Lessons learned while traveling alone

I’ve been here three days but I’m only now feeling as if my brain is starting to catch up to my body. My first day here I broke one of the nice wine glasses. I also set out to make a ginger lemon slice and didn’t notice until I was packing things away that I’d used cinnamon instead of ground ginger.

Yeah, well, you win some and you lose some. Especially after 24 hour trips that are not entirely free of drama.

On Monday there were some teary moments before leaving the house for the airport at 6:30am. At one point Zulu trotted over to me looking very concerned. I thought he was coming to extend that famous “doggy sympathy when owners are upset” that you hear so much about. Instead, he grabbed the tissue out of my hand and scampered away to eat it. Lose.

At Luang Prabang airport they checked my second bag for free. Win. They could not, however, check my baggage all the way to Australia, so I had to clear customs and pick it up in Bangkok. Lose.

I arrived in Bangkok airport three hours before the Air Asia counter opened for my flight. This meant I spent the first three hours of that six-hour layover loitering in the crowded, noisy, main terminal. Lose.

At the check in counter the woman immediately asked me if I was pregnant. When I said I was she asked how many weeks. When I answered honestly (28) she asked me for my letter of medical clearance. As I didn’t have one, this was potentially a very big lose. But the lady checking me in just wrote down 27 weeks on the waiver I had to sign and cautioned me not to admit that I was over 27 weeks or they wouldn’t let me on the plane without a doctor’s letter. Win.

This form I had to sign six copies of not only released Air Asia from any liability regarding any health issues I suffered during the trip, but also stated that I promised to “reimburse Air Asia upon demand” for any in-transit expenses incurred as the result of my pregnancy. As I reached Australia without having to have the plane diverted to Singapore or anywhere else (and thereby incurring a debt that staggers the mind to contemplate) I guess you could say this one was a win.

It turns out, however, that we had been misinformed as to the price of excess baggage on Air Asia. Sadly misinformed. Instead of costing us the anticipated $50.00, I had to pay $300.00 for the extra 10kg I was carrying with me (and this was reduced from $390 after I begged and pleaded and pointed out that I had bought a premium ticket). Epic lose.

During my second layover of the trip, in Kuala Lumpur, I booted up my ancient laptop to take advantage of the free wireless and it lasted about 3 min 30 seconds before dying. None of the plugs I was carrying fit in Malaysia. Lose.

Not nearly as many people were eager to help me lift and carry as I’d expected. I did ask for help a couple of times, but somewhere in among six on-tarmac loadings and unloadings I pulled a muscle in my back and the pain only got worse as the trip progressed. Lose.

Things got better from there on out. On the long overnight flight from KL to the Gold Coast I travelled in Air Asia’s premium section, and the seat went sort of flat. So my feet were up off the floor most of the night and I had much more space than the poor souls packed in the back. Win.

Mum and Dad were there to pick me up in the Gold Coast. Win.

We had ricotta pancakes in Bangalow on the way home. Win.

And here. Well, the view here thrills my soul. Epic win. I can’t think of a nicer place to come back to as my second home away from home. Now, if only Mike and that tissue-stealing little mongrel were here too…

Over to you. Two critical lessons I learned during this trip were: (1) Check and double check (with the airline themselves) extra baggage charges; and (2) Don’t assume that just because you are visibly pregnant people will help you lift your hand luggage (so to pack only what you can comfortably lift yourself).

What lessons have you learned while travelling solo? 

18 responses to “Lessons learned while traveling alone

  1. Poor you! What an awful trip (with a not-so-awful ending)! Let’s see… traveling alone. I have learned that I will shamelessly exploit my non-profit work as an excuse to bring an extra book or seven in my carry-on baggage, even when it is overweight. (I may have even said something like “It’s for the children!” As though any of the children here would read a novel by E.M. Forster.)

    Enjoy beating the heat in Australia! I hope Laos was much less hot than it is here now and you found some ways to cope before you left.

    • Oh, I don’t know. It could actually have been much worse… last time I transited through Bangkok I ended up throwing up in the departure lounge bathrooms because of food poisoning from an earlier flight. So I was sitting on those metal chairs surrounded by tumult but feeling very glad I wasn’t ill. And the non-profit thing… sounds like you and Mike have the shameless airport routine down. Stay cool in PP!!

  2. Hi, Lisa — I am so happy to know that you are safe in Australia. Your travails reminded me of a trip I took from Bruxelles to Beaune to spend Christmas with friends. I traveled by train and it was extremely crowded. I was 8 months pregnant with my son at the time. I thought that people would be kind between Paris and Beaune and let me have a seat. I was sooooo wrong. Not only did I not get a seat but I was pushed and shoved along with the rest of the crowd. I remember being so frightened and worried for my child. But it all turned out well and that child is now a thirty-one year old man of whom I am extremely proud. The trip back was much better. I guess people where in the mad Christmas dash crunch and filled with the usual seasonal spirit. My lesson learned during that trip was to make sure I could myself self and not expect others to step up to help me when I needed it. Of course, people have been so kind to me so many other times since then but I don’t expect it so it is always a pleasant and gratifying surprise when it happens. It’s also made me really aware of others on my who might need my immediate help–traveling or otherwise. Anxiously waiting for your delivery and the arrival of the new Earthling. Much love, Donna

    • Thanks, Donna. That long ago trip doesn’t sound like much fun! Yeah, I’m with you. Most of the time I don’t expect complete courtesy (much less random kindnesses) from strangers. But I really did think that I would get more assistance pregnant. I guess I knew that my dad and brother and husband would all have leaped to help someone in my position, and I just assumed other people would be so decent.

  3. Just wait until you have to travel alone with children. Sometimes people not only ignore your obvious need for assistance but also rudely refuse you paid services (necessities, not luxuries) when they see you with a child. And they openly tell you that.

  4. I think that has been my biggest frustration throughout multiple pregnancies-how willing people are to stand back and let you struggle without even offering to help. The worst is when they don’t have the decency to at least pretend they didn’t see you and instead they stand there and stare. As if there is something highly entertaining about watching this obviously pregnant woman struggle!

    • I find it so odd. I mean, not everyone did that, but enough did that I was genuinely confused by the whole thing. People did help me whenever I asked, but I just hadn’t expected to have to ask.

  5. Lessons I’ve learned:
    Triple check excess baggage costs!!
    Check again when you get home and are no longer under pressure in a busy airport, with a toddler strapped to your back, pregnant, and they are charging you $250 excess. Lose. When I got home I found out since we were travelling business we should not have been charged any excess!
    Have lawyer husband write letter to airline & they refund the $250. Win!
    Even when pregnant and travelling with toddler strapped to your back, alone, very few people are willing to help you. You will turn into close-to-hysterical-pregnant-woman-with-child when an elderly lady tries to cut in line to get the baggage trolley you have been waiting for for 10 minutes.
    Travel/flight socks are a must – especially when pregnant – unless you want elephant sized cankles when you arrive in Europe for a 2 week vacation. (It is also reasonable to ban husband from taking photos of you which are below the knees when suffering with elephant sized cankles on this vacation).
    A few tears will get you a long way with airline staff.
    Airline staff are not always the sharpest tools in the shed and don’t necessarily understand that their logic is flawed. For example, After arriving in LA at 6am to find child’s car seat is still in Sydney, and being informed “you can’t travel in a vehicle with your child unrestrained” (thats why we wanted to car seat to make it to LA!) and the airline offer you $100 to buy a new one , they find it hard to understand why I can’t take my child in a taxi to buy the new car seat!!
    I could go on and on, but I think you get the point!
    Glad you made it to Oz! Excited to be joining you on that wonderful contintent in 2 weeks!

    • Oh, this was too funny, in that “ugh that must have been a horror trip” sort of way. I cannot believe the whole thing about the child seat. That’s classic. Really. In a way that would not have seemed at all funny at the time. Happy packing. Hang in there and soak up the last NY moments. You’ll be home soon. Sending hugs.

  6. Wow! What a lot of bad experiences! I never had that while pregnant. People were generally kind and helpful. But I travelled with my husband from the UK to New Zealand, so perhaps I didn’t need help so much. But I found that when I was pushing a pram around in NZ people usually opened doors for me, and helped me on the train etc.

  7. Wow, you’re brave for doing that alone while pregnant! Hope the destination’s worth it 🙂 I didn’t know pregnant women needed a medical-clearance letter!

    • Yeah, and the medical clearance issue apparently varies from airline to airline. I thought I’d double checked Air Asia’s policy and the medical clearance letter was only needed after 32 weeks, but apparently not. The destination was worth the long transit. I can’t get over how great the weather is here, but I do miss Mike!

  8. Traveling with children. Strangers are MUCH more sympathetic to the dad walking the aisle with the crying baby than the mom. If you are lucky enough to have Mike with you, make sure he takes all the walks with the baby to change diapers or simply to calm the baby down.

    Miss you, friend.

  9. Uh, oh! I should not have read this tonight; I am scheduled to take a continent-hopping flight alone next week. I am not pregnant, but I have taken to heart the luggage recommendations!!

    While traveling alone with a 3 month old, I learned I should have kept the baby carrier/car seat with me. We had an unplanned 8-hour layover. Strangers ended up holding him for me to give me breaks. That was a long day! I am surprised by the lack of help you received, too.

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