web Musings of The Global Traveller

Friday, August 11, 2006

Are You Prepared?

What a difference a day makes!

Seemingly the travel world is in chaos with new restrictions in place in UK and USA. Personally I think some of the commentary and opinions is a bit over the top. Lets see what unfolds over the coming days and weeks before predicting the end of travel as we know it.

Anyway, I don't want to dwell on the current restrictions but instead it got me thinking a bit and I want to share some of my thoughts. As a frequent traveller I take a lot for granted without even realising, and it has taken recent events to make me pause and consider.

I'm well aware that rules and regulations can change at any time. For example I've posted before on the UK carry on and checked baggage changes. However, I had in mind that these changes would be announced in advance. How prepared am I for changes that happen while I am on a trip?

Through a stroke of good fortune on my part I happen to not be travelling right now. But I could so easily have been in the UK on a trip in the midst of the chaos.

I certainly didn't have a plan for how to deal with things that some travellers are currently having to face. Let me give some examples.

I often bring local wine with me as gifts, always as a carry-on. These are unobtainable in many other countries and thus appreciated. However, with a ban on liquids in carry-ons I would be forced to choose between leaving them behind, putting them in checked bag and hoping they don't break, or sending them on as freight. Seems straight-forward enough decision to make - if high value then freight otherwise dump. It is not worth the risk of a breakage ruining the rest of my baggage. But what about if the rule was imposed when I was already en route? Sound far fetched? Not really - this is the same as a complex itinerary where different rules apply to the various flights. Once I've managed to lug the bottles half way through I may be more inclined to freight them the rest of the way. There may still be logistical issues, like do I have the full address (or can I get it in the short transit) and is there a suitable method to freight the bottles in the small time available?

Another example, is being forced to check my mobile phone and laptop. (At the time of writing this is the case for UK flights.) As with many savvy travellers I rely heavily on my phone and/or laptop to keep in touch and manage last minute changes - especially during irregular ops, or if my work needs suddenly change. Being forced to check these in I lose a means of staying in control. Do I know the phone numbers for the elite line of my frequent flyer program or do I rely on my phone's memory? Is there a payphone I can use to rearrange schedules or do I have to endure a long queue at the gate agent for instance? How will family, work and friends stay in touch? On many itineraries I can spend 30 hours or more in airports and on aircraft as I wend my way to the destination. That is a long time to be out of all contact.

For the past several years I have only checked bags when essential (eg on very small aircraft), and have refined my baggage so that I can manage with just carry ons even for most extended trips. If I now need to check this on more trips, the every day risk of lost or damaged bags becomes more significant to me. It is all very well knowing you can make that 30 minute connection in say Munich by running, but the trip may be ruined (or pointless if on business) if your bag gets left behind. Do I need to review my itineraries for tight connections? Is there anything I can do to mitigate the problems if my bags don't turn up for a few days? Can some things be sent on ahead? Info stored on a laptop perhaps saved to a web-based location where it can easily be retrieved.

This is just a few examples of the thoughts running through my mind as I realise, no I am not prepared but I think (or hope?) I can cope.

1 comment:

Cromely said...

I've been considering these issues, as well.

My big concern is my notebook computer. Actually several. I often travel with anywhere from 2 to 7 of them.

Unfortunately, checking them isn't an option. Were I in the UK and travelling under these restrictions, I would ship them home via Fedex or other appropriate option.

The fact is I don't believe my notebook would survive in checked baggage. It's not a question of packing it right; it's a simple question of theft.

I'm not sure what the current restrictions are form the UK, but when they first imposed these measures, the basic airline rule was "You have to give us your notebook and we don't have to give it back." In fact, baggage policy on most airlines specifically states they are not responsible for any electronics.

Unless the airlines are willing to cover the full cost of my notebook(s) and waive their waiver of responsibility, I don't plan on checking any notebooks.

Actually, in the US I wouldn't mind seeing and airline/TSA service. I would pay and extra $20 to $30 per trip for guaranteed security of my checked items. TSA would do thier security check and inspect my luggage in my presence. Then, I get to lock my luggage securely so only I have access. The airline would give it priority handling, and, since they saw me seel it, guarantee the safety of my property.

I don't see that happening, though.