Friday, December 15, 2006

Travel Frenzy

I am an anxious traveler. Surprise surprise. I am one of those people that likes to get to the airport at least three hours early, if not more. And I fret about it from the night before (even when the flight is the following night). I like to be as organized as possible before arriving in the terminal. To me, it's like a war zone, and precision is key. I check in online the night before and have my confirmation printed out and ready. That way, I go straight to the Fast Bag Drop, drop off my luggage, and get done with the whole ordeal quickly and painlessly. And then I have plenty of time to do some last minute shopping, or to sit at the new café in Terminal 4 (can't remember what it's called - where McDonald's used to be), have a sandwich, and read. And then I can calmly stroll over to the gate for boarding, which is usually 20 minutes away. Why be rushed and crazed when you can be on time and calm?

But lately, Heathrow is causing me way too much anxiety. When I came home in November, they had turned the Fast Bag Drop into a regular counter, so even though I'd already checked in online and only needed to drop my luggage, I had to queue for two hours. Then another hour in the security queue. I had checked in online, got to the airport three hours early - basically did everything right - and yet I still had to run to the gate. I hadn't eaten all day so I barely had time to pick up a sandwich from Pret a Manger on the way to eat on the plane. And of course, some TK chick-chicks ended up delaying the whole flight anyway because they were too busy shopping to hear the boarding call.

Anyway. It is now 3:30pm and my taxi is picking me up at 5pm. I'm feeling anxious because my towels are still in the dryer and so I haven't taken a shower yet. But everything else is done (other than taking out the trash and turning off the boiler). I usually take the Heathrow Express but this time I had to settle for a taxi because, yes ladies and gentlement, I have two, count them...two, suitcases! I haven't traveled with two suitcases since I first moved to London. But I overdid it on the Christmas shopping this year. And a lot of the stuff was just bulky. So now my whole airport precision plans have gone to the dogs. Now I'm freaked out about having to pay excess baggage. I called British Airways - on flights to Kuwait, they charge £16 per extra kilo past the permissible 23kg. I have a whole extra suitcase (albeit a small one), and I think it's at least 10-15 extra kilos - I'm not exactly sure because I don't have a scale and I have absolutely no conception of weight. But if it is, then that's £160-240 in excess baggage! That is just insane. I'm going to have to beg and plead. I'll play the Christmas card ("it's all presents for my family who I barely get to see"), and possibly the PhD student card ("I'm going to do field research and had to bring my books"). I'm also worried they will have the Fast Bag Drop be a normal queue again, in which case I might just kill someone.

I am traveling for three weeks with two suitcases. Oh God, I am such a TK.

Update: I got to the airport at 5:30 because my taxi arrived 15 minutes early. The airport was the most crowded I have ever seen it, and pure chaos. They have had a big tent area built up outside the main terminal 4 building for the past couple of months but I'd never seen it used before. Well last night we had to stand in the tent as a kind of holding area as they checked in each flight one at a time (didn't matter if you'd been waiting 3 hours for your flight or you just arrived - you were treated the same). I was standing there for about 2 1/2 hours, despite the fact that I (and many others) had checked in online. Anyway, by 8pm they finally announced our flight to Kuwait (we were the last remaining in the tent), and then we were allowed to enter the terminal building and stand in the actual check-in queue there. I was third in line amongst the Kuwait passengers, but we were way at the back of everyone else. Luckily they started tagging our luggage and processing boarding passes from the back of the line where we were (so they were basically working from both ends of the line), so I only had to wait there for about 10 minutes. Then they had us take our luggage to what was a real Fast Bag Drop, where they weren't checking weight or anything. So basically, I didn't pay squat. Woo hoo! Had enough time to have a light dinner, go to the toilet, walk over to the gate, and sit and chat with a friend.

Then of course I found out that the majority of the Kuwait passengers just waltzed into the airport at around 8pm (when our plane was due to leave at 9:45, but was of course an hour delayed) and never even saw the tent. They went straight to the check-in queue. Am I doing the wrong thing by being so responsible and organized and arriving early? Maybe I should be one of those last minute passengers who frantically gets to shove up to the front of the queue and quickly checks in. That's gonna be me from now on.


  • I love Pret's brie sandwich. Yum!
    I kind of worry when I travel; I end up not sleeping so much the night before, so I get a little bit hyper the day of.
    I read on the plane, but not in the aiport. I prefer to space out and watch people go by.

    You can take the TK out of Kuwait but you can't take the...well, you get the gist :P~
    Have fun in Kuwait! And Merry Xmas :)

    By Blogger Erzulie, at 12/16/2006 2:22 am  

  • But I'm not normally a TK! Only this time with the two suitcases. :)

    I love the brie sandwich too. And the pastrami bloomer. Yummy.

    Anyway, I brought the rain with me from London to Kuwait today. :)

    And a very Merry Christmas to you too!

    By Blogger Kleio, at 12/16/2006 10:19 pm  

  • Hey what's TK?
    I refuse to take more than one suitcase this weekend. I'm not paying 200 bucks for a cab dude. Wish I could just mooch on someone and have em drop me off.
    Hey btw, it never occured to me that you're christian.. awesome tree, wish I could show you my flatmate's tree.. fugliest thing ever. It scares me at night when I wake up for a drink of water.

    By Blogger Trevelyana, at 12/17/2006 4:33 am  

  • Welcome back to kuwait. hope you enjoy your time here :). I have to agree with you, arriving at heathrow past 8 is much better than standing in the stupid tent they have outside. At least when you get there at 8 you go straight to check in and dont have to wait :) Are they still letting people take off thier shoes at security? Enjoy :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/17/2006 2:10 pm  

  • Trevelyana: TK is a local term that stands for "Typical Kuwaiti," but is a bit mocking. It's a self-depracating thing we Kuwaitis use to make fun of ourselves, I guess! As for cab vs. train to the airport, it actually ends up costing about the same in London. The cab company I use to go to the airport costs £21. The Heathrow Express costs about £14. Usually I take a cab to Paddington to catch the train because I have to transfer lines in the tube and that's just a pain to do with a suitcase. So cab fare to the station is about £8. So it turns out about equal. But the reason I take the train is because it's so much quicker. 15 minutes vs. an hour.

    I'm not Christian. :) But we've always celebrated Christmas. Not in a religious way - it's more of a cultural and family thing. There are quite a few families in Kuwait that I know whose parents lived in the States for a while and whose kids went through the American school system, that celebrate Christmas too. It's just fun!

    SP: Yes, we had to take our shoes off. And I made the mistake of wearing 10-hole Doc Martens! Shoes, jacket, and belt in one tray, laptop in another tray, etc.

    Next time I travel, I'm gonna get to Heathrow at 8pm as an experiment. I may grow an ulcer doing it, but I wanna see how quickly I can get through. :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 12/17/2006 2:26 pm  

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