Friday, May 4, 2012

Operation Vacation Recovery!

Imagine you've planned your first family vacation with your young child! The big day arrives, your bags are packed, and you're all eagerly checking-in at the airport.  Now imagine that you are told that you cannot board your flight.  What would you do?  Just ask Kevin Sturtz and his family; this is their real-life story of how they were able to make the best of a bad situation (and learn a little something along the way)!

Kevin, his wife Meredith, and their almost-two-year-old son Eli, were looking forward to their first family vacation together; a fantastic trip to Turks & Caicos!  Kevin had made all of the flight and lodging arrangements through Travelocity, and he and Meredith had prepared Eli for an exciting adventure abroad!  The evening before their departure, Kevin completed the advance airline check-in on-line.  United's website prompted him for passport information for him and Meredith and asked whether they had a passport for Eli or "other identity paperwork"; because Eli did not have a passport, Kevin checked the "other" option and their check-in was confirmed.

The next morning, they arrived at the airport and went to the United ticketing desk where he was asked to produce passports for everyone; he presented Meredith's passport and his own and then handed over a birth certificate and Social Security Card for Eli.  The airline staff explained that Eli's paperwork was insufficient and that he needed a passport.  After Kevin explained that the United website indicated no such requirement, the airline's personnel acknowledged that the couple could take Eli on-board the flight, but that once in Turks & Caicos, there would likely be problems leaving the country with a child who did not have a passport. 

Kevin and Meredith sprang into action - implementing what Kevin calls "Operation Vacation Recovery!" They jumped on-line in the airport and researched ways to get a same-day passport; however, because it was a Saturday, all offices that offered such services were closed.  Not wanting to forfeit any of their vacation time, Kevin called Travelocity to cancel his lodging and flight and to get a credit for the airline so they could choose a new destination and still fly out that morning. 

Kevin returned to the United Airlines desk to explain what had happened and the United desk staff found the credit and assured Kevin it could be applied immediately.  So Kevin and Meredith checked the "Departures" board and selected a flight to Miami that fit their criteria (left in that same morning, bound for a warm and sunny destination, only a 3-hour flight).  While they were waiting to board, Kevin was able to book a rental car and a room in the Westin Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, FL through

image courtesy of the Sturtz family
The flight went well and when they arrived at the hotel and shared their harrowing story, Westin upgraded their room to one with a balcony and even  included a few special perks for Eli!  After settling in, they truly enjoyed their vacation; savoring Eli's first dip in the ocean and first time walking on the sandy beach!  They explored the Miami Zoo, where Eli got to feed a giraffe and ride a camel, and spent many fun-filled hours at the pool where Eli charmed the staff with his quick grasp of the greeting "ciao!"  They also enjoyed several fantastic restaurants recommended by the staff of the Westin Resort.  "All in all," Kevin says, "it was a great family vacation!" 

image courtesy of the Sturtz family
Despite a few small snags on the return flight, Kevin and Meredith agree that this will be remembered as a fun-filled trip, and a great story!  While their story has a happy ending, Kevin was eager to share his experience both  to make sure other parents don't repeat his mistake (take-away lesson here: get your child a passport if you plan to leave the country!!!), and to demonstrate how quick thinking and flexibility can help if you ever need to save your vacation from the throes of disaster! 

We at Travel-Tot wish to thank Kevin and his family for sharing their story; a tale that brings embracing the idea of "the journey as part of the adventure" to a whole new level!

Safe and happy travels - wherever you end up!
-Destination Mom

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