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Of the 13 trips we have taken to Mexico, the family “vacation” we took in July 2008 was the one where we learned the most. Just a head’s up, this is not a trip report about a vacation where we ate wonderful food, saw great shows or drank exotic drinks. We had an adventure, but not a planned one. It turned out okay in the end, and most people won’t have to go through an experience like we did. However, the things we learned I think everyone will find useful in planning for the unexpected.
There are not many pictures, and virtually none after the “event”. But please keep reading. I posted this when we returned from that trip and many. many people said it was helpful information to know.
Trip Destination: Iberostar Lindo. It was our second family vacation at the Lindo and our fourth family vacation to Mexico. It was my husband’s and my 9th vacation to Mexico. And when I say Mexico, pretty much I mean Playa del Carmen and Playa Paraiso.
Trip participants: The usual cast of characters (me, husband – Zung, kids – Nicholas, Patrick and Susie, and Susie’s boyfriend Tony…he’s her ex-boyfriend now, but was still current at the time of the trip).
I would like to say this trip started like any other trip. But that would be a lie. There was pre-trip tension because Susie and Tony were in break-up talks. The day of departure we awaited our limo. When the whole crew is traveling I hire a limo or SUV out of necessity because we don’t have a car big enough to hold us AND our luggage. I used to be able to get a limo I could afford, but the last couple trips we had to settle for an SUV. A limo is more fun for sure. The limo company I had booked was the same one I had used the year before. That trip the driver had arrived a full hour early. He said he wanted to make sure he could find our house. When the appointed pick up time of 7 am rolled around I was feeling nervous because he hadn’t shown up yet. I progressed from nervous into “where the heck is he?” within ten minutes. I asked my husband how long I should wait before calling to find out where he was. He said, “Call NOW.” I called the number I had and got the owner (not the driver) who told me he was in the hospital but would call the driver to find out what the delay was. He called back right away and told me, “I’m trying to get him to hurry up.” I asked his location and it sounded awfully far away. I said I might have to just go ahead and drive my self because time was running out. My husband was talking to me, saying I needed to consider the time it would take to park and take the shuttle to the terminal, the limo owner dude was telling me he thought his driver would get there on time. I soooo do not do well trying to listen to two people at the same time. Then the limo owner dude asked me where I was. When I told him, he said, “Oh no, you should leave.”
Freak out time! I yelled (some might call it screaming), “Everyone put your bags in the cars,we have to drive ourselves.” We would have to take both cars to get all six of us and our bags to the airport. “Let’s go, let’s go, Hurry up.” We had almost three hours until our plane left, but you have to get checked in a certain amount of time before the plane leaves or they can refuse to board you.
Nicholas, my oldest, has an uncanny ability to detect panic in my voice (and you didn’t have to listen to closely to hear it this time). He must have heard it because he strolled into the laundry room and opened the cabinet where we keep drinks. And he stared at it. “What are you looking for?” I asked in my most controlled, incredulous and irritated voice.
“Vitamin Waters,” he replied. Zung walked by at that moment and said, “They are in the basement.” Nicholas saunters down the stairs to the basement, stays down there for what felt like a very long time, and then came back up with several bottles of Vitamin Waters. It’s an all-inclusive for god’s sake, there will be plenty to drink there. “We need to go!”
Finally, we were all in the cars, with the bags and actually pulling out of the driveway. Susie felt the need to point out that I was freaking out. I replied that I thought it was okay for me to freak out a little bit.
We are on the road for the 40 minute drive to the airport. Ten or fifteen minutes into the drive, an orange glow on the dashboard catches my eye. I look down and see I am just about out of gas. I had actually noticed my tank was low the night before, but I figured I didn’t need to worry about it because we were taking a limo to the airport.
Lesson # 1: Have at least a half tank of gas in your car, whether you are planning to drive yourself to the airport or not.
I know my car and counted on having enough to get to the airport. Fortunately, I was correct. We arrived, parked, got the shuttle and got checked in. Zung is a Frontier Summit Member, which means you get to line jump, so there was no line for us for check-in.
Big sigh. Disaster averted. It was just a vacation glitch. Everyone has them, and we had never really had any. It was our turn. Okay, we are done with our vacation glitch.
The limo not showing was more than a glitch, it was a bad omen.
We didn’t know that and happily continued with our vacation. We even had enough time to participate in our pre-Mexico vacation ritual of breakfast at Chef Jimmy’s.
Breakfast was eaten and magazines were bought and money was exchanged. We boarded our plane and settled in for the 3 1/2 hour flight.
We landed at 3 pm. I could barely believe my eyes when I saw that there was virtually no Immigration line. Next stop was the luggage carousel. Nicholas made a detour to the Duty Free store to buy not one, but two bottles of Havana Club rum. This detail will be important at the end of this story. At the time I wanted to say, “What part of all-inclusive do you not understand?”
Soon the bags were coming out. My bag came out first. The other five followed quickly. The only problem is that’s only six bags and we had seven. The missing bag is Tony’s. There is a bag that looks like his, but is not. I feel compelled to tell him that we have NEVER lost a bag. Because that is such a helpful thing to tell someone when they think they may have lost their bag.
We all stared at the luggage carousel that didn’t have Tony’s bag on it. I wanted to call out, “Excuse me! We have already had our vacation glitch. This needs to happen to someone else that hasn’t had one.” I see a line of pissed off looking people and take Tony over there so we can report his missing bag. Susie comes over after a couple of minutes and says there is a phone number on the Tony looking bag. We are suspecting that someone took Tony’s bag, thinking it was their bag. Cause they kind of looked alike.
Lesson #2 – Way too many people take black bags when they fly.
We call the number, but we only get someone’s voice mail. Two airport dudes come over to help us. I think we looked confused and sad. Tony was definitely looking sad. They point to the Tony looking bag and say, “Not your?” Nope. Airport dude #1 puts the Tony looking bag in a wheelchair and takes us over to a computer bypassing the line of pissed off looking people. He shows Tony a card with pictures of different looking bags and asks him to pick out which one his looks like. He starts typing on his computer. I tell Tony all he needs is a swim suit and clothes for dinner and the boys can loan him those. He still looks sad.
I distinctly remember turning to Zung and saying, “What the hell? We never have vacation glitches. Now we have two? What is up with that?”
I had no idea what a vacation glitch was.
Lesson #3 – don’t taunt the vacation gods.
Airport dude #1’s phone rings. He talks. he smiles. He gives us the thumbs up. The guy that took Tony’s bag realized it and was outside with it. Airport dude #1 recommends we take the Tony looking bag through Customs and make the switch after that, otherwise there will be “Lots of paperwork.”
When you go through Customs sometimes they x-ray your bags. That did not happen this time. You always have to push the button to see if you get the Green light and get to go on to your vacation, or if you get the Red light and have to have your bags inspected. Good to know if you are planning to pack sex toys. We have only gotten the Red light once in 13 trips. Only one push per family so Tony had to press the button for himself since he wasn’t part of our family. He had commented that the Tony looking bag was heavy. I told everyone to think “Green Light” so the bag wouldn’t get inspected since he had no idea what was in it. I started having thoughts that maybe someone did this on purpose and the bag was filled with drugs. Tony got the Green Light and so did we. The guy who had Tony’s bag was waiting right outside and the Airport dudes went with us through the gauntlet so we didn’t get harassed. The guy who had Tony’s bag didn’t look like he would have put drugs in it. But you never know.
Our ride from Cancun Valet was still waiting for us even though we were delayed. Our driver packed up us and our bags and we were on our way to the Lindo.
Okay. Let’s get this vacation started!