Travel lessons re-learned en route to Ecuador

Panama is slipping past as our plane makes its way south towards our destination, the city “El Libertador,” Simon Bolivar called “a cathedral,” the capital city of Quito. There are four guides on board, eager to land and stretch our legs after hours of sitting in planes.

Our first leg was delayed by severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in Houston, but we had sufficient time on our layover to weather the storm, so to speak. Hopefully, our bags are stowed beneath us and will await us at the baggage claim. Every time we travel it is a bit of a gamble on many levels, and each time flights connect on time and allow us to arrive and later return as planned is a gift. With my selected in-flight movie ended and not really time to dive into another, I found myself reflecting on this current journey and some lessons we might learn from the experiences of numerous climbers who have joined us on trips in recent months.

Travel insurance
Two of the ten climbers who are supposed to meet us in the coming days will not be making their flight to Ecuador because of a family emergency that suddenly arose yesterday. Similarly, we had some climbers scheduled to join us on other expeditions have to cancel their trips due to work conflicts or illnesses. It’s hard to pinpoint what percentage of climbers find themselves in the unfortunate position to actually use their travel insurance, but it seems to be on the rise, as the complexities of life don’t seem to much care how well laid be our plans. A good trip cancellation or trip interruption plan has really helped some of the aforementioned climbers.

Early arrival
Expeditions require such a monumental investment of time, money and energy that it really makes sense to arrive at your meeting point a day or so early. We saw this help some of our climbers who found their flights delayed or baggage not arrive. Building one extra day into your itinerary might just give you one more day to sight see, but it could easily help keep your team on schedule.

Redundancy of documentation
We had a climber fall victim to thieves just prior to meeting up with our team this winter. Fortunately, he had sent us a copy of his passport and we were able to email him and the local consulate a PDF of his papers. Carrying a copy (or two) has long been considered prudent, but in today’s connected world, having a digital copy can be quite handy. The same goes for your travel insurance and medical insurance papers. Give copies to a loved one who can email them to you, if you get in a pinch.

Carry-on considerations
As cumbersome as it may seem, carrying your boots with you as part of your carry-on can save your trip, should you find yourself having arrived without your bags. We have had two climbers on recent trips find themselves in need of an in-country shopping spree at the local climbing shops. Boots are literally and figuratively foundational for us climbers and a decent fitting pair can be very hard to find in some areas, especially if you have feet sized like Sasquatch. Glacier glasses (especially prescription versions) should similarly be in your possession whilst flying.

Have an advocate
If you book your flights by yourself, without the assistance of a travel agent, make sure you have left your itinerary, reservation code, record locator and airline ticket numbers with a trusted friend or loved one. This could help expedite getting your flights changed, should the need arise. While it is often convenient to run into a local airline office, it might be more so if “you” were to just call the airline with your requisite information and make the change “yourself” (wink-wink).

Well, the coffee cart is rolling closer, so I’ll sign off from somewhere over the west coast of South America.

Hasta la proxima vez,

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