As an international student, the lengthy time between terms allows for a proper holiday “back home.” As Christmas drew nearer airports grew busier with travellers anxious to make it home for the holidays.
Five days before Christmas I was one such traveller. I barely slept I was so excited to be heading to Toronto to spend the holidays with friends and family. My flight was at 11:20am and I left my flat, in what I thought was good time, to transit my way to Gatwick Airport.
Except that I didn’t make it… in time for my flight that is.
My own confusion at Victoria Station (refer to my first posting to get a sense of my navigational skills) mixed with an incredibly delayed train meant that I arrived at the check-in counter for my flight 10 minutes after check-in closed. I knew I was not in a good situation when I read my horoscope in the Metro aboard the Southern Train: “You will miss a connection today. Take the opportunity that comes with it.”
Insert panic here.
I ran to the check-in counter and was greeted by a steel eyed customer service agent, who in all fairness couldn’t do anything for me. I still pleaded. I used tears. I asked for Air Transit to allow me on as a Christmas Miracle. Alas, all to no avail, and my blotchy and red face was directed to the rebooking table.
I eventually made it home, 24 hours delayed. It was a wonderful holiday season, and I brought my newly refined mulled wine making skills to Toronto. I just made it back to London, a beautifully non-eventful travel experience. But I keep wondering about that horoscope. Sure, I know it’s just a horoscope and horoscopes are meant to be evasive so they can be applicable to anything, but how dead accurate was this one? And what the heck opportunity did missing my flight provide?
The Canadian Affairs travel agent told me I should buy a lotto ticket. (We had become chummy like that during the process of my rebooking.) And I agree. But as I await winning my millions, I will take the opportunity to share my top Pre-Travel Tips for International Student Travellers. Seeing as I’m the one who missed the flight though, take them as you will. ;)
International Travel Tips for Before you Board
Because it only takes missing one flight to realize how much it sucks.
Always listen to your mother. Growing up, my mom insisted on being at the airport three hours in advance for international flights. This felt excessive to me. Prior to December 2011, I was a 1.5 to 2 hour in advance gal. Not anymore. Extra time is needed to account for unforeseen delays in getting to the airport.
Read the fine print. If it says on your ticket the check-in closes strictly one hour prior to departure it means the check-in counter closes strictly one hour prior to departure.
Lots of luggage? Place your heaviest items in your “laptop bag.” Say your carrier allows for 25kg checked baggage, one carry on at 5kg, and one laptop/ purse/ camera bag / etc. In my experience, even if your carry on is weighed, your laptop/etc bag is not. If you are like me, and magically your carry on becomes weighed down with oh-so-essential items, unevenly redistribute the weight to your extra carry on. NOTE: Do not apply to Ryanair. That is a whole other aerial travel game.
Set an alert for seat sales to get the best price when booking holiday travel. For those planning cross-Atlantic travel over the Easter or summer break, we may be starting Lent Term, but ten weeks flies by. I subscribe to Air Watch Alerts from Trip Advisor.
Check in online. Saves you time at the airport. You’ll still be at the airport early, but instead of waiting in a long check-in line, you can drop off your baggage, go through security, and enjoy a coffee at your gate with all that time you now have to spare.
Last but not Least: Enjoy the trip! Have that book you're reading handy, your ipod charged, and wear your favourite comfy pants and a snooze-worthy top.
What are your travel tips? Write them in the comments or let me know @WandaOBrien. I can always use the advice!
Word on Wanda: I have plane travelled dozens of times in my life. I have never missed a flight. Until this holiday season.