The Wrong Airport! Learning From My Mistake and How to Organise Travel
A text message came in from our Northern Irish host. It read “Are you at Gatwick yet?”. “Gatwick! We are not supposed to be at Gatwick”, I exclaimed aloud, as we stood in line for the flight at Luton airport.
I knew for sure I wasn’t supposed to be at Gatwick airport, our flight to Belfast was leaving in about 1.5 hours and we were waiting in line at the desk to check in.
Still, I had to dig out my itinerary and check. A nagging feeling said something was wrong. Pulling the half crumpled printouts from my pockets I fumbled through. Just as I thought, we were not supposed to be at Gatwick.
We were supposed to be at Stanstead!
The chances of us getting from Luton to Stanstead were about equal to me being able to do a triple backflip to entertain the queue. My stomach did a triple backflip though!
Half hyperventilating but pretending not to be fazed I scurried off to the help desk, trying to force myself to walk at normal speed.
Lucky isn’t the word to describe just how errr lucky we were! Yes, I was at the wrong airport but the flight I was queuing for had space, it was leaving only 30 minutes later than our planned one, and we could be transferred for only a relatively small charge.
We arrived in Belfast 20 minutes later than expected and about $70 poorer but it was probably worth it for the lesson learned.
How I organise my travel plans
I’m a pretty careful person who requires a plan A, B and C. I also need an A-2, B-2 and C-2 plus a final apocalypse plan. That makes popping up to the shops a little more of an ordeal than it should be!
This particular mistake with Luton and Stanstead was a bit out of character for me but I still had a few things to learn from it and these days my travel organisation is extremely well organised.
The most excessive thing about my plans is the need to be extra early. If it says be 20 mins early for a coach I want to be 40 mins. If it says 3 hours for a plane I want to be 5-6 hours. On the other hand if it says 3 hours for a plane my partner wants to be 2 hours early. So, we moderate and get there 3.5 hours early (Yes it drives her insane!).
You may not want to be as neurotic as me in that regard but I think the organisation of information is something worth following.
Using a calendar
When organising your transport and transfers I think using either a paper calendar or an online calendar like the simple one offered from Google is great. I start off by marking where I want to be on what date and then start booking the transport from the first day. Of course at this stage there needs to be some flex in the plans.
Once each portion of the journey is organised you can double and triple check to make sure everything lines up and there are no overlaps or holes.
I store all the emails from the booked transport in my gmail with a label marking them ‘travel plans’ or similar. I read each itineracy about 6 times checking against the calendar to make sure there are no mistakes! I also make sure of anything that needs to be done regarding visa or entry requirements.
Printing EVERYTHING out
About a week before a journey it’s time to get all the info printed out. I print out everything that may be needed. Most importantly the travel itineraries and booking numbers. I check that all seats and meal requirements are confirmed and also read up (again) on any specific entry requirements to make sure nothing is missed. Make sure you also print all supporting documents required for entry such as bank statements and invitation letters.
Note: I have started to experiment with keeping some docs as PDFs stored within my iPhone instead of printing them all out.
All of this gets filed into a blue folder that I carry with me. The printed papers can be easily found when needed and I group things together with paper clips if needed to make this even easier. This folder is also easy to get in and our of my back pack and can be carried easy enough under my arm.
And that’s about it. I have not been responsible for us arriving at the wrong airport since. But I almost missed a flight due to a PM / AM mix up from Cairo to Stockholm, however that’s another story!
Do you have any tips or horror stories to share?
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Thanks a million.