Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mexico to the Letter

We had a rough take-off from Seattle on our journey to Mexico. I know we've all had airline fiascoes, but to be honest, in over two and a half years we've rarely had a problem with an airline or an airport. But this incident could have been a game changer. Luckily, there was a happy landing.

Early in December Michael booked our flight to Mexico and we found three perfect Airbnbs for our destinations there. We were all set, so we turned our attention to enjoying the holidays in the Pacific Northwest.

We enjoyed time in Seattle, Portland and Sun Valley while we were home in December.
We didn't think much further about our upcoming trip until Michael logged on to confirm our flights. He noticed that he had left the letter "p" out of my last name when he made the reservations, so he reached out to Expedia, where he had purchased the tickets, to make the correction. Here is their response "certainly, we can help you with that, however there is a change fee of $192." For a keystroke? It wasn't like we were changing our itinerary! They took a firm position that it was the airline that was charging the fee, and they were merely passing it on.

Possibly the representative from Expedia.
We decided if that was the case, we'd be our most charming selves when we got to the airport and see if Alaska Airlines would make this simple change on the spot. And at that point, we weren't even sure it was a problem - it was just a "p". At the airport we found out it was more than a problem - it was a "you can't fly internationally if the name on the reservation doesn't match your passport" sort of problem. A start-over situation looked imminent.
It's never fun to be behind the passengers with a problem!
We were a two hours early so we were confident it would all work out.  Fate delivered us to the check-in counter served by Kristi, whom we now call "Kristi the Super Agent". At first, she thought she would able to make the change, but her system would not allow it. Then whatever supervisor she was on hold with for ten minutes said absolutely not - Expedia issued the tickets and they would have to take care of it. By now, Kristi had heard the Senior Nomad story and she was not going to let the side down. She called Expedia herself. As many of us know, trying to speak to a human being at Expedia or Amazon, or any other online merchant is like trying to find a distant galaxy without a telescope. But she persevered. The warm body she finally found needed to speak to her own supervisor and that took another hour on hold, only to find out since we'd already technically checked in they could no longer help. Kristi continued to furiously tap away at her computer looking for solutions. She was still getting stonewalled from her side and Delta - our carrier from LAX to Mexico city wouldn't help either. I was standing to one side like excess baggage, but one thing being a Nomad has taught us is patience. Patience and flexibility. 

This isn't Kristi, but a good stand-in.
Kristi spend over two hours with us, and in the end, for miraculous reasons only God can explain she was finally given the go ahead to make the change. A keystroke or two later all was right with the world. Meanwhile we had missed our first flight to Los Angeles so she booked us on the next flight that would still allow us a short window to make our Delta connection at LAX. At security my boarding pass wouldn't scan. So we had to run back to Kristi and get a new one - she gave me TSA pre-check status on that one! You can be sure we sent a glowing recommendation to her boss.

At least Sea-Tac is a nice place to spend time.
Onward Senior Nomads! Until we got to the gate and found our flight was delayed for two hours because our pilots were flying into Seattle on another delayed flight. Meanwhile our bags were potentially on their merry way to Mexico - lucky bags.

In the end we took the delayed flight, spend a very short night at a hotel near the LAX airport (courtesy of Alaska because the delay was their fault) and then flew on to Mexico City the next morning. By a second miracle, our bags tagged along on the same flight.

Checking in at the Sheraton LAX at 1:00 am with our carry-on bags the clothes on our backs.
The irony of this story is that the only real travel challenges we've had in two and half years have been in customs in Seattle. Coming home I've been stopped three times - once going through immigration. And twice in the customs hall. The challenge in immigration was, according to a dour-faced agent, that I no longer looked like my 8 year old passport photo. True - my hair is longer and a foxy silver blond, and I have lost 25 pounds by walking at least 10,000 steps a day along with clean living, but that had never happened in the other 45 other countries we visited. That added almost an hour spent in a small room waiting for additional dour-faced officials to decide that yes, I was Debbie Campbell with a "p" in the right place. The second time I forgot I had oranges in my carry-on. My mistake, but it sidelined us to the agriculture line for people-who-should-know-better. Another lost hour. And this last time, we were automatically sent to that same line, because maybe I hadn't learned my lesson. I had no oranges, meat, cheese or tropical birds in my bags so we were set free in our own city! Welcome home.

This is my new passport photo.
We arrived in Mexico City a little on the frazzled side - but that was a perfect match to the city itself. As our taxi from the airport crawled along in freeway traffic and then onto tight, crowded streets filled with ramshackle food stands, double parked cars, and swarming pedestrians, we were growing nervous about our first Airbnb choice. Our good fortune returned however, and after a few more turns we were in the clear. Our new home for that first week was in the trendy Roma/Condesa neighborhood. Here's the link: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5955186. It was a quiet, comfortable oasis from the busy streets outside our door, and our hosts were a delightful young couple (and baby Bruno) who gave us great tips and helped us many times as we found our feet.

The view of Mexico City from the roof deck of our building.
Since then we've been to the captivating city of San Miguel de Allende for a ten day stay and have just arrived back in Mexico City for a week. I will catch you up on all our Mexican adventures next time. Adios!

Thanks for following along. You can find us on facebook at Senior Nomads and follow us on instagram @seniornomads.

Debbie and Michael
The Senior Nomads


  1. Love ALL your posts on Senior Nomads but this one resonated with me. Thanks for sharing both your challenge and the happy ending. Caution for the rest of us re matching the name on the booking with your passport before you get to the airport, but also how perseverance pays off. I have had the "orange" fiasco as well -- although it was an apple for me -- and that was a lesson learned. Keep up the traveling and the writing!

  2. Oh dear on that initial start to your trip. But it does seem like you got the most compassionate agent possible, and she deserves whatever kudos you are able to send her way. And I love San Miguel de Allende! I'm looking forward to hearing all about it in a later post. :-)

    1. Hello DJan! I know we will meet someday. As our most avid follower, what do you think a Senior Nomads books would be like? Anything you've read that could inspire me? We have two different agents asking us to consider a book and I am just not sure. Any Thoughts. You can find me a debbie (dot) marion (dot) campbell (at) gmail (dot) com. I did it that way so my e-mail address doesn't get grabbed by some wicked spyder or troll. Love the internet lingo!

  3. Wow, what a story! Glad it worked out!

  4. thanks for the great travel tale, here's my favorite SEATAC memory: my dear husband tossed my mini maglite in my carryon (without my knowledge) when we were departing Bainbridge Island after a visit. i blithely loaded the bag on the conveyor for inspection at the airport and shortly thereafter met a Seattle police officer who wrote a report about the potentially dangerous weapon i had not declared. the offending item is about 6" long and made of steel. i'm a retired cop and we received some training on how to use it as a defensive weapon, so i can understand the excess of caution. fortunately we were VERY early. travel wasn't delayed but i worried about future 'special attention'. no problem so far, however.

  5. Great post, Debbie, thanks for sharing. Look forward to reading about your adventures in Mexico!

  6. I would like to thank you for the efforts you've put
    in writing this blog. I really hope to view the same high-grade content by you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my very own blog now.


  7. This was my second time attending an event at this place, and was my first business event here (the other event was a charity show). Everything at event venue was perfect, the drinks and food was amazing. Even the coffee was wonderful.