Family Travel

Around the World in 15 Days

The travel story to end all travel stories

Tags : advice family

Ok, I’ve got the travel story to end all stories.

We planned a family vacation with my English wife and two year old son which would allow us to visit my in-laws in Nice, France and then my family in Western Massachusetts.

I have lots of miles on United so we booked a somewhat circuitous route based on what was available to get us from San Francisco to England and back.

We then booked a second ticket to fly round trip from England to Nice on Air France. So the entire trip was San Francisco to London, London to Nice, Nice to London, London to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Boston, Boston by car to the Berkshires, then back to Boston and then finally home to San Francisco. Easy, right? Will be a piece of cake with my already well traveled son right? If you are saying no, this sounds ridiculous and too much you are right… but it was what it was… the families all wanted to see their perfect grandchild.

The first part of the trip went off without a hitch. We flew to London and Nice and had a great 10 days. Then came our trip from Nice to get to the Berkshires …not so great. Our day began at 6:30am when we were picked up to go to the Nice airport. We arrived around 7:15am and went to the Air France Desk to get our boarding passes. The Air France woman noticed my wife’s US papers were out of date. We told her it wasn’t her concern (as we were just flying to London on her airline). As we got near the end of our transaction, an announcement was made over the airport loudspeaker in French. The snippy woman helping us suddenly literally dropped our paperwork onto her desk and ran out of the building. We were told by a passerby that there was a bomb threat and everyone had to evacuate.

The plane needed to go from Nice to London and then onto another location. As we waited outside the Nice airport for the next three hours, it left without any passengers on it. We were now worried about three things: would we make it on time to catch our flight in London, would my wife be able to get back into the US with the out-of-date paperwork, and how would my son deal with the delays. We called United (nothing they could do to protect us as we were flying another carrier under a separate itinerary and if we didn’t make our flight our reservations would be canceled), our immigration lawyer (we left him a message), and attempted to keep our son busy.

After they let us back into the airport (no bomb) we waited in line for an hour and were booked on a later Air France flight to London. When we arrived in London, and had already missed our flight, we had been traveling eight hours (should have been 2). We got to the front of the line at the United counter and the agent pretty much told us there was nothing he could do …it was then that our son chose to absolutely lose it.

Our quiet, well behaved child had turned into one of those over-tired out-of-control kids, hysterically crying and rolling around on the floor. It actually was perfect timing. The agent, trying to do anything he could to get us and our ear-piercing screaming kid out of there, pulled out all of the stops, called his supervisor, and was able to put us on a direct flight to New York (it is pretty much equidistant to the Berkshires from NYC and Boston).

He was so flustered he didn’t even notice when I held back my wife’s out of date paperwork in her passport and waved us through. Three calls, two ice creams, and one present for my son later we were able to get a fax from our lawyer which would help us in the US (we never had to use–the US passport agent waved us through–the new paperwork was in their system).

We arrived in Boston after a 20 hour ordeal (it should have been about 11 hours) and slept. The rest of the “vacation” went well. I arrived home needing sleep and a vacation.

  • Bring lots of distractions for kids
  • When working with airline employees, be calm, and nice, and if necessary speak to a supervisor (and it doesnt hurt to have a screaming kid with you)
  • You'll get through it, really.

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