Planning an international trip

Planning an international tripMy daughter had decided to go to the Philippines. She had just finished her undergraduate degree and wanted to make this trip before starting graduate work. She would be working with a mission organization.

Since she would be there six months, I decided I would visit her halfway through her trip – and I decided to take my youngest daughter with me. My youngest missed her older sister. I did too!

Dropping her at the airport when she left for her journey half way around the world had not been easy. My heart ached as I watched her leave. What mother’s heart wouldn’t? Yet my heart was proud of her and excited for her adventure and how she would grow.  Hugs, smiles, tears and off she went heading for TSA.

I am very grateful for technology these days. Video chatting and free texting kept us connected as she traveled halfway around the world.  I loved receiving her emails updating all of us on her work there and her heart.

Planning our trip to see her, I began watching airfares and realized that Christmas time was, of course, the most expensive time to fly.  I was seeing itineraries that included up to 50 hours of travel time. No way! I thought.

After much searching, I decided that I would bite the bullet and just pay extra to get a 24-hour travel itinerary.  We were to head to Seattle, then to Taipei, Taiwan, then to Cebu, Philippines.  I could do 24 hours. Little did I know what lie ahead.

On the Friday morning of our departure, the sun was shining and all seemed well. The majority of my suitcase was filled with items for my daughter and Christmas gifts from her family and her supporters. We were excited to give her all these items and celebrate a little Christmas with her.

Denver International Airport. Flickr/Daniel Hoherd
Denver International Airport. Flickr/Daniel Hoherd

On arrival to the airport, I found out our flight leaving Denver was two hours delayed. I was not too concerned, since we had five hours in Seattle before our long flight to Taipei.  My youngest quickly found an outlet to plug in her phone and IPad to be prepared for the long trip ahead.

There weren’t many seats left, so I sat down next to the walkway. As I sat waiting, I noticed a young lady come running up to the gate next to ours and loudly curse for all to hear as she saw her plane had already left.  Laughter almost bubbled up as I watched her turn and run with her small suitcase bouncing up and down behind her trying to keep up.  Little did I know that would soon be me.

At 9:40 PM, we loaded the plane and it was now snowing. I grew up in Colorado. It snows in Colorado and planes still take off and land. For some reason, though, our plane sat for over an hour before leaving the concourse.  Now the snow was really coming down.

No problem, I thought, we will head to the de-icing area and take off after that. The man next to me was quite chatty and I learned a lot about him and his family.  It did help keep my mind occupied as the time ticked away.

The snow was absolutely beautiful to gaze at through the small airplane window. Its large fluffy flakes looked so gentle as they floated down, but they were quickly freezing dangerously onto the airplane. They could not de-ice fast enough.

When the pilot announced that all planes were grounded, my heart sank.  We sat and waited.  After three hours of sitting on the plane, he had to return to the concourse and let us off. By now, I knew we were going to miss our connecting flight in Seattle.  While still on the plane I tried calling to re-book our flights, but after an hour on hold, the call disconnected.

Trying to stay positive at Denver International Airport. Photo courtesy Debbie Pond
Trying to stay positive while waiting at Denver International Airport. Photo courtesy Debbie Pond

I tried to keep a stiff upper lip, though thoroughly exasperated that I had lost that connection. I almost ran to find the counter to re-book as my fellow passengers slowly found their seats by the gate. My heart sank as I found the counter. The line was at least three hours long. I hadn’t thought about all the other canceled flights. It was midnight and snowing hard. We were not leaving tonight, of that I was sure. Heading home, I had no idea what would happen to our luggage.

Two more hours were spent on the phone attempting to re-book. But, the flight leaving Seattle for Taipei still had us as checked in and hadn’t released us from the system.  Of course, their office was closed until the morning.  I would have to try in the morning.

After 4 hours of sleep and snow still falling I again tried to re-book. How hard can this be?  Surely, they can find me other flights.  But no luck after another 3.5 hours on the phone. We had to get to the airport and stand in front of someone. As I called to my daughter to get ready, I began to feel as if I were part of some movie.  Some movie such as Trains, Planes and Automobiles.

It was still snowing and below freezing outside.  We were both wearing our snow boots and sweaters. We hopped in the SUV and headed back to the airport, accidentally leaving my bag of toiletries behind.

The line at the counter was two hours long.  By now, I was in tears. I was running on fumes and trying hard to be kind. Truly there are much worse things in this world and at least we are safe and healthy.  I was trying to keep perspective, but emotions were just bubbling up. It was looking as if we wouldn’t be going to the Philippines at all, and it broke my heart.

I walked up to that counter and in tears told her my story of trying to re-book. The lovely ticket agent spent 45 minutes trying to re-book me. Her understanding and empathy was a balm to my soul.

“How about flying to LA,  then to Honolulu, then Taipei, then Cebu?” she said.  It was dizzying to think about all those connections, but I didn’t care anymore how we got there. I might have even taken a boat.

The ticket agent next to her spoke up, “I have a flight sitting here that is heading to Honolulu. It’s delayed.” Would we rather head straight to Honolulu right now?

WHAT? Of course! She quickly finished the tickets and told us to hurry. It left in one hour. In the meantime, I realized I left my toiletries at home and my husband was hurrying to the airport to get them to me.

We made that flight and were finally headed out of the bad weather, with 23 hours in Honolulu. We would get some sleep, then check out the island.

But of course, the saga could not end there.  Before I fell asleep that night, my daughter and I began to really look at the arrival time in the Philippines on our re-booked itinerary. We realized it could not be right. Our plane leaving Honolulu would depart at 11:30PM on the 18th and arrive in Taipei, Taiwan at 7:40AM on the 20th due to the time change.  However, the sweet ticket agent had re-booked our flight from Taipei, Taiwan to Cebu, Philippines on the wrong day.  She had us leaving Taipei on the 19th.

We headed back to the airport the next morning. There was no one in line at the counter. I admit, I was expecting the usual Hawaiian Aloha. So I was shocked when this particular agent was not feeling the Aloha spirit. I didn’t have a good feeling about this. How could I begin to explain everything?

I tried to give her a quick summary about our troubles and that we had been re-booked on the wrong day. She failed to see the problem.

Again, I tried to show her my itinerary. It said we arrived in Taipai on the 20th, but that we had been re-booked to leave Taipei on the 19th.

“Well, I will have to charge you to change it then,” she said.

Honestly, I merely replied, “Oh, no, no, no.”

At this point, she put her hand up and said: “Ma’am calm down.”

Now I was really feeling as if I was somehow part of a movie and I might be dragged off by security.  I had been calm up to that point.

After explaining again, this was not my mistake, she walked off to her manager in a huff. Upon her return, it was as if someone had turned off her nasty switch. She was now as sweet as pie.

“Well, you are actually scheduled on the 20th, but for some reason it showed the 19th.”  I was even handed a new itinerary that showed the 20th.

We got an unexpected, but very welcome visit to Hawaii. Photo by Ashley Pond
We got an unexpected, but very welcome visit to Hawaii. Photo by Ashley Pond

Great! Let’s go enjoy Honolulu.

My youngest and I quickly realized that we were in Honolulu without a change of clothes.  We were still in our snow boots and sweaters. I even had a turtleneck on.  I am sure we looked a bit silly as we went to buy flip flops, a summer shirt and dress and of course socks and underwear. Off we went to enjoy the beach, Hula pie, and fish tacos.

After our layover in Honolulu, we headed back to the airport to catch our international flight.  Silver lining in the cloud…..we were bumped up to Business class.  Yippee!

It should have been smooth sailing from here. Who were we kidding?

Upon arrival in Taipei, mysteriously, the ticket agent could not find our names on the flight out of Taipei on the 20th, but eventually found us booked the day before, on the 19th.

The silver lining in our trip overseas -- we got to fly business class! Photo courtesy Debbie Pond
The silver lining in our trip overseas — we got to fly business class! Photo courtesy Debbie Pond

Hmmmm……what had the ticket agent in Honolulu even done?

We were thankfully rebooked, and made our last flight to Cebu. What a joy it was to hug my oldest and see my two daughters hugging each other. It was worth all the hassle and tears of trying to get there.  There’s a lot that a momma bear will do to see her baby.

No luggage awaited us at the airport. But we found out that you can truly travel on a whole lot less.  One piece arrived late the next night and one was retrieved right before our flight home.  We enjoyed our four days with my oldest, learning about the culture, about her work there, and watching her shine in a new country. And yes, she got her Christmas presents.

Looking back over our adventure, I realized I had paid extra to get a 24-hour flight itinerary. In reality, we received a 72-hour flight itinerary from start to finish.  I had been nervous about making the trip, and to be the one in charge as we traveled out of the country.

Arriving in Cebu to see my oldest daughter. Photo courtesy Debbie Pond
Arriving in Cebu to see my oldest daughter. Photo courtesy Debbie Pond

But together, my youngest and I navigated through the ordeal and made it to the end. She endured traveling with me for 72 hours as I continually was losing my ticket, baggage claim, or passport. It was a great bonding time with both my daughters and we will have a story to tell for years to come. We met some great people along the way and I think that’s just how it was supposed to be.

Author Bio: Debbie Miller Pond is a freelance travel writer for Go World Travel Magazine, a digital publication covering travel in more than 90 countries. A Registered Nurse, Debbie writes frequently on travel health, as well as travel in North America. Read more on
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