My husband and I planned a lot of things for our romantic honeymoon in Paris, but we never anticipated losing luggage along the way. After touching down at Charles de Gaulle Airport, we soon discovered that my bag had not arrived with us.
It turned out, however, that starting a vacation with little more than the clothes on my body wasn’t necessarily a deal breaker. I just had to learn the ropes of international shopping very quickly.
Here are four ways I survived being luggage-less in the City of Lights.
1. Seek out the deals.
We left for our honeymoon the day after Thanksgiving — known in the United States as Black Friday, aka the day you might grapple with a stranger over the last big screen TV on the shelf. I hadn’t expected our American tradition of deal-hunting to traverse the ocean along with us, but a number of shops in Paris also offered great sales. Store windows featured “BOGO” and “50% Off” signs, and I saw only a few locals perusing the deals. By shopping in Paris on Black Friday, I spent a pleasant day searching for thrifty finds at a leisurely pace!
Before embarking on your international adventure, and certainly before a shopping spree, find out if your U.S. bank has sister banks in the city you’re visiting — and whether your credit card charges foreign transaction fees.
2. Replace old standbys with the same old standbys.
In my lost luggage, I had specifically packed a few favorite items that traveled well — clothes that were comfortable and versatile. Knowing that my husband and I would join long walking tours, I focused on the basics like layer-friendly sweaters and the perfect pair of day-to-night stretch jeans. Luckily, I found many of the same stores in France, so it was easy to hop into a familiar shop and grab replacement items.
Now when we go on a big trip, my husband and I portion some of our clothes into each suitcase. So if one of us loses our luggage again, we both will have enough clothes to get through a couple of days. We also put a day’s worth of clothes and underwear in our carry-ons — just in case!
3. Buy items with local flair.
This was my opportunity to channel my inner (and dormant!) French fashionista! Although I am typically not an ankle-length-camel-coat-wearing kind of gal, after seeing a slew of French women on the Metro wearing this beautiful and classic wool jacket, I knew that I wanted one, too. While I won’t have as much use for the coat back home in Los Angeles, it felt wonderful to fit in with the style mavens of Paris during my honeymoon.
While perusing the fashion magazines on the plane ride, I had also read that pointy-toed shoes were making a comeback. So I bought a few pairs of on-trend (and on sale!) boots, and I still receive compliments when I wear them back home.
Ask about the dress codes at the restaurants where you plan to dine. Some hipper spots might be more casual than you think! That said, dressing up for a special occasion is never frowned upon, so pick up a range of items for both exploring the city and eating a nice meal each evening.
4. Actually deal with it.
Once I had finished the fun part — shopping — there was still one missing piece of the puzzle. Where was my suitcase?! It turned out that a fellow traveler had mistakenly taken my bag at baggage claim. He returned it to the airport the day before our trip ended, so I requested that the airline send my suitcase back to LA.
All airlines have slightly different protocols for dealing with lost luggage. In my case, international regulations stated that because the airline wasn’t at fault for my missing bag, they weren’t responsible for reimbursing me for any items I had purchased. Finding out that I had to pay out of pocket for all of my new clothes was a bummer, and the revelation would have stung less if I’d known those rules before filing my case for reimbursement.
If the airline will not reimburse you for purchasing replacement items, check your credit card or travel insurance policy. Make sure you understand how much is covered before splashing out for that gorgeous cashmere sweater that looks just like the one in your drawer back home.
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