by Kimberly Blaker
Freelance Family Writer
It was our first family trip to Disney World, and I was bound and determined to make it a success. Being the savvy, organized person I am, I purchased our airline tickets on sale well in advance and spent the following months planning the perfect Disney getaway. Our rental car and motel room were reserved, and each day of the trip was planned. Things were really going to go smoothly on our family dream vacation.
On the day of our trip, we arrived at the airport an hour before take off with two bubbly children. I handed over our ticket envelope to the check-in attendant. A moment later, she pointed out that she still needed the tickets.
“They’re in the envelope,” I said, bewildered.
“No,” she replied, “These are just boarding passes.”
At that moment my heart began to sink as I recalled a month ago our travel agent had issued new boarding passes and had told me I could destroy the old ones.
As it turned out, I had destroyed the tickets instead!
I proceeded to explain what happened and asked the attendant what could be done. She informed us that re-ticketing would cost us $60 per ticket—a $240 mistake, to be exact.
While disputing the fee, we realized time was ticking, so we agreed to the charge and handed over our credit card, which I had paid off in case of an emergency. However, when our card was run through the machine, it reflected we had no available credit.
Reaching back into my purse, I complained, “Then I guess we’ll just have to use some of our travelers’ checks.”
But that would have been too simple. To my astonishment, the airline wouldn’t accept travelers’ checks. By this point, a supervisor had already taken over and insisted that was the airline’s policy.
Our last resort was the checkbook, which I knew would be a lost debate. The clock was still ticking with only 20 minutes ‘til take off.
I shuffled away from the desk with tears streaming down my face, leaving my husband to handle the ordeal. How was I going to tell the kids we wouldn’t be going on vacation?
Finally, the supervisor gave in and accepted our check. Again, we were on our way. (Fortunately today, much has changed in the airline industry.)
We arrived in Tampa, the airport I had chosen for the best ticket fares, at 11:00 p.m. We dragged our sleepy children to the car rental booth and gave the teller our reservation number. Handing over the credit card, I assured myself the airline’s computer had just made an error. Besides, since we had reserved the car with our credit card several weeks prior, if worse came to worse, we could just use travelers’ checks to cover the rental fee.
The clerk punched in our card number. “I’m sorry but you don’t have enough credit available,” she announced.
“Then I guess we’ll just have to pay by travelers’ checks,” I replied.
“Sorry ma’am,” she continued, “we must have a credit card with available credit to secure a car.”
How could this be happening? I thought.
But as luck would have it (if you could call it that), a security guard informed us if we would wait until 1:00 in the morning, we could catch a ride with a chauffeur who would be heading to Orlando. So, we found ourselves a row of seats in the lobby where the kids could curl up while we awaited the chauffeur’s arrival.
When the van arrived, we forked over a mere $50 and spent the next hour and a half dozing on the van’s sticky vinyl seats, until we arrived at our final destination in Orlando. It was 2:30 in the morning, and we were ready to collapse.
But when we gave the motel clerk our name, he informed us they had given out our room because we were late.
Of course, the motel had tried charging the room to our credit card at midnight to hold it for us—but the charge didn’t go through.
At this point, we were numb with frustration. Our three and seven-year-olds were fussing and ready for bed. So we caught a cab, which took us to the only motel in the area with a vacancy.
The next morning we awoke around 8:00 a.m. feeling hung over from the previous night’s adventures. We got the credit card error resolved, found a more suitable motel, and picked up our rental car.
Of course, this was the day we had slated for the Magic Kingdom. But it was already lunchtime and our stomachs were growling. Making our way out of the motel, we noticed a sign in the lobby. A time-share group was offering free lunch and free Disney tickets, and all we had to do was sit through a brief promotional pitch.
“Why not?” I asked my husband. We had to eat lunch anyway. This way we could recoup some of our loss from the ordeals from the previous night.
With a promise by a timeshare staff member that it would take only one hour, including lunch, we were on our way.
Three hours and two irritable children later, we were insisting the sales person give us our Disney tickets and let us be on our way.
The remainder of our vacation went incredibly smooth, I’m happy to say. Of course, anything would seem smooth after our previous 24-hour ordeal.
So, what’s the lesson in this? When you leave town, be prepared for anything and everything. And always carry more than one credit card—it’s the only way to assure your family fun doesn’t turn into a family farce.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance family and lifestyle writer.