Always Pack Your Toothbrush In Your Carry-on

August 9, 2009 17 Comments »

Many people hate airline travel. They hate overpriced airline tickets, they hate the cramped space, the crying babies, the lost luggage, and the swine flu or myriad of other viruses you tend to catch on the plane. However airline travel is usually necessary to accomplish a vacation, so no matter how much you hate it, you have to take the bad to get to the good. However, I’m one of these freakish people that actually loves airline travel; it is full of good and bad, but it a sacrifice that I’m willing to make. When it comes to airline travel, I personally find that the bad seems to come in waves of bad luck, and then it vanishes and you have good luck for a while. My last year of airline travel has been pretty good, no major problems therefore my time was bound to come. It arrived in Korea on my way to Mongolia.

As with most travel, you tend you work your butt off up to the point of stepping on the plane. I am normally going at the speed of light leading up to trip, and once I set foot on that plane, I can relax…all I have to do is sit and do nothing; I love it.

“Hello, my name is Sherry and I love long plane trips.”
Yeah – I know this is weird.

The activity prior to leaving for Mongolia was no exception. The two nights prior I had only had about 5 hrs of sleep each night; I was tired when I stepped on the plane and promptly got out my little neck pillow, blew it up, and went to sleep. It was an overnight flight starting at 12:30AM from HCMC to Seoul. I was rudely woken up at 3 hrs later when they turned on all of the cabin lights and forced us out of our slumber in an effort to feed us breakfast.

I begrudgingly stayed awake for the rest of the flight and we arrived on time in Seoul. I had a 5 hour layover in Seoul and was honestly looking forward to being in a big international airport for a longer layover to simply look around, buy magazines, enjoy some fast food.

Yes – I know liking long flights and liking to spend time in airports may be the reason why I’m still single…it’s strange, it’s very strange.

I bought a few duty free camera supplies, ate an egg McMuffin, and utilized the free wireless. After 3 hours of enjoying myself I decided I should go and check in at the gate so I could get my boarding pass for my next flight. This meant that I had to switch to a smaller terminal, no problem. The Seoul airport is quite nice and very easy to get around, plus I was on my pre-vacation high!

My flight was at 12:30PM. I went to the transfer gate and was informed the flight was delayed and we had to come back at 1PM to check in. Ok – I can take this in stride. Two more hours pass and went back to check in. They said, no plane, come back in two more hours. Now I’m getting a bit annoyed.

Food at the airport

Food at the airport

My day is slipping by, I’m starting to get terribly tired and I’m hungry. I try to go back to the other bigger terminal to have lunch as there were some great restaurants over there and my current terminal only had fast food Asian. The security wouldn’t let me go back to Terminal 1 as I didn’t have a proper transfer. I tried to explain the situation – no luck – I was stuck with Asian fast food. On the bright side, it turned out to be pretty good.

Two hours later, I’m really tired , feeling gross, and I can feel a layer of film on my teeth reminding me that I had never been able to brush my teeth yet today and it’s now 3PM. When would I ever learn to pack my toothbrush and toothpaste in my carryon?! My red eye flight felt like 2 days ago and I was suddenly overcome with frustration. I went to the desk to check in – they said – come back 3 hours later.

That was it, my breaking point. I was doing great up until the sweaters formed on my teeth and my eyelids felt as if they were 5 lbs each. I looked at them and put forth my best plea – can you please give me a lounge pass so I can relax in a bit more comfort and take a shower? At this point I had been in the airport for about 9 hrs – I had reached my limit. They of course said no since the flight was due to a weather issue in Ulanbatar. They absolutely could not give me a pass. I begged more, tried to reason with them. They said all they could do was place a call the manager and ask. Great, call the manager I said.

The lesson here – nothing ventured, nothing gained. The manager granted me a Korean Airlines lounge pass…the gates opened, there was a bright light and angels singing…did I mention I was sleep deprived? Seriously though, it always pays to ask, the worst that can be said is “no”.

Korea Air Lounge

Korea Air Lounge

I went to the lounge and entered another world of comfortable chairs, English magazines and newspapers, a free buffet of food, free drinks plus an open bottle of wine. See….heaven. The first thing I asked about was a shower ; no problem, they gave me a key to my own little bathroom completely decked out with a plush towel, soap, shampoo, and wait one moment…what’s this? A toothbrush and toothpaste!

The shower room was brilliant – I felt a bit normal again – and my teeth didn’t feel like a woolie pullover any longer! I poured myself a glass of wine, got a plate of food and sat down to work online.

The delays continued for another couple of hours and we finally boarded the plane at 9:30 PM, 9 hrs after our original departure time. I had been in the airport for 14 hours now, I can safely say that I was pretty happy to leave and I was really happy that I had clean teeth!

just a bed...not room for anything else!

just a bed...not room for anything else!

The saga didn’t end in Seoul – but when I showed up 9 hrs late to Ulanbatar the Khongor guest house (a terrible recomendation from Lonely Planet) forgot to send the car that I had booked – so was stranded at the airport trying to fend off pushy cabbies and determine which one I could trust, how to find an ATM, and how to tell the cabbie where to go!  Not a great welcome into the country.  However the main thing is that I made it eventually; and tomorrow would be a new day!  I crashed in my little (very little) guest room and fell fast asleep after a long day of travel.

Hopefully this means that my airplane karma is back in the positive now. I’ve paid my dues, I’ve lost a whole day of my vacation – I personally think that’s enough sacrifice to the airline Gods…hopefully they think so too!

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