London to Venice by train … with no luggage.

Well I did it.  It wasn’t quite as easy as I thought it might have been, and there were a few hiccups along the way, but I survived it – the MoneySuperMarket Lost Luggage Challenge.  Yay me!

MSM Lost Luggage

What percentage of travel insurance claims are for items of lost or damaged luggage?

Rollover this box to find out the answer

What percentage of travel insurance claims are for items of lost or damaged luggage?

18-25%

Yay me indeed, but at this point you may well be wondering what the MoneySuperMarket Lost Luggage Challenge was.  Let me quickly explain.

In short I was tasked by the guys at MoneySuperMarket with surviving a long weekend away with no luggage.  I was only to take my wallet (inc spending money), passport, house keys, GoPro and iPhone for company.  All other luggage was to be considered as lost.

lost luggage essentials

I was 1 of 5 bloggers set the Lost Luggage by Money Supermarket, and whilst we were all sent to different parts of the globe, I personally was challenged to travel to Venice … but no prizes for guessing that one.

So essentially my backpack is M.I.A and I am to travel  some 700 miles by train from London to Venice, Italy, and to get to Venice I first need to reach St Pancras station in central London to then catch the Eurostar to Paris, and then from there a 13 hour overnight sleeper train to Venice.

This should be interesting.

London to Venice by train:

Day 1:
So the challenge of getting from London to Venice by train starts with a train ride to St Pancras from Heathrow on the London underground.  That was an easy one as my wallet contains my Oyster card, and to be honest the Eurostar is fairly simple too as luckily I have my ticket saved via the Passbook app on my IPhone.  Between arriving at St Pancras and getting on the Eurostar I am able to get hold of some Euro’s and stock up on some water for the journey.

Once in Paris I needed to navigate from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon, and my MasterCard came in more than handy when purchasing the required Paris metro tickets. A quick change at Les Halles where I am able to pick up a few essentials – spare shirt, clean boxers, toothbrush and toothpaste – then it’s onto Gare de Lyon and then platform 22 to catch the 19.59 to Venice.

Paris to Venice via sleeper train

lost luggage essentials

It’s lucky that I took photos of all my travel documents before I left, as I struggled to find any Free wifi in Paris. As I travel on a budget, I usually don’t bother with buying data when abroad, and as it turns out my new phone doesn’t appear to have international data enabled (despite what EE told me on the phone).  Hint – even if you don’t intend to use roaming data abroad, be sure to check you are able, just in case of emergency.  Lucky for me the train company are happy that the name on my passport matches that in the photo of my ticket and ticket number, and so on I get and away we go.

Biggest Challenges

No massive challenges on day 1 in terms of tickets or getting to places. My credit card happily takes care of all purchases, but once having purchased items such as clothes and water, I only have a plastic bag to carry these items in – no secure and not comfortable to carry. I also need to remember to collect all my receipts so I can claim back on my insurance. Normally I would say no to a receipt in the interest of saving paper, but these receipts I need to remember.

Day 2:
A 5.30 am wake up calls is never the ideal, but when it’s the train inspector coming to give you your passport back, that’s not so bad.  The irony of having no luggage and then having to give up 1 of my 5 remaining items was not lost. I did wonder if at some point I was going to end up completely luggage-less.

I arrived into Venice around 9.30am, and instantly reaped the rewards of having all my docs saved as photos/passbook items on my iPhone and pre-booking a public transport ticket for Venice. My water taxi travel card PNG number was accepted by the ticket machine and from there on in I had 48 hours access to all ACTV water taxis, however before I stepped foot into any water craft, I had a few sights I wanted to visit and tick off, I also needed to sort some more clean clothes, and I also needed a drink (and the free wifi) that came with it.

Feeling slightly more alive after an OJ, but not smelling overly fresh, I decided that making use of my Biennale Arte festival tickets before the city reached peak heat was a grand idea, and with that I caught a water taxi to Gardini and entered into the All The World’s Futures exhibits.

Now I’m no art expert, but the exhibits were still fun and interesting.  Some were a little violent/morbid/scary for my tastes, but some other more playful and creative pieces certainly grabbed my attention.  It was fun and interesting to take a look into the minds of different people, and see what they think our futures might hold.

All the worlds futures

Post festival I wandered the streets of Venice for a good 2-3 hours, taking in as much as I could whilst simultaneously trying to hide/ignore the fact I really needed a shower.  So come 4pm I took water taxi No.1 to the Lido and towards water + soap + a fresh change of recently purchased clothes.

venice_canals

Doors of Venice

My hotel was in an idyllic location, right on the beach front.  It was beautiful, but strangely deserted.  It was certainly warm enough for me to have a think about lying out on the sand.  So warm in fact that it at this point that I realised that my first day walking about Venice had led me to become a rather bright shade of red.  Suncream, another item I would need to purchase as a result of no luggage.   Why did I not think of this earlier?  Back to shops I would go for suncream, and of course aftersun now too.

Venice Lido

Freshened up, I ventured back towards San Marco square come the evening, and found a nice affordable pizzeria around 25 minutes walk from the main tourist hub. Once delicious pizza and a nice blonde beer (wine is wasted on me, sorry) were chomped and slurped on, I spent the rest of the evening simply walking the moon lit canals and backstreets of Venice.

That night I slept well, too well. I over slept.

Biggest Challenges

Sleeping on the overnight train was certainly a challenge, and not having my earplugs, eye mask and a secure bag to store all my belongings whilst I was trying to sleep certainly didn’t help. Not having my backpack and having to walk around with simply a carrier bag was also a challenge as it wasn’t secure, and I was constantly worried that it would split and all my new purchases would fall out and into the Venice canals. Lack of suncream also proved a challenge, but I only realised this once it was too late. Doh!

Day 3

Yeah, so my morning alarm went off, but where I meant to press snooze, I pressed off … and of course went back to sleep. I blame the lack of sleep from the previous night on the train.  No matter, I knew that on day 3 I wanted to take a gondola tour and visit one of Venice’s hidden gems, and luckily both could be done in the afternoon.

Now a gondola ride is a must in Venice, but it ain’t cheap. We’re talking 85 euro for half an hour. Still, it’s something I’d wanted to do before reaching the city, and my lack of luggage didn’t hold me back here. Having round what looked like a popular spot at a reasonable price, me my carrier bag of goodies and I carefully hopped into a gondola along with a few visitors to Venice, and gracefully took to the canals of Venice.  It was a splendid experience.

Venice Gondolas

Of course, that half an hour on the canals flew by, but I was very much glad for the experience.  I’d read before reaching Venice that the canals were really quite smelly, but I can’t say I really experienced anything of the sort whilst gliding along them.  Maybe I was too taken with the waterside architecture, or stuck trying to work out how on earth the Gondoliers managed to steer their craft around some very tight looking corners. All in all, a top draw experience!

Next up was a little treasure I’d read about just days before setting out for Venice, and had I not downloaded an offline Googlemap of the city, I doubt I would ever of found it.  Whilst a lot of visitors flock to St Mark’s square and it’s impressive Basilica, it was the Contarini del Bovolo that took the prize as my favourite building in the city.  A mix of Gothic and Renaissance styling, the winding spiral staircase is hidden among Venice’s larger streets, but  a sight to behold once you find it.

Venice sites

Day 3 is an indulgent one, and not just food wise.  Fed up of carrying items around in a flimsy plastic bag I decided to invest in a new rucksack as to be honest I was feeling kind of naked without mine.

But moving back to food, as well as scoffing more gelato than is recommended I also decide on dinner upon the grand canal and decide to try a spritz.  A spritz is a kind of fizzy aperitif, and is VERY popular in Venice.  I wouldn’t usually order such a drink, but the popularity of the drink with others persuaded me to try a mini bottle of the sparkling, fruity number.  Not bad!

Food in Venice

Indulging in so many treats was far from my usual budget travel style, but I felt justified in treating myself on surviving without luggage for so long.  I was glad I did a lot of prep work before I left London – offline maps, passbook etc, but it’s hard to describe how naked I felt walking around a new place without my trusty backpack and it’s usual contents.

Biggest Challenges

Carrier bags, in the end I gave up and purchased a new bag. This admittedly wasn’t a purchase I was expecting to make, and I did start to wonder exactly how much my travel insurance would cover for purchases made as a result of lost luggage. I did remember the receipt though.

Day 4:
Up at 6am to get back into town from the Lido, and there’s only a water taxi staff strike isn’t there.

No luggage and now no taxi’s, or at least a highly reduced service. Luckily I managed to squeeze aboard a taxi back towards San Marco, but from there I have a 35 minutes maze like walk through the San Polo and Santa Croce districts to reach my intended destination, the central bus station.  Before I hoped on the bus to the airport however, there was just one last attraction I wanted to visit whilst in Venice, the Orsoni colour library.  Sadly I was to find that access to the colour library was by appointment only, but I was able to take a peak at the latest Orsoni Mosaic exhibit.  That’s right the colour library is not one of books, but a library of coloured mosaic materials, stacked just like books.  It would have been a sight I’m sure.  Next time maybe. Orsoni mozaic

Of course once I’d finished at the mosaic exhibit and grabbed a bit of breakfast I then found out that the airport bus staff were on strike too. A quick panic ensued, followed by the purchase of a ticket for a different bus company heading to the airport in time for my flight.  Not what I needed last minute, but I made it to the airport on time … not that I really wanted to leave of course.

Biggest Challenges

The ACTV staff being on strike was a challenge, but that had nothing to do with my lack of luggage. Day 4 didn’t really pose any challenges luggage wise as it was home time. I knew that the bag I had purchased would be cabin size so no drama there, and I was also able to download my flights boarding card onto passbook using the wifi at the hotel.

Challenge Reflections

Losing your luggage isn’t the end of the world, but I appreciate it probably feels like it at the time.

Before I set out to take part in the #MSMLostLuggage challenge I thought it would be a cinch to be honest.  I usually travel light anyway and on that basis all I thought I would need to do would be to visit a chemist early into the trip to pick up a toothbrush and paste, and then visit a discount clothing store and buy some clean boxers and a spare t-shirt or two. I thought that the jeans, jumper, coat and socks I had with me would (just about) last the rest of the journey without smelling too bad.

I was wrong, they did not.

I was wrong, I needed to worry about more than just dental care and clothing.

I am wrong continually, so says my girlfriend.

Whilst I wasn’t too far off the mark, there were little bits and pieces that cropped up and made the task more difficult than anticipated.  Things I didn’t anticipate included …

  • Having to buy another bag to carry all my replacement items in.
  • Having to not just think about food and clothes, but also items such as sun cream.
  • Eyewear –   I wear prescription sunglasses now, no chance of getting those in the time I was away.
  • Money –   I had a certain amount of money with me, but that was to enjoy Venice with, not restock on lost items.  Replacing items took me over my normal budget and with that I had to start worrying about things like overdraft charges and fee’s for taking more money out of my account.
  • Insurance – how much was I covered for?

Just a few items there, some more important than others, but all required me to take time out of my trip to either purchase, arrange or check out.  Time I could have otherwise spent exploring more of the city.

Moving forward from Venice, say I was to lose my luggage on a future trip, even if I didn’t have anything of great value (personal or monetary) in my luggage was lost, just by simply losing everyday items that I would otherwise take for granted such as my sunglasses, would cause a significant deal of inconvenience and interruption to my travels.  The replace such items would also a hassle upon returning home i.e. opticians appointments etc.

What percentage of travel insurance claims are for items of lost or damaged luggage?

Rollover this box to find out the answer

What percentage of travel insurance claims are for items of lost or damaged luggage?

18-25%

In 2014 MoneySuperMarket helped find the right Travel Insurance policy for how many customers?

Rollover this box to find out the answer

In 2014 MoneySuperMarket helped find the right Travel Insurance policy for how many customers?

0
That’s 1.5 million

Recommendations

Sad to say, but if you luggage goes missing, it goes missing.  There’s no way to click your fingers and get it back instantly, but there are a couple of things you can do which a) can aid in the tracking down of your luggage, and b) soften the blow of losing your luggage.

  • Email yourself AND a contact at home, every travel document prior to leaving home. This includes passport details, hotel booking emails etc.
  • Take photos of the same documents too … In case you can’t get acess to you email. Plus also take photos of your key valuables such as cameras and laptops, as proof of ownership.
  • Take photos of those little barcodes that check-in staff stick to your bag.
    *Not my idea, credit must go to the guys at www.hellopassport.com for this one. They posted the idea on my Facebook page. Thanks guys!
  • Take photos of those little barcodes that check-in staff stick to your bag.
    *Not my idea, credit must go to the guys at www.hellopassport.com for this one. They posted the idea on my Facebook page. Thanks guys!
  • If you own an iPhone, make use of the Passbook app.
  • Save an offline map of the city you are travelling to – this is handy in any instance, but losing your luggage and then getting lost might be just too much!
  • ALWAYS take some form of land luggage which includes essentials should the worst happen. Taking at least a small bag on board your flight should be seen as a sort of insurance policy, even if it does mean a bit less leg room because you are asked to put the bag under the seat in front of you.
  • INSURANCE! Get some, now!

Having taken the MSMLostLuggage challenge, I now cannot stress that last point about insurance enough.  Admittedly when I have taken out travel insurance in the past, it’s always been so that I am covered for medical expenses, should I have an accident – I have previous with breaking bones and trips to the hospital.  Accident prone indeed!

But now, knowing just how quickly costs can rack up when you have to buy replacement items for those lost, it’s important that you have an insurance policy that will credit you back that money spent, otherwise you’ll be severely out of pocket.  A large debt could easily tarnish what could otherwise have been a great trip.  Travelling in the knowledge that you are covered should the worst happen, is definitely the way to go … especially for a serial worrier and pessimist such as myself.