Everyone always talks about the glamorous aspects of travel and not enough about some of the nightmares you can encounter and how to deal with them.While I do consider myself a fairly novice individual in the world of travel, I believe I have had my fair share of good and bad experiences. This article is a collation of problems you might experience/have experienced/will experience in your chase to your next destination.
Luggage weight (overruns)
I think many Africans (because we like stuff) and girls (for the same reason) struggle with this. Although I have gotten better at this, I still (almost always) travel with a lot more stuff than I need (e.g. heels for that night out that never happens, two coats/jackets, 3-4 different pairs of shoes + sneakers, etc). My only way of controlling myself has been to (i) to plan my outfits in my head, and then (ii) pack-I find that I take less stuff with me this way. Also if you are planning to shop (which most Africans do when travelling abroad because things on the continent seem to cost at least double), then make sure you only pack for half the weight of your luggage allowance.
Lawd, I have stories about this one: it has happened too damn often, I have definitely learned to chill. Where possible if travelling for an important event (e.g. a wedding/meeting/conference), try to get there the night before a major event, if not at least a few hours before. I once had a wedding at 14h00 and planned to take the 6am for 2 hrs between Cape Town and Joburg. This plan was perfect except for the fact that the flight was delayed by 3 hrs-which meant I got ready in the car on my way to the wedding.
Missing connecting flights
Try to avoid too tight connections (e.g. at least 2 hrs) especially in a new country where the airport can literally be like a city: Charles de Gaulle in Paris takes the cup for me so far! Not sure if it was the post #Parisattack, but there must have been like 20 checks from the moment I dropped my baggage, to the actual gate of the plane…bleh!
I have a few stories here, but it does happen…in my case, it was entirely my fault as most of the reasons were (i) could not find my passport on the day of the flight, (ii) read the arrival time instead of the departure and off course the classic one, missed the flight date by like 1 entire day (these midnight flights are tricky, lol!)
Suitcase gone Missing In Action (M.I.A)
Survival tip here: if you are travelling for an important function (be it work, baptism, wedding,etc.), keep your clothes for the day in your hand luggage. I have had my suitcase missing on the same trip both on the way to the conference, and also coming back from the conference. Also, depending on where you leave, luggage theft is a reality: rather have all the expensive electronics you bought with you in your hand luggage than risk it.
My #Nigerian and #Congolese friends will understand this. Never leave your visa application to the last minute: just NEVER do that. We are probably on the red list pretty much anywhere in the world, which means that THOU SHALL GO THROUGH EVERY POSSIBLE CHECK both while applying for a visa (especially for the first time), at any airport & any given time regardless. Do not take it personally, this happens pretty much to all of us: smile, greet the officer nicely-it makes it less painful, lol!
Unreliable in-between transport
I used to make the mistake of assuming what is important is getting to a place e.g. Joburg/Cape Town/Paris. Yes, your flight & visa are crucial for your journey, but even more important is getting to your ACTUAL destination (hotel/conference/friend’s place). Uber does not always work everywhere in the world, not all taxis are trustworthy either… Ask questions to the locals if no one is fetching you, and plan to get to your hotel safely, comfortably, affordably but most importantly in ONE piece & alive.
Weather related or acts of God-Turbulence
I was once in a quite a scary flight: what was supposed to be a 2 hr flight between Joburg and Cape Town, ended up being like a 6 hr escapade via Bloemfontein because trying to land with a bad storm would have been suicidal. We just had to wait it out until the storm calmed down.
I have really well organized friends, who plan their big holidays (i.e. out of the country) at least a year in advance, and I have learnt that this can save you up to ~50% of the ticket costs. If you are a last
minute person like the rest of us (try book at least 1-3 months in advance). Also: Monday and Friday, Morning and end of the day flights tend to be most expensive if going on holiday and not time bound-avoid them like a plague. You can save at least ~R500 on local flights (i.e. ~$34)
I hope you enjoyed the post and/or it made you laugh at the very least 😉