Hi, everyone! Happy Friday!
I now interrupt the flow of Spain city guides to bring you a first-person account of what happened at the beginning of our trip: our luggage got lost!
It’s another long post, folks, but a helpful one.
Three things I want to achieve:
- Tell you about our experience so if it happens to you, you’re better equipped and less panicky.
- Tell you how to pack for an emergency like this.
- Tell you about the Gibraltar Airport (since this is where we tried to sort through the bullshit.)
I had a day bag and a carry-on backpack, and Yobo also had a backpack. We took a flight to Paris for a layover, and from there, we were told in Paris that our check-in baggage was on its way by themselves to our final destination in Gibraltar. We know now that it is ILLEGAL for luggage to travel without its passenger(s). So, if you are told this, now you know the law. Track your luggage ASAP. Know where it is at all times. Make sure the employee you’re asking doesn’t just speculate or hurriedly assure you that everything is fine because your questions are annoying them. Make sure they check the system and your luggage tag receipt. Do whatever you can on your part to prevent problems from happening and prevent the airline from saying, “But why you didn’t check to make sure where your luggage was?”
When we arrived in Gibraltar, our luggage did not arrive in the carousel. Since we had traveled with different airlines between our layover, one of them had obviously dropped the ball and gotten confused by the flight itinerary. They were unable to track it so we had to file a claim form and we spent an extra 2+ hours at the Gibraltar airport trying to call both airlines AND an additional 2+ hours looking for a store to buy 3 days worth of clothes, just in case. That’s a whole 5+ hours of Tarifa that we missed. It also delayed meeting up with our Airbnb host, who was kind and understanding enough to be patient.
(If this happens to you, and you are also landing in Gibraltar to get into Spain, there is a store called Carrefour, which is Spain’s equivalent of Target. There is a Carrefour about 20-25 minutes away from the Gibraltar airport. )
So, while in Tarifa, our luggage finally got located and shipped to Gibraltar airport two days later. We were later told that we had to DRIVE BACK to the Gibraltar airport to pick them up. Our original plan, had we our luggage in tow, was to leave Tarifa in the morning and drive to Ronda and spend a few hours there taking pictures, head to Granada, and return our rental to the Europcar office there by 7pm. Gibraltar airport then informed us that they were closed/on siesta until 3pm (!!) so our plans got set back by a few crucial hours. Because of this, we had to take Ronda out of our itinerary. !#!$@$@!%# (I mean, we were told it was smelly so that semi-justified its removal from our adventure, but STILL! That should have been our decision to make, not inadvertently because of a setback.)
LEARN FROM OUR EXPERIENCE:
- If you have a layover with many stops until your final destination, make sure you check with your airline desk each time you touch down at the airport to stay on top of your luggage.
- Before your trip, write down or save on your phone the customer service numbers of your airline.
- Take a picture of the luggage you’re checking in or take note of the model and color and other defining features.
- In addition to keeping your check-in luggage tag receipt, take a picture of your luggage tag.
- Get the NAMES of everyone you talk to and mean business when you ask. It reminds the employee that that are accountable on behalf of their company and they will/should be on top of their level of professionalism.
- Fill out a missing luggage form IMMEDIATELY. Ask for a copy upon completion.
- SAVE ALL OF YOUR RECEIPTS from any purchases made because of the inconvenience of having your luggage lost. You should file a claim form with your airline and get reimbursed for your expenses.
- Make a list of every inconvenience, financial or not, caused by this B.S. (For example, “Bec intl charger kit was in lost luggage, phone died. Because phone died, I was unable to take pictures of the first city in my itinerary. Because phone died, I was unable to contact my Airbnb host to let them know of my arrival. Wife had to buy allergy pills because box was in lost luggage.”)
HOW TO PACK YOUR CARRY-ON BAGS:
In addition to what you’re wearing on your long flight, I believe these are the essentials:
- Your camera of choice PLUS its battery charger.
- Your passport. BONUS: Before you go on your trip, make a photocopy of the front and back of your ID and cards you’re bringing. Make sure the person(s) you’re traveling with do the same and also has a copy.
- Travel tissues. You might need this because, if you’re like me, flights make me sniffly. This is will also come in handy in lieu of toilet paper, etc.
- Travel hand sanitizer.
- A travel wallet. My everyday wallet has all my loyalty punch cards, etc. Things I don’t need when I travel. I stick the essential cards in a small wallet pouch.
- Hand/body lotion.
- Sunscreen. Always!
- Sunglasses. Protect those peepers. Spain was bright even though it could be freezing in the afternoon.
- Chapstick. A staple.
- Pen and paper. For notes, journaling, scribbling down info if your phone dies, etc…
- Travel toothbrush and toothpaste. I did not pack this in my day bag. We got lucky that our initial flight had these in an amenity kit so we were able to brush our teeth daily.
- Extra phone battery packs. I fully charged 2 before our flight (one for me and Yobo which I put in my backpack) bec I’m always planning for a zombiepocalypse. These saved our lives and helped us make it the almost 3 days without our luggage.
- Your phone charger plug-in piece (and the cord). Yes, I brought that in my carry-on as well. We didn’t bring our intl charging kit, so it rendered this bit of technology useless, but you never know when you come across the right outlet or adapter…
- Your medication! Birth control, allergy pill, daily vitamin, aspirin, arthritis, medication, dramamine. Have those on your person! Losing your luggage, even if for a short time, disrupts the routine of your medication, etc. I’d also like to add, for the ladies, that you should have 3 pads or 3 tampons on you, just in case. It sounds extreme, but if your stuff gets lost, you’ll be glad you did this. You can always unload when you’re finally reunited with your luggage so you can travel lighter as you continue your trip.
- Do you still have room? How about a book or magazine? Ashamedly, this is the first time I did not bring a physical book on a trip with me. I simply did not have the space. Tangent: What if I end up putting my library on a Kindle? GAH! I “packed” an e-book to read on my phone: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Really great read!
So, whatever you didn’t fit in your day bag can go in your backpack or carry-on luggage. Or, if you’re a dude and don’t do the murse thing, you can merge both lists.
- INTL CHARGER KIT. This is what we needed the most. Lesson learned. If you’re going somewhere international, have the adapter with you and not in your check-in bag! It’s sad for me to admit, but our smartphones are extensions of us. When the phone dies, you lose your camera, your bearings (if you’re reliant on Maps), your ability to reach someone who can help in an emergency, your ability to search the web for help, etc.
- Scarf. A scarf is a very versatile piece of clothing. A big enough one can change your outfit or be a mini blanket.
- and 4. Underwear and an extra shirt. Even having an extra day’s worth of clothing can help you transition
- I forgot to include this in my photo, but I did have this on me: travel deodorant. Stay fresh for as long as you can!
- Don’t let this stupid mishap deter you from trekking along as you wait for your luggage to get returned to you (or found). Have an extra pair or socks and alternate them so you can let your feet breathe and keep stinky foot bacteria at bay longer.
- This is another lesson learned. Bronner’s Castile soap is now available in travel sizes, but you can always fill a travel bottle from a larger one. In a pinch, you can wash your face, hands, body with this soap and it’s all-natural. I will be putting this in my carry-on from now on.
- Also, any tickets or printed confirmations for ferry trips, train rides or events should also be on your person. I’m still patting myself on the back for remembering to do this. =) We had our luggage returned to us after 3 days, but in case your luggage does NOT get recovered, if you’ve prepared properly, the only setback will be that your clothes are missing because everything else you needed is on you or can be easily replaced or purchased along the way.
ABOUT THE GIBRALTAR AIRPORT:
- They have terrible Wi-Fi. It’s spotty and non-existent in the main waiting area. Employees will point you in the direction of their small dining area which is crammed with people waiting for rides. Be patient or turn on your intl data if you’re having an emergency.
- It’s small, and closes early (by 6pm most days!) because it’s not a huge internationally networked airport. I found Wi-Fi when we landed. We were on the last arriving flight, and as soon as all the other passengers received their luggages and headed out, the small convenience store closed and, I swear, someone turned off that Wi-Fi network too.
- Crossing over to the border in Spain is a 3 minute walk from the airport. It’s great. It’s easy and clean.
- If you’ve done some research, you’ll see that the Gibraltar airport is unique…and dangerous! You are landing on a STRIP of land and the plane has to taxi down and make a U-turn back into the territory of Gibraltar. As a result, traffic around the border has to stop when there is an incoming airplane arrival. It’s crazy.
- The Rock of Gibraltar greets you and it’s a sight to behold.
- The airport has Hertz and Budget rental cars.
Pack everything you might need for the next 48 hours in your carry-on baggage because shit happens sometimes.
Anyway, I know that was a lot of information. I hope it helps anyone who finds this and needs it.
Even though recounting this reminds me of how frustrating the ordeal was, I miss Spain. I’m still heady with wanderlust.
Have a great weekend!