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Why I’ll Never Check My Backpack Again (Short Answer: LAX)

Why I’ll Never Check My Backpack Again (Short Answer: LAX)

I’m new to backpacking. And camping. But so far I think I’m pretty good at it. I’ve flown standby more times than I’ve flown on a full-fare ticket, so I’m good at packing light. Recently, though, I learned a hard lesson about checking my bag. And I’m pretty sure I’m never checking my bag again.

My boyfriend and I went to Hawaii for the weekend (tough life, I know). We were planning on camping on the east side of Oahu. He goes every year and had purchased a ticket long before I met him. I figured I could just fly standby and tag along and it would all just work out.

Before we left, I got a pack. An honest-to-God backpacker’s pack. I also bought an ultra light camp mattress and mummy bag. REI‘s stock probably jumped a few points after I left the store. Anyway, I was prepared. My sleeping bag was packed in a compression sack, I packed the bare minimum of clothing, shoes and so on. I was ready to go. Until I didn’t get on the plane. 

Getting To Hawaii

While the boy was flying across the Pacific, I quickly realized that since I hadn’t made the first flight to HNL (that’s Honolulu airport, in industry speak) I probably wouldn’t make the other three connecting flights that day. So I scurried over to one of those charging hubs that looks like a new age pub table, got out my trusty iPad and started checking flights. Lo and behold, the gate in front of me had a flight to Maui leaving in under an hour. I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d get from Maui to Oahu, but I figured I’d be better off on a Hawaiian island than at LAX all day.

When in Maui…

Well, turns out I couldn’t just snap my fingers and get from Maui to Oahu. I arrived at about 2pm local time. There are several flights a day available from many carriers, but it was a busy weekend and I wasn’t going to get a flight until 6am the next morning—and that was on a full fare ticket!

So, I went down to the baggage claim area, picked up a bunch of tourist materials and a bus schedule and settled on a self-guided tour of Paia Village. Just one stop away from the airport on the bus line, this is an adorable neighborhood that isn’t too touristy. There are tons of shops and restaurants in older, adapted bungalows and buildings. The people were lovely, the food was good and, although there was no place to safely stow my pack, just sitting on the beach was lovely.

The bus does (sort of) run on island time so I caught the (probably) third-to-last bus of the night…just to be safe. I was so thankful I hadn’t checked my bag on that Honolulu flight, because that night I slept in the baggage claim area of the Maui airport. And it really wasn’t that bad. I had a comfortable bed (thanks, again REI) and an outlet right next to me. 

Coming Home, However…

The funny thing about flying standby is that you should never take anything for granted. I thought the tough part of the flight would be getting from HNL to LAX. Once I got to LAX, my final connection was a sure thing. I’d seen the passenger loads and there were plenty of seats to get me home. I got brave and checked my pack so I’d have less to carry around the airport. 


As Murphy’s Law would have it, I got on the flight to LAX without a problem. Arriving at 9:30 pm (or so) local time, I looked to the departure board to figure out which gate i needed to get to. And then I saw it. My flight, my easy and wide open flight home? Yeah. It was canceled. I was stuck at the airport.

Then I made another mistake. I left the secure area to go to baggage claim and see if I could get my bag. After all, my pack didn’t get onto another plane. It was just sitting somewhere. An attendant told me it might take an hour or more, which I was on board with, and then within two minutes had entirely changed her position on the matter. I was told in no uncertain terms that I could not have my bag.

It was now too late to get back through security. Also, I couldn’t get through security on a ticket for the next day. And that’s how I ended up attempting to sleep at the baggage claim at LAX. Spoiler alert: I didn’t sleep. There was no place to lay down and it was cold. Not that it’s breaking news or anything, but airport chairs are THE WORST. 

Making Lemonade or Some Other Cliche…

So I got out my trusty iPad and figured I’d get some work done. I pulled up the GoDaddy app and actually got a lot of updates done on a website I’ve been working on. I’d downloaded the app after watching a Bob Parsons video blog and hadn’t really tried it out yet. It’s actually really handy, it has webmail and website tools. I even registered my own domain name. I’d put in a shameless plug BUT I haven’t even started designing it yet. Be sure, though, that after spending so much time browsing on my phone and iPad, it’s definitely going to be mobile-friendly. Bob would be proud.

By then I’ll have remembered to never check my sleeping bag or fancy ultra-light air mattress. I hope.

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About the author

-Travel obsessed, EVASER author and editor of  Flyerizer. Follow via Twitter or view her posts.

View all articles by A Elle
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