Monday, June 3, 2013

How to Travel (Un)Well: A Tale of Woe and Lost Passports

"Carson, what do you think of this?" I said as I called him over to the computer one evening in early April. We'd discussed what to do for our anniversary in a vague manner earlier that week and Niagara Falls had come up as a possible destination. He came over and we browsed the LivingSocial deal that was freshly sent  to my inbox. It offered a stay on the Canadian side of the Falls (which we'd heard described as the "non-Ghetto side", from someone who will remain nameless), dinner vouchers, free breakfasts, a view of the Falls from the room, and quite a few other perks for a two-night stay and a decent price. We deliberated and decided to bite the bullet. We scheduled our stay for the first weekend in June. Done.

Fast forward to last week; Friday to be exact. I was up late making packing lists, checking prices, fine print things from our deal, and distances to activities we might check out. As I was about to head upstairs to bed, I remembered something important and wrote it in big letters on the packing list: PASSPORT (DO NOT FORGET; THAT WOULD BE BAD). For good measure, I decided to gather the passports and put them on the coffee table with the lists so that they wouldn't be forgotten.

In hindsight, I'm glad I did.

Carson's was located within the depths of a file folder section marked "Important", where we keep things like proof of identity, marriage licenses and social security cards. However, mine was not. I found this odd, considering that we've kept these important items in that spot since we've been married. I decided to check the other possible location (the junk drawer) and go to bed, assuming that we'd find it no problem the next morning.
Before I climbed the stairs, however, I attached a post-it note to Carson's passport (pictured above), alerting him to the issue.

The next morning came, and we leisurely set out to search for the passport. Oh, we were young in those days. Naive. We didn't know what the weekend held.

In other words, we could not find it. ANYWHERE. From 10:30 until I left for work at 1:30, we looked for my passport. We checked Christmas boxes, the car, the Tupperware cabinet and photo albums. I left for work and Carson continued to look. When I got off work at 10:00 that night, we continued to look. The house was a disaster. We were brain dead.

At 11pm, I called the hotel to see what we could do. Nothing, they said. There was a three day cancellation policy and we'd obviously missed that window. We wanted to cry, both from exhaustion and frustration; that deal no longer seemed like a bargain when we weren't going to be able to use it. Plan B was discussed, the search continued, and we eventually went to bed at about 2am.

The next day after church (I'm surprised we were able to stay awake), Carson called Marriott Customer Service and reported that they were able to reschedule our stay for the last possible days the voucher was valid, no extra charge. This was good news! We were happy! And then we realized that the voucher expired a week and a half away, and we got a little nervous.

In the meantime, we decided that we still wanted to get away, just for a night, to remove ourselves from obsessively looking for the missing passport. Thanks to internet searches, I stumbled upon this link which led us to our destination. We found Plan B in Port Clinton, Ohio. Not too far away, not expensive, and on Lake Erie.

I'll post more about that later (we took a lot of pictures, of course), but it was just what we needed. We were able to relax, not jumping up to check under cushions or book covers.

Monday morning at the hotel, we called to see about getting a new passport expedited. We were on the phone for about two hours speaking with representatives about documents (I don't think I mentioned this, but my passport was with my social security card and our marriage license, from getting an Ohio license). We discovered that Buffalo, NY (3 hours away) and Detroit, MI (2 hours away) both had offices that processed same-day passport applications. I needed a birth certificate, marriage license, my passport with my maiden name on it, utility bills proving I live where I say I live and proof of travel.

So the hunt for documents began. I called Beaufort County to get our marriage license, discovered that I needed to go there in person or send a written request (not gonna work), which was almost a snag in the plan, until I discovered that I could send a representative. So I called my mother, who had a busy day anyway, who probably did not plan on going into town, and she willingly picked up the license... after three attempts. She mailed that and my birth certificate which SHE was able to hold onto for 24 years... let's see how long I can be responsible for it.

As I write this, we have an appointment with the passport office on the morning of our trip, which sounds scary, but there's like a three hour max turnaround or something. We might try to go to Detroit a little sooner if we can, since waiting till the last minute for an important document isn't in our favor these days, but Buffalo is on the way to Niagara so we'll see.

The lesson we've learned is: Keep your documents in a specific place and really keep them there. We thought we had, but probably put them on the counter after we returned from the DMV (and maybe they got thrown out somehow? Still not sure). Second lesson? Check to make sure that your passport is where it should be before you book a trip. Chances are, you'll be able to get it in a normal turnaround time and not have to pay an estimated $150 in expediting fees (that's right. Fees. Plus the passport itself. Fun, right?)

And for the record, we're probably going to stay in the states next anniversary. Maybe play it safe and camp in our backyard or something.

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