Trials and Tribulations of International Travel

By Eleanor, Rutgers University (New Jersey, USA)

As it tends to do, the Christmas holidays came and went in a flash, and it was time to return to New Jersey. But would we (and our belongings) make it there in one piece?

In the era of Covid, travel is a stressful endeavour. When crossing the Atlantic during my year abroad, I’ve been subjected to many an expensive PCR test. This was no different in the new year, and with the Omicron variant making headlines my whole time at home, waiting on my results was anxiety inducing. It was especially tense as the US had changed its rules to require testing only 1 day before flying. Thankfully, I was disease free.

Our next hurdle was getting our belongings on the plane. When myself and my fellow Manchester student got to Manchester Airport at 3am, suitcases full of Christmas and birthday presents (not to mention rations of Cadbury’s), we knew it would be close. However, we did not expect the excess baggage fee to be £265! I can’t recommend enough doing proper research into your airline’s baggage policies, as well as investing in a travel scale to avoid our fate. With some re-packing and three heavy jumpers now tied around my waist, I managed to avoid being charged.

We made it to our connection in Frankfurt to Newark, and upon boarding the plane, realised there were several empty rows around us! This meant I had an entire row to myself for the 7 hour flight, and we thought our luck was finally on the turn.

Upon our final descent, we were right over Rutgers and our now-hometown of New Brunswick, which made us even more excited to get back on Jersey soil (see below for my great photography).

Livingston campus, Rutgers-New Brunswick (featuring the football stadium!)

However, fate had one last blow for us. We got through immigration with ease, arrived at the baggage carousel ready to take the train to Rutgers. I got my suitcase no problem, but my companion’s case was nowhere to be seen. And then we spotted it; her case was on the belt but ripped apart. It appears we got caught in a random TSA bag check, and they couldn’t get into the lock, so simply cut open the zip and allowed her belongings to leak out. We were escorted by a scary but helpful member of staff, to get the bag taped up, and then the airline baggage desk replaced the case free of charge.

The offending article…..
Switching out our belongings on an airport floor

So what did we learn from our stressful odyssey back to the land of the free?

  1. Always be sure that your bag is under the weight limit, you might not be able to chance it like I did!
  2. You have a better chance of getting an extra seat/row if you choose seats at the back of the plane
  3. Don’t lock your suitcase unless it has TSA-approved locks; they won’t hesitate to completely ruin it and you might have to plead with a stern New Yorker to help you resolve the situation
  4. Finally, don’t panic! A lot of issues that crop up when travelling internationally are out of your hands, like delays and broken suitcases. While it can be really stressful, focus on the things you can control, like having your passport/paperwork and being there on time, and enjoy the ride!

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