So, I have been a little bit quiet of late… but rest assured, I have been (true to form) getting on lots of lovely planes!
However, despite the hectic past few weeks, I think I can safely say that I got on more planes in the Philippines than I have in probably the last few years of my life. After all, this archipelago consists of plentiful paradise islands that are actually rather far apart – it takes a lot longer to travel over land and sea in this part of the world. And though patience may be a virtue, it’s never been one of my mine. This Saint was most definitely going to be getting on some planes.
London to Manila – a four part adventure
In fact, my journey of a thousand planes started with four. I ended up booking a reasonably priced flight with Malaysian Airlines… but with good prices comes great inconvenience. It turned out I was off to the Philippines via the scenic route.
A jaunt from London to Amsterdam; a transfer to Kuala Lumpur; and then the home stretch into Manila. But that’s just three, I hear you cry! Well, I decided I may as well just tear the plaster off and book another flight straight down to Caticlan (for Boracay). My reasoning being, if I hit all my flights in one go then I would maximise my beach time! After all, what could go wrong…?
Turns out quite a bit.
The first flight was late leaving, and I realised, somewhere up in the sky at 30,000 feet, that my next flight from Amsterdam was departing pretty soon. The airline staff reassured me that I could just alert a member of the MA ground crew when I landed, and all would be fine – they could hold the plane! Huzzah! But were there any ground crew around when I finally landed? Were there heck!
And nobody told me Amsterdam airport was so big! I literally tore through the airport like a bat out of hell, to make it to the gate in the nick of time. Then, on arrival in KL, I had to do the same again. This was made even more dramatic by the realisation that there was a whole skytrain between me and the gate.
I’m pretty sure the fellow passengers thought I was on the run from Border Control as I flung myself through the sliding doors, practically foaming at the mouth.
One backpack down
Suffice to say, upon arriving in Manila, I did a little happy dance in my head about the fact that I was now free of Malaysian Airlines and their bizarrely close together flights that gave you no turn around time.
One more plane to catch to get to Boracay, and all the stress would make the experience even sweeter when I finally arrived.
And that was around the time I realised, at the baggage carousel, with a dawning sense of despair, that my backpack hadn’t made it.
With all the rush of the changeovers, it had been left behind by the airline. The Malaysian Airlines rep reassured me it would be on the next flight out. Unfortunately, I had another plane to catch, with a separate airline, so when my bag arrived I wouldn’t be here.
Oh, and just to put the disaster icing on the catastrophe cake, Malaysian Airlines didn’t have a desk or any office contact number – all they could give me was a mobile number and assurance that somebody would pick up later that evening.
Of course, I couldn’t miss my flight – the show must go on! So, I headed off on my last leg to paradise. Sadly, sans luggage.
How to survive losing your luggage in transit
#1 Pack your essentials into your hand luggage
Now I don’t know what kind of Psychic Saint energy was going on prior to this trip, but I had, for once, actually packed my hand luggage exactly as one should – FOR JUST THIS SORT OF EVENTUALITY.
Luckily, I had a wash-bag with essentials for freshening up – everything I might need to last a couple of days. It was wonderful to be able to wash a bajillion hours of travel off me when I finally reached my guesthouse and actually feel halfway human again.
A pair of flip-flops and two changes of clothes. It was hot in the Philippines, really bloody hot. My comfy leggings and cosy jumper combo were not going to cut it.
Always take something casual you can change into and lounge in immediately, as well as another outfit you can wear out and about in the evening. Just in case. I had also packed my favourite bikini and a trusty sarong – so I was able to hit the beach on day one, instead of traipsing around trying to buy something to wear.
And, of course, I had my adaptor plug, phone, charger and cash cards on my person. Some things you will have to prise out of my cold, dead hands to separate me from. And my phone is one of them.
#2 Always use luggage tags
Although the airline will tag your bag and give you the receipt when you check in, I think it always pays to err on the side of caution and pop a clear forwarding name, address, mobile (don’t forget your country code) and email onto your luggage yourself.
At least if there are any further problems, such as your bag makes a break for it and ends up in Kazakhstan or somewhere else that you’re not, airline staff can easily find your contact details.
#3 Make sure you get two contact numbers
This one might apply more in countries that can be a little bit lax in the organisational stakes. Some airlines are more organised than others, and I learned the hard way, with my one measly mobile phone number, that it can be a lot harder to get in touch with someone who can actually help you than you might initially think.
Unfortunately, nobody picked up the mobile phone number I was given, and the website number to call for lost baggage led to a recorded message that just cut off.
#4 Leave clear instructions about where you expect the bag to be taken to
If you have been one of the unlucky ones and lost your luggage in transit, you will know the airline staff get you to fill out a form to leave instructions about where you would like your bag to be sent or collected from.
If you are lucky, they can send your bag onto your accommodation – and there will be much rejoicing. `However, if you are unlucky, like me, they will only write down the name of your next airport destination (Caticlan) which is a three hour bus ride and a 15 minute ferry to the island where you are staying. And because I was in a rush to get things sorted before heading off to my next flight, I didn’t think things through properly. When I did, I realised what a massive pain in the ass that was going to be to pick it up. Actual groan.
#5 Stay positive
Ok, losing your bag right at the start of a big trip SUCKS. Big time. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a little wobble over the idea of never getting it back. But I tried to not let it affect my first couple of days in paradise and whenever it started nagging at me, I just tried to remember how fortunate I was to be there at all, in such gorgeous surroundings and focus on the moment instead of what MIGHT happen.
And if all else fails… Have an amazing boyfriend travelling out two days after you to: locate the bag in Manila; notice that they had stuck the passport details of a man with a similar surname to me on it (so god knows where it would have ended up); refuse to take no for an answer until they gave it to him (always a top tip in Asia); and somehow manage to wrestle two backpacks onto the propeller plane to Caticlan to show up at my door, just as day was dawning.
Crisis averted. Holiday back on!
All pics by Alex and Sophie