I’ve learned from the many mishaps I and others have had traveling around the country and around the world. Here are a few anecdotes and tips to help you avoid making the same mistakes.
Years ago, when I went with my aunt to Nigeria, though we were required to have a small pox injection prior to leaving the U.S., my aunt decided she wouldn’t. We spent two weeks in the country having a fine time. However, when it was time to leave and return home, she was stopped by the customs official. “Where is your certification proving that you’ve had a small pox injection?” the customs official asked her. “We cannot let you leave without it!” She was dumbfounded. I’d been cleared and anxiously waited for her near the exit to the field. Fortunately, the doctor, a friend of the family, had accompanied us to the airport to say goodbye. When the officials took her into a room, he went with her while I waited, wondering if I’d see my aunt again. I imagined her being taken away in handcuffs to jail. The plane filled with passengers stood on the runway waiting. After a while my aunt appeared looking a bit shaken, but grateful she was allowed to board the plane. Tip – If told that you must have a shot before visiting a country, if you don’t want to be harassed, get it.
Another friend who is an avid photographer was on a cruise when something happened to the ship and passengers were told they must quickly disembark onto a small island in the Caribbean. She grabbed her camera equipment and followed the other passengers getting off the ship. Only when she landed on shore did she realize she had forgotten to take along her purse that contained her medicine. She spent several frantic hours in search of a pharmacy to replace her medicine. Luckily, the passengers were told to return to the ship before her health was greatly affected. Tip- always keep your medicine with you when traveling.
On my last day in Manila, Philippines, the zipper on my suitcase broke. Unable to fix it, I searched for a store to purchase a new one. Despite my dwindling funds, I bought a lovely expensive one. When the plane landed at my home airport, I waited patiently for my luggage. But when my beautiful new bag arrived on the carousel, one wheel was missing. As it was late and all I wanted to do was get home, I hauled my damaged suitcase to the car and drove home figuring I’d deal with the problem the next day. When I contacted the airport, I was told they were not responsible for damaged baggage. I didn’t pursue the matter. Tip – Don’t buy expensive luggage unless you don’t mind the expense of replacing it.
While in the airport in Trinidad returning from a week’s vacation, I stopped in the duty free store and purchased a bottle of Rum Punch. I put it in my carryon so it wouldn’t break and boarded the flight to Miami where I was to change planes for home. Unfortunately, the layover in Miami was twelve hours so I decided rather than wait at the airport, I’d spend overnight in a nearby hotel. The next morning I made my way back to the airport for my flight. I checked my luggage and with my carryon, I headed for security. I was more than a little surprised when I was stopped. “You are not allowed to carry liquids through security,” the security man told me. “But I bought this at the airport in Trinidad at the duty free shop.” No matter, my choice was to purchase another suitcase and check it through to my destination, toss the bottle, drink the whole bottle outside the terminal in which case I’d probably be too drunk to make my flight, or to give the bottle away. I didn’t want to purchase a suitcase just for a bottle of rum, nor could I bring myself to toss it. There was no question about me downing the liquor. The only alternative was to find someone to give the bottle to. I rushed around the terminal looking for someone to whom I could give the liter bottle of Rum Punch. I saw a friendly looking man standing by the terminal door. I handed him the bottle and hurried back to security. I wish I could have stayed to see the perplexed look on his face but I had to get to my plane. Tip – which I’m sure you know, put any alcoholic beverages you’ve purchased in a well-padded pouch and pack them in your suitcase.
I learned many other things in my travels such as pack light, and don’t put valuables in your checked baggage, instead put them in your carryon. I think one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned though, is to keep an open mind, be flexible and have a good sense of humor.