stop revealing my hiding places! but please bear in mind that you must try to remember where you hide them. I’ve forgotten before and I was scrambling all over to find it.. ) Lastly, you may want to hide some money in your phone. For me, I’m usually more conscious about my phone than anything else. Which means that the phone should be the last thing that is ever gonna be missing. Thus, if all else fails, I know that I still have a bit of money inside my phone..

Golden Advice: Do not leave all your eggs in one basket. And do not forget where you hide the eggs.

 

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