The Plan to Meet up in Jamaica
In May of 2021, my family and I decided to go to Montego Bay, Jamaica for a little family vacation. The goal was to meet up with each other at some point during our stay, relax at the resort, go to the beach, and explore Montego Bay.
I planned on staying in Jamaica from Thursday, May 13th to Sunday, May 16th. My family was supposed to arrive on Friday, May 14th and stay until May 21st. So, that was enough time for us to relax and chill altogether.
Why meet up? Well, my parents had planned on staying in Jamaica for about a week. Because I had to work, I decided to go for 3 days only. The original plan was for me to arrive on a Thursday, have my family arrive on a Friday, and have that Friday through Sunday together before I had to return home.
Problems from the Start - Thursday, May 13th
However, things did not go according to plan on either of our parts. My parents had trouble getting the plane tickets to Jamaica and pulling up the results of their COVID tests to show at the airport. They ended up arriving in Jamaica on Sunday, literally about 10 minutes before I headed into the airport to return to Philly.
On my end, things went wrong right from the start. Prior to my gate boarding in Philly, the gate attendants announced that the flight was overbooked and there wouldn’t be enough overhead space for carry-on luggage. Specifically, they stated that people in groups 7 to 9 would have to check their carry-on luggage as there wouldn’t be enough room for our things in the overhead bin.
I was in group 8 or 9, basically one of the last groups to board. While waiting on line, the attendants were literally telling us to check our carry-on luggage because there wasn’t enough room on the plane. Putting trust in them, which I regretted later, I checked my backpack in for free.
The thing is, I only brought a carry-on item with me. I don’t like to bring check-in bags or bring extra luggage with me. I prefer to have everything on hand with me and carry it on the plane for free.
When I checked my backpack in, I didn’t have other luggage as I was only going for 3 days. It was just my backpack, my fanny pack, and nothing else.
In hindsight, I should’ve taken out my foldable backpack and put some items in there. But, at the time, I didn’t know that this event would cause such a headache for me.
Needless to say, when they were forcing us to check in our carry-on items, the gate attendants failed to tell us that because there was no room in the under compartment of the plane, they had to LEAVE our CARRY-ON ITEMS BEHIND in Philly.
Arriving in Jamaica with Nothing - Thursday, May 13th
So, after a 3 hour flight, I arrived in Jamaica. I exchanged some US dollars for Jamaican dollars. Then, I proceeded to baggage claim to pick up my backpack.
The first round of luggage came around the carousel. One after another, after another, after another suitcase came out. Not one of them being my burgundy Eagle Creek backpack.
A lot of people didn’t have their luggage at this point. But the staff at baggage claim said there was more luggage coming, we just had to wait. So, we waited. After about 30 minutes of waiting, the second round of luggage came around the carousel.
Again, I waited patiently to see my burgundy backpack come around the carousel. Suitcase, after suitcase, after bag, and other luggage came and went. None being my backpack. Eventually, the carousel stopped after the last of the luggage was sent and taken by passengers. About 20 of us, myself included, didn’t receive their luggage.
The slow realization dawned on me that I was in this country with NOTHING. At least some of the other passengers had their other checked-in bags, they just didn’t get their carry-on stuff. For them, they could manage a few days without the carry-on until it was delivered to them.
Unfortunately, for passengers like me and about 5 others, we literally had nothing. No bags, no clothes, no toiletries, nothing. Just the clothes on our backs and the personal item we had.
All I had was the clothes on my back, my fanny pack, my iPad (thankfully I had enough sense to take that out of my backpack prior to checking it in), my water bottle, phone, and nothing else.
The Long Wait for Delayed Luggage - May 13th to May 14th
After talking with the staff about my luggage, I came to find out that it was being sent on a plane to Montego Bay THE NEXT DAY. When it arrived, they would verify it was my backpack, have it sent through customs, and delivered to my resort.
I filled out a delayed baggage claim with details and information about my flight, my delayed luggage, items in said luggage, resort information and contact information. The staff gave me a tiny toiletries bag to take with me because I told them I literally had nothing on hand. They also said that since my resort was 5 minutes away from the airport, I’d be one of the first ones to receive my luggage. That brought some joy to me.
After spending about 2 hours in the airport and filling out papers, I took a taxi to my resort . Once checked in, I went to a touristy shop and bought extra clothes but not undies. They didn’t have any underwear (sorry if that sounds gross). At least now I had some clothes and toiletry items to last a day or two.
Upon returning to my resort room, I immediately entered the tracking number and flight information for my delayed luggage. Nothing showed up on the system. I figured I’d wait until tomorrow morning to check again.
My arrival in Jamaica, a day meant for swimming by the pool and relaxing, was wasted. Because I had nothing on hand, I was so stressed out and worried about my backpack, I couldn’t calm down and enjoy the beautiful weather or pool. I just took a shower and went to bed.
The next day, Friday the 14th, came and went. I went to Deja Resort to get my COVID test for my flight that Sunday. Afterwards, I relaxed in the pool, drank at the poolside bar, then relaxed in my resort room until the evening.
For most of the day after returning to my room from swimming, I constantly checked the status of my backpack. I saw that it had arrived in Montego Bay and was going through customs. After that, I didn’t see any updates.
Around 7pm I went to the poolside bar again, drank a couple of beers, then went back to my room to go to sleep. I felt sad and hopeless as the day had come and gone, with my backpack still out there and not with me.
The Long Wait was Over
Friday, May 14th
I received a phone call from the person at the front desk around 11:56pm on Friday the 14th. They said that there was a delivery from the airport and I had to go and pick it up.
I was half asleep when that call took place and I’ve never jolted upright, got dressed and ready as fast as I did that night. When I made it to the resort lobby, there it was! My backpack! I was so happy and relieved that it finally made it back to me.
I signed the papers stating I received my package and hurried back to my room. Still very tired from being awakened, I just put my backpack on the bed and fell back to sleep.
Doctor’s Cave Beach - Saturday, May 15th
The next day, Saturday the 15th, I double checked to see if everything was still in its place. And thankfully it was. Nothing was out of place or missing.
With my possessions on hand, I packed my day backpack and made my way to Doctor’s Cave Beach. I paid about $750 Jamaican dollars (or $7 USD) to enter the beach. It’s a small but nice beach. The water was lovely!
There was a Starbucks right there, bathrooms, a shower, and you could rent chairs and umbrellas as well. It was a very nice beach and I enjoyed my time swimming and snorkeling that day.
Time to Leave - Sunday, May 16th
Saturday came and went, I started packing for my departure on Sunday the 16th. And that was it. Nothing special, besides not having my backpack, happened. I didn’t go off and explore much of the area because I was waiting for my backpack to arrive. Even if I wanted to explore, I was too sad and anxious to go exploring because of this situation.
I also never met up with my parents either. That was the whole point of coming to Jamaica, was to have a family vacation. Instead, I arrived alone without my backpack and stayed for 3 days without being with my family. I waited anxiously for my backpack to arrive which interfered with my ability and headspace to wander around.
I just hope next year will be better for a family vacation to Jamaica.
What To Do if This Happens to You
This was a pretty nerve inducing experience. As a traveler, especially when you’re solo traveling, you wouldn’t want to arrive in a country without your possessions. Especially when you’re not going to stay for too long, you run the risk of not having your luggage delivered to you on time.
I hope this doesn’t happen to any of you. Unfortunately, this happened to me and the other people who arrived in Montego Bay and didn’t receive their checked-in carry-on bags.
However, if you find yourself in a predicament like this, here’s what you should do as I had to do these things myself.
1. Try to stay calm
This is a very stressful, frustrating, and upsetting experience. Trust and believe me, it’s not a fun thing to go through. And yes, you have every right to feel what you feel in that moment. Whether it’s anger, frustration, sadness, or anxiety, it’s ok.
However, I encourage you to try your best to stay calm. Although you may want to scream or cuss out the airline staff, at the end of the day that’s not going to get your luggage back any quicker.
Stay calm, try to be patient, and take deep breaths.
2. Make your way to the airport staff at baggage claim
The next thing you want to do is make your way to the designated airport staff at the baggage claim area. There should be a desk with someone behind it. That’s the person you want to talk to.
If you’re unsure of where to go, don’t hesitate to ask someone for directions to the staff at baggage claim.
3. File a delayed or lost luggage report
Once you find your way to the appropriate staff person, you’ll want to file a delayed or lost luggage report (depending on if the incident was recent or not).
When you file a report, you’re creating a description of your delayed/lost luggage, and the items inside. You’ll also fill in the flight number, your tracking number for your luggage, the airport you flew in from, your contact information, email address, and the accommodation you’re staying at.
If you’re staying in a place for a period of time, you can talk to the staff about having your luggage delivered to the accommodation you’re staying at while traveling. If you’re only traveling for a short amount of time, you can also talk to them about having your luggage delivered to your home address.
4. Take pictures of all reports and information
It’s good practice to have copies of any documents or files. When you get that tracking number, report, and other documents needed for the delayed luggage report, take pictures of those items.
5. Check in at your accommodation
Once you’re done filing your delayed or lost luggage report, you’ll want to make your way to your accommodation.
Until you receive updates from the airline about your luggage, there’s nothing else you can do at that point. So go to your accommodation, check-in, and try your best to relax and settle in.
6. Ask a local or the receptionist for the nearest store
If your delayed luggage was the only thing you had on you, like myself, and you having nothing else on hand, ask a local or the receptionist at your accommodation for the nearest store.
You can always use google to find the nearest store as well. But a local or receptionist will have a pretty good idea of the stores in the area that are close to your accommodation.
7. Hold onto your receipt
This step is super important! If you buy any clothes, make sure you hold onto your receipt! With delayed or lost luggage, you can file a claim for reimbursement for items you had to purchase because you didn’t have your luggage.
Whether it’s shirts, bottoms, bathing suits, shoes, hats, towels, whatever it is, hold onto that store receipt. And take a picture of it as well so you have a digital copy.
8. Keep price tags of purchased items
Depending on the airline, they may or may not ask for additional proof of purchases made. In addition to your receipt, keep the price tags of the items you purchased. Don’t forget to take pictures of those tags as well.
9. Take pictures of receipt, tags and clothing
As mentioned in the previous points, take pictures of your receipt, tags, and clothing as well. It’s good to have a copy of these things for your records and for filing your reimbursement claim.
10. Get food and a good night’s sleep
When you’re done buying the things you need for your stay, eat some food and get a good night’s sleep. It’ll be hard to fall asleep but it’ll help you to feel refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
11. Track your luggage through the airline
The next day, take the file number and tracking information given to you by the staff at baggage claim and track your luggage. It should give you information as to the movement of your luggage.
That way, you can keep track of your luggage and know when to expect it.
12. Let your accommodation know you’re expecting a delivery from the airport
If you decided to have your luggage delivered to the accommodation you’re staying at, be sure to let them know you’re expecting a delivery from the airport.
Give them a small description of your luggage as well. That way, they’ll know to be on the lookout for people making deliveries from the airport.
13. Wait patiently for your luggage to arrive
This is the hardest part of having delayed luggage, is waiting for it to arrive. It may come the same day or it may come in a few days. Tracking the luggage helps, but after it leaves the airport, it may take a while to receive your luggage.
Certain airlines are quicker and better at delivering luggage than others. Even with a good airline, sometimes deliveries in other locations or countries can be difficult. So it also depends on the airline and location as well.
14. Collect your luggage (if it is delivered to you)
If you’re luggage has arrived at your accommodation, then you can breathe a sigh of relief! Once your accommodation or the delivery person notifies you about your delivery, you can go and collect your delayed luggage!
15. File a reimbursement claim
Now that you’re reunited with your luggage, take a deep breath and thank the heavens it’s been delivered safely. After you’ve checked your luggage to check that everything is in its place and nothing was stolen, you can then file a reimbursement claim.
Remember that receipt, tracking number, flight number, and all that information? You’ll need them to file a reimbursement claim through the airline. The airline you’ll file this reimbursement through will tell you the exact information and documents needed for the claim.
16. Contact airline if you didn’t receive your luggage
However, not all stories have a happy ending. Some travelers don’t receive their delayed luggage. If that’s the case, then you’ll file a lost baggage claim through the airline and follow the next steps for trying to find your luggage.
I hope those steps help you if you end up in a situation with delayed luggage, with nothing on hand, in a foreign location. Despite these obstacles, Montego Bay was still amazing and I enjoyed my time in Jamaica. At the end of the day, you have to keep moving forward and try to make the most out of difficult situations.