An Unexpected Adventure Getting To Antigua

An Unexpected Adventure Getting To Antigua

After our successful Jamaica trip, we decided we wanted one last hurrah before Ariel went back to work, so we booked a flight to Antigua to stay at the lovely Carlisle Bay. It… did not go as planned.

Now to be clear – the place we stayed was beautiful and Antigua itself is very charming! But getting there… and back again… was truly a nightmare that we haven’t experienced in many an age. One of my earliest posts was about how adventure travel is not all pony rides in May-sunshine so it’s not like this was a totally new experience – but it was definitely not what we were looking for right now.

It began… well it began as you might expect. In terminal C at Newark Airport, we arrived about two hours before our flight was supposed to leave on a Saturday morning at about 9 am. There were very few people at the airport, security lines were empty, things were looking very solid. But when we flew to Jamaica with Ethan, because he was a lap infant, we were told we needed to go to a “special needs” line. So we dutifully did that, after waking our kids up around 6 am and getting to the airport in under 40 minutes we were feeling good.

Wearing two backpacks and pulled two full size suitcases.
We were in good spirits when we arrived at EWR. I started referring to myself as “the mule” because… well… just look at me.

There were about 25 people ahead of us in line, but the thing is that literally EVERYONE on that line had a problem. And no one got through quickly. But we weren’t concerned because there was basically no one at the airport! We even let someone with a 7:40 flight go ahead of us so he could make it. But time kept passing… It never even entered our mind that we were in any danger of missing our flight though, because there were not a lot of people in front of us and it looked like we would get to the front of the line with over an hour to spare.

Finally we got to the agent who assured Jacob we would only be a few minutes. The clock kept ticking… The counter agent kept typing. The clock kept ticking… The counter agent kept typing. And typing. And typing.

About 15 minutes after we got to the counter, we were abruptly told there had been an issue with my passport (impossible since I had just flown on it 2 months ago) and that by the time it had been resolved, we had missed the cut off for the flight by 13 minutes and could not board.

Ariel and Jacob flipped out. I was in disbelief, I told them to get on the plane and I would figure out a way to get there later. There is only one flight per week to Antigua from EWR, but I didn’t care.

THEN we were told that NONE of us could get on the plane because we did not check in on time. I demanded a supervisor assist – the flight hadn’t even started boarding yet! There was still almost no one on the security line! The “supervisor” sauntered over and after arguing with me for like 10 minutes, finally agreed to call the gate and ask the flight crew if they would hold the flight for us. She got no answer. Could she please try and call again? Nope. Please? Nope. Anyway, by that point it was really probably too late.

Before we walked away with Jacob in tears and Ariel beyond upset, I looked at the agent and said to her “look at my wife, look at my son – YOU did this to them,” and went to fight with someone else. They eventually rebooked us onto an American Airlines flight the next morning from JFK at 8 am, which meant getting to Queens around 5 am to ensure we didn’t have the same situation.

So back home we went, prepared to get ourselves up at 4 am. But something about how the ticket transfer had been printed looked off to me, so Ariel and I spent about 3 hours talking to the United and American Airlines customer service departments to make sure everything was right. It was not, because apparently there was some issue with the taxes paid by United not transferring to the American Airlines tickets. Could I just pay for the taxes on the phone? Nope! Have to do it at the check-in counter. We did not want that AT ALL, so eventually we got the United people to talk to the American Airlines people and straighten it out. The last thing I got from the American Airlines Twitter account was a cryptic “we look forward to tomorrow’s adventure,” to which I replied that I’d rather avoid an adventure this time thankyouverymuch. To which they replied “we’re hopeful all will go well!” I was skeptical that it would.

I was right.

Ah yes, sunrise on the Verrazano Bridge. Exactly where where I want to be.

We got to JFK at about 5:15 am. Checked in, dropped bags off, got through security before 6 am, felt great after settling into the Admiral’s Club before 6:15. We had about 90 minutes to board… And we even left early because we had to gate check Ethan’s stroller. 40 minutes before the flight we got onto the boarding line (because for some reason it took over 10 minutes to get the tags for the stroller).

When it was our turn to board we were told that Ethan did not have a boarding pass and could not get on the plane! WTF!

But he’s a lap infant, he doesn’t need a seat! We were checked in and had our bags accepted. TSA security waved us through. Ethan was on the passenger manifest and on our reservation! How could this be a problem? We were getting on the plane for sure though, right? The gate attendant would not commit to anything – only saying “I’m doing everything I can to get you on the plane.” I was close to going full on nuclear meltdown, but Ariel (who was on the verge of tears for the second time in 24 hours) held me back.

People kept boarding. 30 minutes to takeoff. 25 minutes to takeoff. The agent was on hold with some customer service line. 20 minutes to takeoff. Just a few people ahead of us to go. I demanded she call someone else, which she did from her cell phone and was talking to someone about our situation. 15 minutes to takeoff… Would we make it? Finally the on hold number picked up and guided the gate agent on how to print a boarding pass for Ethan…

…she then returned to the gate to take the same boarding passes she had just printed out for us. We got onto the plane and no one asked us for any documents at all. So she… held us up for 30+ minutes, risked our flight, so she could print out a boarding pass… for herself? Ridiculous.

The flight itself was not great. Ethan was no longer a 4 month old and was just… too interested in everything around him to sleep for more than a 20-30 minutes at a time. And the flight itself was about an hour longer than the Jamaica flight. So there was a lot of “pass the baby” between Ariel and I for over four hours. Overall not too terrible though.

Ethan was still a mostly happy baby. He just didn’t want to sleep as much which made things tougher than the Jamaica flight.

The stay at the hotel was a bit of a mixed bag unfortunately. The property itself was absolutely wonderful and the restaurants were uniformly excellent. Jacob actually really had a great time at the Kids Club. And our babysitter Kim was reliable and awesome. Jacob really liked her and Ethan had a nice time with her too.

The problem was that Ethan just did not reliably sleep there. Many naps were screamfests until he would fall asleep. And every night he cried for a while, including one night that we actually interceded three times (which we generally don’t do since he self-soothes) over the course of an hour and had to cancel a dinner reservation. He also woke up a bunch and would make noises over night (waking us up for an hour at a time)… and then wake up an hour early in the morning. This was also the first time Ethan and Jacob shared a room, which Jacob did great with… except for when Ethan would wake up before 6 am and Jacob would try and make him laugh and be happy.

Also, there is just no comparison to having a literal full time nanny like we had at Franklyn D Resort. During the day, outside of taking Ethan to the pool or walking around with him in the stroller… there just wasn’t much for him to do. He was also going through a phase where he was learning to roll over the place and pre-crawling. He was really bored with his toys and just wanted to roll from one side of the room to the other.

And THEN we had a close call with Tropical Storm Bret. Which thankfully missed us, but brought a pretty substantial storm surge with it, flooding the beach with seaweed, and coming up to the porch outside our room. Another foot higher for the waves and we would have had to be evacuated. The beach was closed for the last two days we were there, which meant even less to do with the baby…

Those waves may not look like much, but compare that the other pictures of the calm bay. It actually flooded the restaurant that night.

Normally I don’t mind some adventure on a trip – you might even say I’ve been seeking that since my first proper blog post (and prior). But… this was just not what we were looking for.

Finally, we had yet ANOTHER problem getting checked in with Ethan as a lap infant on the way home. It took about 40 minutes to sort out, which thankfully they did before we were at the gate so we had plenty of time to deal with. But the PTSD from everything else that was really kicked off by the misery we experienced at Newark sent us all to very dark places. It was just a good thing we left for the airport 30 minutes earlier than the hotel told us we needed to leave.

Ultimately the Newark and JFK experiences got us off on the very wrong foot, and added stress to everything else we went through. For the first time in a very long time – maybe ever – I really wanted go home early.

It wasn’t all bad though. Ethan napping, me with the monitor in the shade, Ariel playing with Jacob in the (calm) ocean.

Then coming home, we landed at Newark, nearly 30 minutes early… Was our bad luck finally over? Nope! We were promptly trapped on the runway for almost 90 minutes. And then there was an inexplicable delay at the baggage return where after our first two suitcases arrived, the conveyor belt stopped working for 15+ minutes. An hour after Ethan’s usual bed time, he was screaming at the top of his lungs in the terminal.

We finally got home after over 10 hours of travel with an infant, utterly exhausted. While we did come home with some nice memories (especially for Jacob, who again showed what an incredible traveler he is) of Ethan having fun in the pool and seeing his second new country already… we were done.


But that’s how it goes occasionally. Sometimes these trips go as smoothly as a pony-ride in May sunshine… sometimes a tropical storm wrecks 1/3 of your beach time. Hey it could always be worse! At least it was a beautiful place. And there were no trolls.

So that was good at least…

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