The Cancun Airport Debacle
May 24, 2022 § Leave a comment
Tuesday, March 1: The first booking
After RSVPing for Rosaline’s wedding, I booked my flights to Cancun. Going there I would fly AA, and returning I would fly JetBlue. I paid cash for both legs of the journey because I didn’t want to use my points but did want to get the 10x points bonus for booking in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Friday, April 8: The unhappy discovery
I was booking transportation to and from the airport in Cancun. While texting with my Cancun roommates Kathy and Alice, I checked my JetBlue flight in the app and was confused by a discrepancy — my original screenshot from when I booked my flight said that the departure time was around 3PM, but in the app it was saying departure time was 2PM.
It turned out that my original flight had been canceled, and JetBlue rebooked me on a flight that went from Cancun to JFK and then back to Austin. So what should’ve been a 2.5-hour flight turned into 12 hours or something ridiculous like that. Obviously it was not acceptable!!!
Monday, April 11: The second booking
I called Chase Ultimate Rewards to cancel my JetBlue flight. The agent was able to get me a full refund, but my only option for rebooking a nonstop flight through Chase was on Spirit Airlines, which I haven’t flown since I was a broke grad student. I figured it would be fine just this once, but I was extra annoyed that the new flight cost $70 more than my original one.
Kathy confirmed that our flights would be leaving around the same time, so I booked the shuttle to pick us up from the Fairmont Mayakoba at 11AM on the day of our departure.
Sunday, May 22: The day before
We woke up late because we had stayed up very late the night before. We proceeded to rush around trying to get tested for covid before going to brunch — the hotel’s covid test site closed at 1PM that day, and brunch closed at 12:30PM, so we really had to squeeze everything in.
Of the people leaving on Monday, I was the only one who was unable to get my covid test in on Sunday because I forgot to bring my passport to the test site (and didn’t have a photo of it on my phone), and the staff refused to take my driver’s license (even though Kaiti said that she was able to use hers the previous day). Ugh.
We did end up having an epic brunch at the Rosewood Mayakoba, though.
At some point, Kathy and Alice discovered that their departure time was actually 3 hours later than mine, but they resigned themselves to getting to the airport super early with me and just hanging out at the United lounge.
Monday, May 23: The day of
8AM: I went to get my covid test first thing in the morning. I had heard that they were giving guests estimates of 5 hours to wait to get the results email, but people were actually getting theirs within 2-3 hours. I wasn’t sure at which point during my journey I would need to show confirmation of a negative covid test, but I figured I’d have enough time since my flight was 3:30PM.
11AM: But before we got to the airport, I discovered that my flight had been delayed until 5PM. So we all got to the airport unnecessarily early.
12PM: When I went to check my bag, the agent asked for my negative covid test. It still hadn’t landed in my inbox yet. So I reluctantly turned to my last resort: the airport covid test center. The line there was long. Just as I got in line, I refreshed my email one more time — and my negative test result was there! Very lucky timing. So I went back to the Spirit counter, checked my bag, and met Kathy and Alice to go through security.
1PM: We walked around terminal 3, bought some snacks, and sat down to chill for the next few hours. (Unfortunately, none of us had access to the only lounge in the terminal.) These chips were my first/only meal of the day…
2PM: I checked my Spirit app again, and it showed my flight was somehow now leaving at 3:18PM instead of 5PM — but it was still labeled “delayed”??
I decided to go speak with an agent. My flight was supposedly departing from gate C11, but when I got there, the plane and agents were Delta. So I went next door to C10, where a flight was just about to board for St. Louis. I waited 10 minutes in line just for the agent to tell me she couldn’t help me until the St. Louis flight had finished boarding. Kathy, Alice and I sat down nearby.
During this time, my 3:18PM flight had gone from being delayed to being canceled and then being reinstated for the next day. I was absolutely NOT about to spend a night in Cancun by myself!!!
I quickly looked up other flight options and found an AA flight departing around 6PM that evening, and booked it right away. For a minute I considered t waiting to see what Spirit would do, if they would put us on a later flight that day, but even if they did, I figured I’d rather spend the $200 and have a safety net than risk not getting home at all.
3PM: The St. Louis fight at C10 finally cleared out. When I went to the counter, the agent told me to go to gate C1 to get information on my canceled flight. The three of us walked over, and unsurprisingly there was just a mass of people at C1 waiting to get an update.
I was trying to check in for my new AA flight on the app, but I kept getting an error when uploading my covid test document. I asked an agent at a random AA gate if she could help me check in, but she said I would have to exit the terminal and go back to the departures counter.
The Spirit situation seemed like an ongoing shitshow, so I asked Kathy and Alice to figure out what was happening at C1 while I went out and checked back in via AA. I figured worst-case scenario, my suitcase would take the next day’s Spirit flight without me and I could just pick it up at the Austin airport.
There wasn’t an actual route to exit the terminal from where we were, so I had to just walk back through the metal detector. Another woman was going the same way — apparently she was flying Spirit back to Houston, but that flight got canceled, so she rebooked to Austin, which then got canceled, so she was also trying to leave the gated area to figure out her next steps.
We got to the queue area where the agent checks your boarding pass and passport…and the guy there wouldn’t let us through. He hailed his supervisor, who came over and told us that we just had to go back to C1. I tried to explain that I had a new flight to check in to, but they just kept telling us to go back inside. It was ridiculous. Eventually the other woman was able to get through, so I just followed her back to the check-in counters.
I checked in for my AA flight with no issues. I even asked the agent there if there was any chance the flight would be canceled, and he reassured me that the plane would arrive in Cancun in an hour, so I was good to go. Thank goodness!!!
Kathy and Alice filled me in once I got back to C10 — apparently the flights were canceled because there were no pilots. (I firmly resolved at this point never to book Spirit again.) And now they were making everyone go back throug customs to retrieve our luggage…which I would then have to leave the terminal to check in at AA. omg.
So once again I left my friends. Everyone on the cursed Spirit flight shuffled through gate C10 down to immigration. Waited in line there to get my passport checked. An airport staff member who was leading our sad group made us wait 10 minutes for everyone to get through customs.
4PM: We made it over to baggage claim, where our suitcases were all waiting for us. Our overseer made us wait at the carousel for 10 more minutes for no apparent reason. Then we had to go line up against a wall for 10 more minutes while waiting to go through the declaration zone. Then we lined up to have our passports and (canceled) boarding passes checked again. Then we lined up right outside that area for 10 more minutes. I was living a Kafka novel nightmare.
At this point I was getting pretty restless; my AA flight was at 5:50PM, and I needed to check my bag in at least an hour before departure!
After all that pointless start-and-stop waiting, we made it past the exit doors to the corridor where a bunch of taxi companies are vying for customers. I thought we were finally free — but the guy stopped AGAIN!!! I had fucking had enough and just walked away on my own to exit the terminal and go back inside the departures area. Later we surmised that he was herding everyone to get on some shuttle to some comped hotel, so thank goodness I didn’t stick around for that. I guess most people were not able to book another same-day flight…wonder when they’ll actually be able to get home.
I checked my bag at the AA counter with no issues. I know some people hate flying AA, but I’ve had no bad experiences with them the past bunch of years, and after today I’ll be eternally grateful that they were there and problem-free so that I could get out of Mexico!!
4:30PM: Newlyweds Rosaline and Jon had arrived at the airport for their 5PM flight back to LA, so they were already hanging out with Kathy and Alice by the time I made it through security for the third time that day. Look at all the miles I got in just by retracing my steps at the airport.
After this, there were no more mishaps. I got to hang out just a bit more with the bride and groom. Everyone’s planes departed on time. I even managed to switch my middle seat for an aisle seat because the guy next to me wanted to sit next to his wife. And I am super grateful for Kathy and Alice’s efforts to get information from Spirit while I was running around and help me not feel alone!
My flight landed at 8PM in Austin, and I decided I’d prefer to never return to Cancun again.
My Worst NYC Taxi Ride
June 27, 2019 § Leave a comment
Just past midnight on June 26, Kaiti and I walked through the taxi line at JFK Airport to get a ride home. We had just traveled 14 hours on our way back from Puerto Vallarta and just wanted to get home and to bed.
The passenger line for the taxi stand was empty, so as we neared the waiting row of cabs, we beelined toward the second vehicle, as the first one did not have its light on, which I assumed meant it already had a passenger inside.
It turned out that the driver of the first car (a black man in his 20s-30s with a Caribbean accent) was just on the sidewalk gabbing with some other people, and he waved us over as he headed back to his taxi.
The first thing he said to us was, “You girls going to Flushing?” Ugh. Way to make a bad first impression. I icily informed him that our destination was the Upper West Side, and we got in the car.
There were many things that seemed off or went wrong on this ride, so I’ll just number them:
1- I’ve taken a yellow taxi home from the airport many times, and every other time, almost as soon as we pull away from the curb, the driver will ask me for my exact destination/cross-streets. This guy did not, and we had to initiate that conversation a few minutes into the ride. Kaiti and I live about 5 minutes from each other (by car), so we gave him both destinations.
2- The taxi meter displayed “OFF” from the get-go. I saw it but didn’t think anything of it as I was very tired from traveling all day.
3- Kaiti noticed early on that he did not have a license/ID displayed in the car, which is very sketchy. Thus we don’t even know his name.
4- A few minutes after we got on the highway, he started muttering to himself and fiddling with the taxi meter/machine. It was down by his leg, so I couldn’t see what he was doing, but eventually he said to us that something was wrong, something about it being the end of his 10-hour shift, so the machine turned off, and he needed to restart it??
He then asked if we were paying by cash or card, to which I replied card. (I had enough cash but at this point didn’t want him to know I was carrying any…) He muttered something about having to take us back to the airport if the thing wouldn’t work, which was annoying because we really just wanted to get home! We passed by a Hilton hotel and I asked him if he could just drop us off there so we could find another ride, but he said he could only take us back to the airport. Ok…??
He kept messing with the machine, only barely looking at the road, which felt extremely unsafe, as there were still a decent amount of traffic at that hour. Eventually he pulled off the highway to deal with the meter and stopped on the curb of a dark street. We were very confused and irritated at this point and repeatedly asked him to just take us back to the airport.
5- He turned around to look at us. “Why, are you scared?” he asked.
WHAT THE FUCK?
What a grossly inappropriate thing to say.
OBVIOUSLY WE WERE SCARED and on the verge of calling the police at this point!!! What a fucking psycho!
I snapped: “No, we’re just very tired and want to get home!”
At this point I started sharing my live location in our Whatsapp group chat with our other NYC girlfriends, two of whom were still awake, thankfully. I really thought there was a high possibility of us getting mugged or worse.
Road Trip to Stratton, Vermont
August 16, 2018 § Leave a comment
It’s been over a month since my girlfriends and I rented a car and drove to Vermont — I’ve visited the northern part of the state before, but it was the first time for the three of them!
I planned pretty much the whole thing because one of the biggest benefits of my company is that employees get a yearly stipend to book one of our travel deals to experience personally, so I covered the hotel costs and booked all our activities.
I also had a fun time vlogging the trip because my friends are much more fun on camera than when I’m alone, haha.
Stratton is a resort town with a little village, a number of ski lifts and a ton of hotel capacity. The mountains are gorgeous in summer, but I guess most tourists don’t bother visiting when there’s no snow — when we arrived on Thursday afternoon, the place was a ghost town. We had the place to ourselves! It was creepy but fun in a faux-post-apocalyptic way.
Fortunately, Stratton’s restaurants were still open, though I can’t say the same for the restaurants we tried to visit in nearby towns. Two of the ones we attempted to eat at were closed for summer renovations. D’oh…
The highlight for me was probably Saturday morning, when we bought a bunch of produce at the West River farmers market and also visited Taylor Farm and got to feed chickens, cows and horses (but not goats, sadly). Doing yoga on the mountain summit on our last morning was pretty cool too, so I’m glad Sarah requested it.
Also, we watched so. much. Harry Potter.
My only regret is that we didn’t get to hike on the mountain because of rain. Next time!
From Blogging to Vlogging
June 21, 2018 § Leave a comment
Oh my! It’s been half a year since I’ve updated here — partially because I haven’t done that much traveling in the past six months, but also because two of the trips I did take were captured in video format. Even writing my thoughts in these few sentences feels foreign already.
During Memorial Day weekend, I spent a week in China with my relatives that I haven’t seen since 2010:
Editing a video is definitely more work than editing photos and writing a blog post, but I feel like it’s much better at encapsulating what a place and time really felt like in the moment. A photo has to be near-perfect to warrant a spot in a blog post, but even a random video clip can be perfectly imperfect within a longer video.
Plus, people have been trained to either pose or seize up when being photographed — it’s easier to catch them being candid on video.
The downside is that vlogging entails me having to talk to the camera, and I hate listening to myself talk. I don’t think I’ll ever get better at it!
I don’t feel like paying for Adobe Premiere, so I just used iMovie, which makes editing fairly simple except for its garbage caption/title options. It takes me twice as long to make those separately in Photoshop and then import to iMovie, but it must be done so long as I fail at narrating most of my clips, hehe.