After weeks of leisurely packing, days of frantic packing, and one last night of super-speedy cleaning, we took off for Grenada last Friday with Nick’s parents, our two dogs and one cat in tow.
Spoiler alert! We made it safely to Grenada, so if you don’t want to read all about our trip, you can stop reading now.
It was really hard saying goodbye to our friends. These are the people that have been there for me through thick and thin – some for over 10 years, some for considerably less, but each one precious to me. A lot will be changing over the next ten months that we are gone, and I’m a little sad to miss it. For our friends, there are Bars to be passed, classes to be finished, jobs to be started, and small children to be raised. And that is just the list off the top of my head. I know that we will stay in touch, and some will even come to visit us, but it’s still a little bittersweet.
In order to bring all three animals and the max amount of luggage possible (and so we could have some extra time with them), Nick’s parents came with us to Grenada. They and I flew first class, as there was only a $30 difference to do so, and it would allow us three seventy-five pound bags a piece as opposed to two fifty pounders. The animals had to be carried on, because you can’t check them if the weather will be above 85° anywhere on your journey.
We found out when booking our tickets that they only allow two animals in first class and five in coach, so Nick volunteered to take the coach ticket. Since he would have the least amount of leg room, he would take Nyla the tiny chihuahua, I would get Lancelot the giant cat, and Elaine (Nick’s mom) would have Elly the rat terrier. I was most nervous about the cat, as he hates riding in cars and makes a terrible rowr-ing sound any time you put him in a crate. We had been to the vet on Tuesday to get all of our animals cleared for American Airlines and for import to Grenada, and when we went, she gave us some pills to make the animals calmer on the plane. Nyla is too small to take them, but Elly and Lance were able to.
From Oklahoma City, there is no direct flight to Grenada. So our journey would take us from OKC to DFW to MIA to GND. We were supposed to leave at 7:10 in the morning and arrive at 7:20 at night. One thing to note: if you are coming to Grenada with animals, it is important to make sure your flight plan does not include a location that requires quarantine for animals. Grenada does not require a quarantine period, but if your flight were to have a layover in, say, Barbados, your pet would have to be quarantined there before being able to come to Grenada.
We arrived at the airport at 5:20 A.M., just shy of two hours early. There was already a huge line, but thankfully, we were able to hop in to the first class line to save time. And we needed all of the extra time we could get.
We had booked our tickets over the phone in order to secure pet seating. When we booked, we also confirmed that we would each (except for Nick) be allowed three bags, plus our carry-on, which we were assured we would. We asked because when Nick came by himself in January he flew first class and they tried to tell him he could only have two. After being unable to override the system, the ticketing agent filled out a manual baggage claim and he was allowed all three bags.
So we got to the gate, checked in and start checking bags. Except the agent informed us that there was a bag embargo and we would each only get two bags, regardless of the cabin we are seated. After we explain what happened with Nick in the winter, she says that the problem is that this is a summer bag embargo, and nothing can be done about it (which, we later found, was utter crap, because when she was reading the warning back to the Gold Desk phone support member we eventually got on the phone, it reads summer/winter bag embargo. So same issue).
So we argued and plead with our ticketing agent, who said she could do nothing. The supervisor came over and said she could do nothing. They look on our account to confirm that we had been told we could have three bags, but there was no note. Which makes sense, because first class always gets three bags, so why would they leave a note? I had seen on the SO Facebook group that another person had had the exact same problem two days before (but with additional bags they were paying for) and had managed to get through, so I knew it could be done. I referenced this, and the ticketing agent asked for her name to see how it had been done. Of course, we had shut our phones off (as in gone to AT&T and cancelled service) the day before, which wasn’t supposed to end service until midnight Friday, but they screwed up and it ended midnight Thursday. So I couldn’t pull up Facebook on my phone. Luckily, my mother in law had her iPad with her, so I was able to get on it and find the individuals name.
Meanwhile, Nick was using Phil’s (his dad) phone to call the American Airlines Gold Desk for support. They said they couldn’t do anything from their end, because the override has to be done at the check-in counter, and asked to speak to the supervisor. At this point, full-on panic mode had begun. We hand the phone over to the supervisor, who reads the flag in question to GD support. And is immediately told that the flag is only to indicate that additional baggage cannot be added. So we couldn’t pay for a fourth, but we could damn well have our three. We all almost cried. And by almost, I mean, I really did a little and every else got misty eyed. So, after an hour at the counter, we finally got our tickets and head through security.
This was the first time I had ever flown with an animal, so we needed instruction on what to do. If you haven’t flown with an animal before, you take them out of the crate and carry them through security while their crate goes through the X-Ray. Which is super exciting with a wiggly animal that thinks now is their chance for escape. Elly was the only really wiggly one, luckily, as Lance’s medicine was starting to kick in and Nyla was doing her shy Chihuahua thing. As the three of us were waiting for the next step in the process (you get your hands tested for something. I think the machine said explosives), we hear questioning about one of our carry-ons. It was technically Phil’s carry-on roller suitcase, but it was full of a bunch of our kitchen junk. So Nick claimed it and headed over to the bag search area with the cat so security could go through it.
Apparently, when a carry-on is packed with a lot of plastic/silicone utensils, an electronic rice cooker and food processor base look awfully suspicious. They said they had never had a rice cooker come through the scanner, which was why they couldn’t tell what it was coming through the X-Ray. Luckily, they didn’t make us leave it, or anything else, behind, and once we got the bag re-packed and animals re-crated, we were on our way.
The flight to Dallas was on time and uneventful. Lance was quiet as a church mouse the entire trip, but when we landed Elly started getting a little antsy. We didn’t have time to take the animals to the puppy potty place, since it would mean we would have to come back through security, but luckily Phil and Elaine are Admiral’s Club members, so we were able to head over there and surreptitiously take the animals to the bathroom to try to get them to pee on the puppy pads. Which, of course, they would not do. We-redosed Elly while we were waiting for our flight, which helped calm her down, as did the giant bone we gave her. Dallas to Miami went fine, with only a little in-air delay due to weather. We first class-ers were served lunch on the flight; Nick, however, was not so lucky, so while Elaine and I took the dogs to the bathroom to try and get them to pee, Nick ran to get a sandwich. We couldn’t get the dogs to pee, but Nick did manage to get a Cuban sandwich, so we were 50% successful in our endeavors.
What was supposed to be an hour layover turned in to four (again, partially thanks to weather). The last hour-and-a-half of the layover we spent in the plane on the tarmac. First we were waiting for late passengers to board, then we were waiting for passengers to get off (the plane was overweight – it could only weigh 144,000 lbs. to land), and then they decided to burn some fuel so all passengers to ride which, I’ve got to say, made me more than a little nervous. We were finally able to take off and had mostly calm skies all the way to Grenada. Again, Nick was the only one not fed dinner, so it was a good thing we grabbed a second round of sandwiches to go before boarding. Even though none of the animals had gone to the bathroom anywhere on our journey, only Nyla had a problem and peed in her crate about thirty minutes before landing.
Thanks to our front of the plane seating, we were among the first in line for customs and immigration, so we made it through fairly quickly. Nick had kept his receipt for his laptop in his passport, which was a great safe-keeping spot until he handed me the passport at the OKC airport and I summarily lost the receipt. So when we went through customs we had to re-pay to “import” the laptop, as well as pay for the three animals. But we made it through for only $120 US, so not bad overall.
We had rented a car from our landlady’s car rental company, which is at the airport, so with the use of their pickup truck and our Nissan X-Trail (never heard of it? Me either) SUV, we were able to get all of the luggage (and family members) first to our apartment, and once unloaded, drop mom and dad M off at their hotel, which was just down the street.
So, there you go! We’re here. And I’ll update you soon on more of our excitement since we’ve been here!