Our three-week South American adventure started off with a long, tiring, and at times hectic travel day.
We had already flown with Skyler on two short domestic trips — Las Vegas and Florida — but had no idea how he would fare on an overnight international flight. He actually did worse on the first flight to Houston! (Though “worse” is relative; he was still very well-behaved.) My parents flew first class on both flights, and we flew in the bulkhead, giving us extra legroom (and more space for Skyler to play). We had booked a bassinet for the long flight, but ended up not using it. He slept soundly in the empty seat in our row. (Though neither of us got any sleep, which I had expected.) He was well-behaved while awake, entertaining himself easily and handing smiles out to other passengers. This kid had no idea he was on an airplane.
Our flight arrived in Chile more than 30 minutes early! Upon arrival in Santiago, we would have to go through customs and immigration. My last immigration experience took over 90 minutes (entering London) and everything I’d read online said the Santiago airport was known for a slow process. We were all expecting a long, hot patience-testing line. But as we were snaking through the ends of the roped off queue, two separate people approached us to tell us to go to another line. “Please ma’am, go here with the baby.” Families with small children (along with the pregnant, elderly, and handicapped) are considered persons of priority, so we got to skip the line. We were through immigration in less than ten minutes!
With our immigration expectations, we’d booked our car to pick us up at noon. But because our flight was early and we didn’t have to wait in a long immigration line, we were ready to leave the airport by 10:30. Whoops. After many frustrating attempts to connect to the wifi, my dad was finally able to contact the car company over WhatsApp, and after much confusion and translation issues (and a full 60 minutes of waiting in an overcrowded, hot airport), our driver shows up! Huzzah! Only, she wasn’t told that we didn’t speak Spanish and her English wasn’t much better than our Espanol. But we mime and smile and rely on the offline capabilities of Google Translate to facilitate our communication.
We hurry through the sweaty masses of people with our driver, all of our luggage, the stroller, a sleeping baby, and two 60-somethings who had already maxed out the amount of walking they could do for the day. Then we find out that the car is not right outside like we thought, but a bus-ride away in a parking lot. So we wait for the bus. We load onto the bus. We ride the bus. We load off of the bus. And we wait for the van. We load into the van. And then the driver fights city traffic to get to our apartment building, about 30 minutes later.*
By the time we get into to the apartment, it’s nearly 1 pm. The keys were waiting for us at reception, and after my family watches me struggle to unlock the doors with keys (I’m just not very good with real keys), we turn on the small AC units and collapse onto our beds. We’ve made it!!
And that’s when my dad realizes he’d forgotten Kevin.
All day long, from dropping off our luggage at the United counter at BNA the previous afternoon, through three airports and the trek from the Santiago airport to the transport van, we joked about how terrible the mom in Home Alone was for forgetting her child, Kevin. We jokingly referred to our collective things as “Kevin” — “Let’s go!” “Wait, do we have Kevin?” “Where’s Kevin?” “Do you have Kevin?” — but we never specifically defined what “Kevin” was. As we were settling into our temporary city home, my dad realized that we had miscounted our total number of bags from the beginning, and we had left one of them at the airport.
So he had to grab a cab to go back to the airport to pick up Kevin.
While he went to retrieve his forgotten luggage, Justin and I headed to a nearby Lider Express (a Chilean grocery chain owned by Walmart) to get a few essentials, and proceed to embarrass ourselves with our lack of Spanish or understanding of how credit cards worked in Chile**. After battling the card reader and trying to communicate with the cashier in broken Spanglish, we used an ATM to grab cash and left before we could embarrass ourselves further.
Finally, my dad returns from the airport, we have some groceries, we’ve gotten the rooms to cool down, and we have managed to get online to check in with folks back home. And that’s when Justin plugs in something that blows the power in the entire apartment.***
Thankfully, everyone managed to maintain high spirits during this first 24 hour period, and Skyler was oblivious to it all, just having a grand ole time.
All in all, it was not our finest travel day, but it also wasn’t our worst. We made it to our destination and managed to have a lovely evening in Santiago exploring the nearby Little Italy neighborhood. 🙂
What travel mishaps have you encountered? Any embarrassing or funny travel stories you care to share?
*Turns out the company had given the driver the wrong address — 451 instead of 415, but instead of us just trudging up the extra blocks, she insisted on driving us there which, with one way streets and city traffic, took an additional 15 minutes.
**This is an old article but still addresses one of the issues we ran into and did NOT understand in the moment. http://escapeamericanow.info/cuotas-on-credit-card-purchases-in/ The poor cashier did not understand what we did not understand and did her best to help us but cash saved the day in that instance.
***We had actually blown the power to one wall in our side of the apartment first, found the breaker box and flipped the necessary switch. But then we plugged in something else and knocked out the power for the whole apartment, having to contact our AirBNB host to come fix it while we were out at dinner. Alas.