I survived my very first American adventure! I say first because already I want to go again. On this ten day excursion I travelled to New York, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Arizona and Los Angeles. For each place I am going to dedicate a single post. The first obviously being New York, which will be posted next, and this very special post is about all the drama that surrounded this holiday from the very get-go.
Some background for you all. My sister and I booked this deal online to go to New York, Las Vegas and LA with hotels and flights all included for £799. Originally, we planned to go in June for my birthday but with Donald Trump’s impending inauguration we wanted to see The White House while Obama was still in it. It’s pretty easy to get to Washington DC from New York so we booked the trip for early January instead literally days before the Obamas were set to leave.
We were set to fly out on Friday 6th January at 9am from Birmingham Airport to Newark Airport in New York. Everything got completely fucked on its head when my sister couldn’t locate her passport a few days before. Needless to say, the house got turned upside down and there were a lot of tears and stress involved because, even though I had my passport, everything, all the hotels etc. were in my sister’s name. So although I could travel it was possible that I would have nowhere to stay.
The top priority was finding my sister’s passport and horribly that wasn’t on the cards. We spent a solid two days searching high and low for it and of course failing that we took to Google. We searched online and saw that you could book appointments if you stated a reason i.e. lost/stolen/renew passport etc. Instead of booking an appointment (cost £100) which could be a waste of money considering she didn't have her passport she went anyway after checking the slots were still free. Checking online continuously that the time stayed available she and my mother set off for Durham with the aim of getting there at 2pm. If you have lost/misplaced your passport and you book an appointment it automatically places you on 7 Day Fast Tracking which wasn't fast enough.
She went there with all the necessary paperwork and IDs as well as her travel bookings and passport photos. Unfortunately, although they agreed to process her passport it was immediately sent for 7 day fast tracking, as mentioned. In some situations they will give it to you after four hours if it is an emergency. They do not consider a leisure holiday an emergency so if this ever happens to you please think of a good, believable emergency if you need to get your passport on time. Things like a death or illness are probably best, I am sure proof of that would help too, you know if it's not fabricated.
The best they could do with our time-sensitive situation is suggest to keep calling the office to get a tracking number and then contact the courier directly to hopefully get them to deliver it the same day as they tracked it. They may charge you for this service. My sister got her passport on the Friday, without paying extra, which in all fairness was pretty quick considering her appointment was just Wednesday afternoon. On top of this because we were going to the States she needed to reapply for her Esta Visa so it would show up on the new passport.
So what happened? My sister called the travel agency etc. to try and get them to change the bookings of hotels into my name so I would have somewhere to stay if she couldn’t make it. That worked for New York and Los Angeles but not Las Vegas. She then sent me the itinerary of the flights and our train tickets to Washington DC for the Saturday. I had no choice but to go without her on the Friday and I have to admit I was really nervous. I have never travelled anywhere by myself before and truly didn’t know what to expect and was certain something would go wrong.
Honestly, in hindsight I feel silly as everything went smoothly. For anyone travelling alone I would suggest that if you’re not confident then just be cautious. The first time you venture out by yourself you will probably be nervous but honestly you will adapt very quickly. I left early to get to the airport and even though I had my boarding pass and whizzed through security I was relaxed while I waited for my gate number to show up. I had all my documents, my money, everything. I had checked how to get to my airport. Made sure I had more than enough money to last me in case my sister didn’t come at all and of course I made sure my passport was safe and secure throughout my entire trip.
The first two days I was alone in both New York and Washington DC and though it is not extraordinary and most people don’t think twice about it. I am really proud that I managed to navigate two cities by myself. I found that travelling alone was actually enjoyable and feel much more competent and confident in my abilities. I highly recommend it and hope to purposefully travel alone somewhere soon (any suggestions welcome?).
The best advice I can give in regards to passports is check at least a week before that you have it and it’s within its expiry date before you travel. The worst thing you can do is leave it too late and other advice is don’t give up. If you call and one person is unhelpful keep calling all you need is one good person that wants to help and you’ll be surprised what they can do.
I wish I could say the drama ended there, but although my sister booked a later flight and joined me just the next night in New York when we went to get our domestic flight to McCarran Airport in Las Vegas my sister’s pre-booked ticket with United Airlines didn’t show up. She flew with Aer Lingus to New York because they were cheaper and although she had called United and the travel agency to ensure that everything would still be in place for her despite missing her first flight it wasn’t. It seemed that because she had missed the first flight United had voided/cancelled the rest of her trip without warning.
We were waiting at the Additional Services desk for over an hour to try and fix it and the advisor just kept repeating that there was nothing she could do. After literally begging her she let us use the phone to call United Airlines as neither of us had roaming data we were on hold for ages, and I mean ages, when she finally got through to an attendant the phone fucking died and we were back to square one. Fortunately another woman came to help us and she called again after I pleaded with her to just please call and see what they say. Thank God she did because it seemed we got a good person who fixed everything and reinstated her ticket. She was put on standby for the flight to Las Vegas but managed to get on. I was so thankful and grateful to everyone at that moment because it would have sucked for her to have to go home after all this. Could you imagine? What a waste.
The moral of the story is losing your passport is fucking expensive, she had to pay for the new passport (currently £103 for 7 Day Fast Track and £128 for 4 hour emergency service) and had to drive to Durham which is approx 3 hours away from us plus book a last minute flight to New York and pay for another visa (about £$14). Not to mention the endless phone calls and undue amount of stress. Thank you so much for reading, if you are undergoing a similar passport situation then trust me I feel for you and I hope you have the time to sort something out. Thank you so much to everyone who still read and commented on my posts even though I have been off the scene for a while, I appreciate it a lot and look forward to returning the favour, lots of love. Hope you are all well, I am definitely ready to get back to blogging. Thanks again. Take care.
Do you have any travel horror stories?