Travel is Never Easy – Even for a Travel Writer

On Thursday afternoon I called British Airways to try and get a window seat for my Saturday night flight.

“What’s you reference number?” asked the woman on the other end of the line.

I gave it to her. “Sorry,” she said. “Your ticket wasn’t paid and you’ve been erased from the system.”


“Deleted. It’s a good thing you phoned.”

So much for getting a window seat. Even when you’re on a Fam (ie a familiarization trip) and someone else is organizing it, like a tourist board or PR company, things can go wrong. In this case, after a small panic attack I contacted the woman at the PR company I’m working with, who said she had my eticket right in front of her on the computer screen. Turns out the reference number had been changed, but the ticket still existed, at least in the virtual world.

The point is that hassles seem to be a natural byproduct of travelling. Hey, if it were easy, everyone would do it! Oh, wait. Loads of people do travel these days. But still. Sometimes people get surprised that I’m just as affected by screw ups on the road as the next person. “I thought you were an expert,” is something I’ve heard before. Boy are they wrong.

I’m a terrible traveller – grumpy when sleep deprived, cranky when overworked airline staff are rude at check in, and shocked and affronted when I get pulled out of the customs line to have someone paw through my dirty underwear. (That happened last week, and actually, I wasn’t so much affronted as embarrassed by my messy packing job. Other than that it was kind of interesting.) Rather than offering expertise to anyone bored enough to read my column, I think I give people hope, because if I can manage to function on the road, anyone can.

So I call British Airways back with my new reference number. “Can I have a window seat?”

It’s a man on the line. “Either you have to pay $30 for a seat assignment, or you can get your seat assignment online 24 hours before your flight.”

What bureaucrat thought this one up? What to do? What to do? I need a window seat. I am obsessive about window seats. I want my own piece of wall or window beside me. It’s the only way I can sleep. But it seems like a pointless waste of money. I ask the guy to check how full the flight is. “Should I pay?” I ask him.

“No,” he says.

It’s a gamble, but one that pays off, Precisely 24 hours before my flight (actually one minute beforehand) I log on and presto. The window seat is mine. I love an airline agent I can trust.

So now on to Geneva, Montreux, Lausanne, Bern, St Moritz and Zürich. When people say to me, “Oh, you must have travelled everywhere,” my reply is usually, “Nope. I’ve never been to Switzerland.” How can I never have been to Switzerland? It’s not exactly off the beaten trail. That’s all changing as of tomorrow. Snow, mountains and well-made watches here I come. And if all goes well, I won’t come back with all these stereotypical images of snow, mountains and well-made watches.

Still, even when you think you’ve got everything ironed out, it’s never smooth sailing. So far I haven’t been able to get into La Prairie Spa, which is the grand dame of the spa world; and someone else has just beat me to a Lausanne story, but come on, who wouldn’t be excited about a trip to beautiful Switzerland? Hassles are just part of the road.


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