I’m an experienced traveler. Or so I thought. Recently I went to Costa Rica for a nice, relaxing, week-long vacation, only to realize all of the experience I thought I had, was not nearly enough.
I did my due diligence on Covid requirements before my trip and thinking it was all I needed, I trotted off to Boise, Idaho to board my flight for the first leg of my journey to Houston, Texas. I arrived at the airport at 5 a.m., passed through TSA, bought a book to read during my five-hour flight, realized it wasn’t a very good book by the time we were wheels up over the Snake River, and decided to make my book more palatable by munching on a Tapas.
Except, I couldn’t buy a Tapas. Who knew? United Airlines requires you to download their app and have your credit card on file in their app, in order to purchase onboard. Well snap. ‘Contactless pay,’ they call it. Your centimeters away from your row-mates, a few inches away from the folks in the row in front and behind you, but handing a credit card to your stewardess is, ‘against Covid safety protocol.’
Okay, as an experienced traveler I know being flexible is a must. I went back to reading my book, which actually managed to bore me into a short nap, and before I knew it, we were wheels down in Houston. I got off the plane, tummy growling, and headed for the nearest eatery in hopes of scoring a hamburger and a few fries. I sat down at a small table and waited for a someone to take my order.
No such luck. In order to feed my tummy’s burger needs, I couldn’t talk to a human, instead I had to download their app, find their menu, and place my order on-line. It took about 30 minutes, but I finally overcame my lack of tech skills and placed my order. Thankfully, the burger was good.
With a full belly and an improved attitude, I boarded my flight for the second, and supposedly last, leg of my journey. Using my brand-new United Airlines app, I ordered a glass of red wine and enjoyed the view from 40,000 feet. This flight was supposed to take four hours and nine minutes. After five hours, our pilot informed us we would not be able to land in San Jose, Costa Rica because of weather concerns. Instead, we were heading to Panama.
Arrrggg! Okay, relax, let the flexibility vibe flow through you. All is well, all is well,,,
With another 40 minutes added to our flight, I decided I might as well graze through a Tapas and have another glass of wine. By the time we landed in Panama, I was once again in ‘be flexible’ mode and ready to add Panama to the list of countries I’ve had the good fortune to visit.
We were told we would be spending the night in a nice hotel near the airport and back on the plane by 9 a.m. the next morning, so our luggage would not be downloaded. No worries. I’m an experienced traveler, I know to always have a travel go-bag in my purse.
Off the plane we went, right into the belly of the airport, only to learn in order to pass through customs we had to fill out an online form using our personal phones. Breath in, breath out. Repeat.
Panama’s largest airport does not have great internet. In fact, it doesn’t even have fair internet. Being a non-techy, er… older gal, I was completely flummoxed. My ‘flexible’ spirit had clearly had enough and left me. I assume it marched right back on the plane. Flexibility deficient, I found myself in the middle of a foreign airport and at a complete loss. Some of the younger passengers tried to help me, but I quickly discovered about 99 percent of America’s younger folk have I Phones. Mine’s a Samsung. Of course.
Two hours, six tech savvy youngsters, a few tears, and a very impatient customs officer, later, I passed through customs and boarded a bus. Within a short time, I arrived at a truly lovely resort and felt my be-flexible spirit coming back. A few hours’ sleep and back on the bus we went to catch our 9 a.m. flight.
Or not. Apparently, the people of Panama were somewhat disgruntled over food shortages and showed their displeasure by rioting. Heavy sigh here. My bus made it to the airport fine, but the busses carrying nearly half of the other passengers, and our flight crew, were delayed for hours.
Long story short, I made it to San Jose, Costa Rica nearly two days late, BUT with some much-needed new travel experience. So, what did I learn? If you’re not fairly tech-savvy, take a crash course and get that way. Because in today’s travel world, apps, contactless payment, and online forms, will quickly make you wish a not-so-good book was the worst part of your trip.
Oh, and take an extra dose of flexibility. You’ll need it.