Experiment: Travelling without my MasterCard

Earlier this week, I took a short trip to visit a friend near Orlando and decided that, since it was only 3 days and I’d be staying at her place, it would be a good opportunity to see how it felt leaving my credit card behind. I’ve done many trips without using my credit card – heck, if I’m out of the country, I go out of my way not to use it. But it was always in my pocket feeling a bit like a financial security blanket.

However, I decided that with all of this so-called credit card reform, this could soon turn into a rather expensive security blanket. So I packed 50% more cash than I thought I’d need and headed for the airport. I had a short connection through Charlotte, and didn’t mind that my ongoing flight was delayed an hour. I needed to recover from the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced – it lasted 30-40 mins and my seat neighbor and I struck up a conversation (wow, a pro-choice Texan!) to distract ourselves: her from fear of dying, me from fear of hurling. I had my clammy head against the seat in front of me, barf bag open, convinced I was about to do something that would humble my image of myself as a savvy world traveller. Heck, I even told her about the sideline I won’t tell you all about. I was the last, very green-around-the-gills person off the plane.

Long story short, my onward flight was cancelled due to weather after a string of 30-minute postponements. Not really surprising, but airlines don’t comp hotel rooms when it’s weather-related (fair enough, really – I have no problem with this policy). Oh dear. Suddenly that extra 50% was required to pay for a $69 room that magically, through the power of tourist taxes and “booking fees”, cost $90.  Next morning, the breakfast room was abuzz with the news that we had been grounded because of a tornado – which hit the area less than 10 minutes after we touched down. I refused at that point to feel ticked off that my 2.5-day visit with my friend was cut to 1.5 days.

Now, when I boarded the first flight, I was one of the last 15 people on the plane and my carry-on wheelie had been taken from me on the ramp and checked. Guess what? No access to luggage. Great, no cell/laptop chargers, fresh undies, toothbrush. The phone was a huge concern, too. When I emailed my friend about what my new arrangements are, she made a BRILLIANT suggestion – ask at hotel reception to poke around the lost-and-found box and see if there was one for my phone to borrow. Well, the housekeeper tracked one down that was about to hit the give-away bin and now I have an extra phone charger. Yay!

When I arrived in Orlando, which wasn’t the original destination airport, despite assurances that my bag would be routed there, it instead ended up at the other airport. I didn’t trust them to deliver the bag that night, so I toddled off to Walmart for the ugliest pair of undies I could find, socks, t-shirt and toothbrush. I got a call from the luggage delivery folks while in Walmart, and decided not to buy the toothbrush but to go ahead with the other things just in case. SMART MOVE. When the bag was delivered, the back part of it had clearly been sitting in a puddle and I had no wearable socks, undies, t-shirts or pyjamas. I ended up borrowing the biggest t-shirt I have ever seen in my life (4XL) to sleep in and figured that $11 for a t-shirt, ugly canary yellow hipsters with blue plaid ribbon bits, and 5pr athletic ankle socks was very tolerable. Still, it made me nervous because I had to drop so much of my cash almost immediately.

It turned out that the gathering at my friend’s house was going to be at the house for all meals while I was there, so I didn’t spend anything else the whole trip. I had plenty of cash in my pocket when I got home. However, I was really nervous the whole time that we’d be doing expensive things and I’d have to bow out because I didn’t have the cash.

What I learned:

  • There are other ways to obtain a free phone charger than shoplifting
  • Fast food bbq pulled pork in Charlotte airport is AWESOME and fairly priced
  • 4XL t-shirts make me feel petite
  • Don’t think for one minute that Walmart is a good choice for sexy lingerie
  • Oh, and bring your damn credit card!

So thanks, US Airways, for getting me there safely. Thanks, Wingate Hotel, for feeding me and supplying me with spare cords. Thanks, friend of friend, for handling my airport transfers and lending me the huge t-shirt. And thanks, friend, for inviting me down and introducing me to a whole lot of cool, smart people.

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