Frequent travelers know there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to planning and taking a big trip, and it doesn’t quite stop once everything is booked and paid for.
I just returned from an incredible [and action-packed] family trip to South East Asia where we had the chance to explore several beautiful spots, including some great resort redemptions such as the new Ritz Carlton Langkawi, Park Hyatt Saigon (my favorite Hyatt category 4 property), and the whimsical JW Marriott Phu Quoc.
Over the span of 15 days, we took 10 flight segments (EWR-NRT, NRT-SIN, SIN-LGK, LGK-KUL, KUL-SGN, SGN-PQC, PQC-SGN, SGN-SIN, SIN-NRT, NRT-EWR for the curious and inquiring minds); while that was exhausting to recall and spell out, we actually did enjoy 2-5 nights in each location we visited.
Traveling to the other side of the planet with kids is not an easy feat in itself, and this was my first “super long-haul” trip with my two young kids.
Overall I’d say it was a huge success from start to finish. Even though we packed lightly and planned well, let’s be honest – when you mix jet lag and sleep deprivation with several legs in economy (figuratively and literally), some sort of disaster awaits.
Traveling can sometimes be disorienting to begin with. With new surroundings, distractions, constant hopping around, tight connections, and all kinds of language barriers and excitement, the likelihood of losing and leaving things behind increases. It’s the worst feeling and leaves you feeling utterly drained and helpless.
Traveling aside, I’ll candidly admit that I’m pretty scatterbrained with my belongings to begin with, and I’ll try to keep blaming “mommy brain” for as long as I can.
I think I may have broken some sort of personal record this time. In the span of a week, I’ve managed to lose three important belongings in three different countries.
Losing my iPad in Malaysia
The first part of the trip was redeeming Marriott points for four nights in beautiful Langkawi, Malaysia at the absolutely breathtaking Ritz Carlton Langkawi (full report coming soon).
After the stay, we had an early flight to Saigon via Kuala Lumpur to meet my parents. I coordinated my flight times to sync up with my parents’ Qatar arrival from Doha. It was the crack of dawn when woke up, packed, and left the resort.
It wasn’t until later that evening in Saigon that I realized my iPad was no longer with me when my son asked to watch some Paw Patrol videos before going to bed.
Knowing that I 100% had the iPad the previous night in Langkawi, I immediately contacted the Ritz Carlton to see if housekeeping may have found it after we checked out.
Due to the Lunar New Year approaching, I did not hear back right away. I had mentally written the iPad off because I figured the unlocked and wiped iPad was probably a goner.
Though it’s a sucky feeling, I didn’t really feel too terrible about the loss because I purchased it five years ago and now only use it as an extra screen for the kids to use during quiet time.
I was surprised I received a response back from the guest relations manager. My iPad was located, and they even sent me a picture of it to identify it.
I was thrilled and asked if they would be able to mail it to the Grand Hyatt in Singapore, which I was scheduled to be at a the following week. I was informed that mail would be most likely be slow during the Lunar New Year, so it would be best to mail it to my home address.
It wasn’t until that I returned back home that I contacted the hotel again to see what the status was with the mailing and how much I owed them for postage. I received this response:
Greetings from Ritz-Carlton Langkawi, sorry for late reply.
We duly note that the iPad should be sent to you by mail as per your home address.
However, Malaysian mail department Pos Malaysia not allowed to send the iPad due of hazard (explosion) and safety purpose, as per Pos Malaysia the Royal Malaysian Custom Department will discard the item.
The good news is one of our Marriott colleague currently have a vacation in our property. She’s based in Seattle U.S. and agreed to bring your iPad and mail to you once she come back to U.S in next week.
Knowing ahead of time that there would be risk having the device mailed back to me, I would have been perfectly fine with accepting the loss. Management decided to go the extra mile to return it to me via a Marriott employee, and that kindness speaks volumes. I was truly impressed by this gesture.
Losing my Phone in Vietnam
Losing my phone in Vietnam had to be the most stressful and adrenaline-pumping experience of the trip. We had just completed a wonderful five-night stay at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc, and we were headed to the airport with a very small window of time before we had to catch our flight to Ho Chi Mihn City.
On the ride, I had my phone in the back of my jeans pocket and two small backpacks on my lap. By the time we arrived, I hurried to get the kids and bags on the curb, paid the fare, and thankfully I left the driver a generous tip for the New Year and to get rid of some remaining currency I no longer needed.
By the time we parted ways, to my horror, I realized my phone wasn’t my pocket! As you can imagine, panic set in immediately!
A million thoughts raced through my mind, and I succumbed to the fact that I was SOL given that a brand new, shiny iPhone 8S Plus was left in a taxi with absolutely no way to reach it.
Aside from that, the driver had already left, and there was only an hour before boarding. If I missed this flight, I was guaranteed to miss our connecting flight to Singapore which was booked on an entirely separate reservation. This just felt like a messy situation regardless of whichever outcome may be, but I still had to at least try.
The airport at Phu Quoc is small and English was difficult to come by on the island in general. I was freaking out and considering all options. As quickly as I can, I located an airport security guard and tried to explain that I had left my phone in a taxi cab, while politely asking if he could help me.
The man was sympathetic, but had a hard time understanding what my situation was, so it did require some charades on my end.
I was so grateful that he was patient and willing to help. He flagged down another taxi and he and the driver spoke to each other in Vietnamese to try figure out what to do. They both genuinely seemed to care, despite having absolutely no obligation to deal with the unfortunate situation I brought upon myself.
I suggested maybe if they could alert the other taxis nearby over the radio and see if they could flag down a cab that just left the airport. He did, and no one responded.
The compassionate taxi driver saw that I was becoming visibly upset even though I was trying my hardest to hold it together.
Without hesitation, he invited me to hop in the cab and offered to drive me to a taxi base to see if I could locate the driver there. By accepting his kind offer, I knew I was risking missing my flight, but this was my only chance to attempt to reunite with my phone.
About 7 minutes into the drive, I was beginning to second guess my decision big time. Then suddenly, the driver’s phone rings, and when I saw his face light up as he turned to me, I instantly felt a wave of relief.
He screamed, “has phone!!!”. I was beaming and we legitimately hugged in excitement! It felt surreal.
We turned around, and the previous driver drove back to the airport with my phone. I thanked both drivers profusely and offered to give them both a small reward, which they refused. This exchange restored my faith in humanity.
I rushed to the AirAsia check-in counter like a crazy lady, minutes before check-in closed and was able to make the flight.
Losing my Wallet in Japan
Just when I thought I was being extra careful about my belongings for the rest of the trip, the universe decided that I still had some lessons to learn. Things happen in threes after all, right?
As we were headed on our long trek back to the states, we left Singapore at the crack of dawn. Luckily we were able to break up our long travel day with a three-hour layover in Tokyo.
Once we landed, we grabbed some lunch, and spent some time at the terminal play area. About an hour before boarding, I asked the kids if they wanted to grab a snack at the lounge. As I reached into my backpack to grab my Priority Pass card, my gut sunk yet again. My wallet was no where to be found.
I emptied the entire contents of my backpack onto the foam play mat. Zero. Zip. Nada.
I remembered I had my wallet at Changi Airport in Singapore because I made a purchase at a pharmacy before boarding.
My first thought was that I had left it there. I have never lost my entire wallet before, so I started immediately taking inventory of which credit cards, ID cards, and other things were inside so that I could start replacing.
I logged on to all of my mobile banking apps to see if there was any recent activity, but luckily there were no new charges.
Then I realized it was totally a shot in the dark, but was there a remote possibility that the wallet may have slipped out of my backpack on my previous ANA flight from Singapore? After all, I remember going in and out of it several times to retrieve headsets, coloring books, and games.
I figured it was worth a shot to check because it would be a far better outcome if the wallet made it to Tokyo in the possession of an airline instead of it still sitting in the world’s largest airport in Singapore.
I gathered everything together as quickly as I could and darted to the airport help desk. I explained to the agent that I had just come off a flight from Singapore and realized my wallet was gone. I also informed her that I only had about 45 minutes left before I had to board my United flight to Newark.
The woman behind the desk was very helpful and contacted ANA immediately. She provided my flight number, my name, and description of my wallet. Again, here I am thinking there was NO possibility that my wallet would be located, and if it was indeed found by the airline’s cleaning crew, I wouldn’t be getting it back anytime soon since airlines tend to follow a very strict regimen when it comes to returning belongings left behind on flight (this would not be my first rodeo).
After a few minutes of her speaking on the phone with ANA, she informed me that yes, a wallet had been found in seat 36E, but they had to first verify that it belonged to me. This news was such a relief because I immediately knew that it had to be mine since I was in 36D and we were the only people occupying the last row of the aircraft.
Well with great news, the helpful agent confirmed that the wallet was mine, and told me that an ANA agent was in the process of bringing the wallet to my gate, just minutes before boarding. I couldn’t have been happier!
Stuff happens, and of course losing something isn’t the end of the world. This comes without saying that losing valuables is not only frustrating, but expensive too. It’s one of those pain points we as travelers and people like to avoid at all costs.
Of course, I’m glad I didn’t lose my mind after all of this, but when you lose a $900 phone, a wallet full of credit cards and lounge passes, suddenly your bargain trip can cost much more than planned, and your sweet redemptions start to taste sour. It’s never fun, and you feel defeated.
Luckily in my case, all three of my lost items were returned (or currently en route).
Though mildly-inconveniencing, I am grateful with the outcome and the kind and heart-warming interactions I had with those who took the time to help me.
Language barriers or not, there is really no barrier when it boils down to the goodness and honesty found within people.
These experiences teach valuable lessons outside of just being more aware and careful with my physical belongings. At the end of the day, items are replaceable. Kindness and character is priceless, and I’m further reminded to do my part to pay it forward too.
Have you lost something important or valuable while traveling (dignity not included)? If so, was it returned to you? Feel free to share some of your wild experiences.