November 14, 2012

Is Your Passport Expired? No? Then Book with

As the weather begins to chill, I am already dreaming about walking down a warm beach down south. Last year my trip down south started out a little rough. My boyfriend Erik and I booked a really cheap trip to Cayo Largo, Cuba from Sunday to Sunday during the March Break. We woke up Sunday morning, recovered one of our cars from the night before, and proceeded to pack in the one hour we had left before we had to drive to Montreal to catch our flight later than night. 

Just as we were about to walk out the door, Erik opened up both of our passports to make sure that he had the correct ones, and not our old expired passports. He opened mine and asked, "Where is your new passport?", to which I replied, "That is my new passport". 
He promptly let me know that my passport has expired two months before. 

My immediate reaction was to cry and scream repeatedly "What do I do?!". After a few calls to the travel agent we discovered that there were only flights to our resort on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and if I didn't get on the flight that night, then I would have to wait until the following Friday (therefore spending only two nights in Cuba). I couldn't get on the flight that night. Eeek!

Erik and I made the quick decision for him to drive to Montreal and grab the flight, and I would do everything I could the next day to get a passport and try to join him in a night or two. We didn't know how much this oversight was going to cost me, and figured it was better to only have to buy one new ticket instead of two. 

Erik's loving, caring and thoughtful parents took me in in his absence, drove me to Costco to get my passport picture, called friends to get more information about flights, gave me lots of wine, and finally a bed to sleep in that night at their house. The next morning (Monday), we got up and drove straight to the passport office. They issued me a passport in about 15 minutes (what what!), and from there I booked a flight to Havana, Cuba. We knew there was a flight to Cayo Largo Island, but not with any major airline and nothing we could book it over the phone with a credit card. 

I arrived in Havana late Monday night and tried my best to find some kind of confirmation on a flight to Cayo Largo, but all I got was a tip that there MAY be spaces on a plane at another airport the next morning at 7am. Erik's Mom Cindy booked me into a hotel in Havana for the night, so I ventured into a cab, and with no more cell phone reception travelled in the pitch black into the streets of Havana. Well, I saw the streets from the cab at least while the Beatles played over the radio. It felt like I was filming a scene for a movie. A very lonely, scary scene. 

The next morning I awoke at 4am, called a cab and headed for this mysterious airport. Upon arrival there was a huge line-up from a tour group, so I butted to the front and in frantic Spanish attempted to buy myself a ticket. They said they had space, and to my excitement40 hrs after I was supposed to leave, I was only a 45 minute flight away! There was just one catch. They only accepted cash (hence why we couldn't book over the phone), and I was 20 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos) short! I could have cried, well I actually did cry. Then this amazing Spanish woman stepped up and traded me $20 Canadian for 20 CUC.  I cried some more, shook her hand, and thanked her over and over again. I am still soooo grateful to this wonderful stranger. 

I boarded the plane, and finally relaxed for the first time in two days. When I arrived at the island, I had no cash, but a van was waiting for me, and when we pulled up to the resort Erik was sitting on the front steps of the hotel. It was the most beautiful sight I've ever seen. 

In the end, the two extra flights and a night of accommodations in Havana cost more than the entire initial trip. The only redeeming factor in all of this, is that the initial trip was super cheap and that I still got a good tan. I also had a sweet, purple Bubba with me (stayed tuned for the Bubba Adventure on Friday). 

What I learned:
1. Always check the expiring date on your passport when you book your trip
2. When booking an All Inclusive, book a hotel that has flights every day of the week. If something should happen, you can make it out there any day you choose.
3. Get an emergency passport where they actually print the passports. 
4. Book your vacations through is the only good site I have ever found for booking an All Inclusive. Once you pick your departure destination, all of the other information is laid out on a grid. You can search by month if you have a specific time in mind, or you can search by destination to see when you can get the lowest price. Every location can be divided into weeks, then by hotel. It is so easy to search and to compare prices. It also has a link to tripadvisor so that you can get the real story on the resorts. 

I'm already in the process of booking for this year, and know my passport is good until 2017!

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