Coming home from Turks and Caicos last week was not the best of my travel experiences. In fact, I’ve been pretty lucky in my past travels so I’d go as far as to say this was my worst travel experience yet!
But if there’s any silver lining to this it’s that there are lessons to be learned here people.
- Always check your flight status ahead of time.
When we checked our flights Thursday morning (the day we were originally scheduled to leave), we saw that we had been bumped to a flight an hour and a half later, but we were fine with that. Then, we checked again later, only to learn that all flights had been cancelled because the firefighters went on strike at the local airport in Providenciales (by law, no flights can come in or go out without firefighters on duty). So while we were frustrated that we couldn’t go home that day, at least we were still at our hotel and not stranded at the airport with hundreds of angry passengers.
This lesson also saved us the next day when we checked our flight status and learned that our connecting flight (from Miami to Minneapolis) was cancelled, too! Knowing this information as early as possible allowed us to begin exploring our options early enough to find a solution that was doable.
- Whenever possible, talk to someone in person.We made several phone calls to American Airlines to find out what was going on. Not only did they give us inaccurate information about the reason for the cancellation, but they were not very helpful in finding new options for traveling home. We were essentially told there was no way we could get on a flight out of Provo before 3:00, and no way we could get anywhere from Miami once we arrived there. So we packed up our things and went to the airport, determined to find a way home. Sure enough, the friendly American Airlines agent there had us rebooked on a 1:30 flight to Miami, with connecting flights to Denver and then Minneapolis that same night, in no time at all. She made my day!
- Be persistent when you need something.
When we got to Miami, we had to go through customs, claim our luggage, and then re-check our luggage for our connecting flights. We were told this was going to be tight because we only had an hour between flights, so we came prepared to make a run for it. After what felt like forever, we made it through customs and found our luggage, but then stumbled across a line 100 people deep at the American Airlines counter. There was no way we could get our luggage checked and get to our gate in time.
We asked a nearby agent if there was any way she could help. She took us to the front of the line where a very rude agent rolled her eyes and refused to help. She said there was no way they could get our bags on our flight in 40 minutes, and she wouldn’t help us find a way to get our bags to Minneapolis unless we waited in line (in which case, we would miss our flight). But we were persistent. The man next to her very nicely offered to help us. He got our bags tagged all the way to Minneapolis (rather than having to claim them in Denver) and pointed us in the direction we needed to go.
Then, we found another long line at security. A nice TSA woman agreed to let us use the VIP quick line. We made it through security, ran through the concourse, hopped on the train, and made it to our gate with only a few minutes to spare.
- If you can swing it, travel with a carry-on instead of checked luggage.This is especially helpful if you’re traveling internationally and/or making multiple stops. Dealing with our luggage put us in jeopardy of missing flights and slowed us down many times along the way. For example, on our way to Turks and Caicos my luggage did not arrive on the small plane we took to the island of Grand Turk. Because there are weight restrictions on these small planes, they can only hold so many bags, so they often bring bags in on other flights throughout the day. It was hardly an inconvenience, as we left our baggage claim ticket with our taxi driver who brought the bag to our hotel a couple hours later. But it was still nerve-racking to wonder whether it would arrive at all.
So there you have it: A few travel lessons we learned the less-than-easy way (not so much hard, but not so much easy either). While getting home was not ideal, the trip was still the experience of a lifetime. I will always cherish the mommy-daughter time, the breathtaking scenery, and the rich history of such a memorable country.