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Friday, January 8, 2016

I Don't Usually Encounter Parents Like You

“So let me get this straight,” said my brother.  “Instead of going on a trip by yourselves to the Dominican Republic, while I stay home with your kids, you and Anthony are going to drive to New Hampshire in a snowstorm, attempt to get same day passports for your kids, and then fly the whole family down to the DR?”
“Exactly,” I answered.  
“OK, then,” said my brother, “just checking.”
As always, I tend to start my stories in the middle.  It’s just so much more interesting that way.

It all started when I went to prepare my Travel Itinerary for our long planned family trip to the Dominican Republic, through our Disney Vacation Club program.  Since I had been so busy with “Extreme Holidaying” I didn’t get around to doing our Itinerary until the last minute.  And by last minute, I mean the day before our trip.  When I went to input Michael’s passport number, my heart froze.  The kids’ passports had expired.  (Giant note to international travelers:  adult passports are good for 10 years, kids passports are only for 5 years).
Strangely, I was not at all panicked.  I should have been, but I must have been too tired to panic at that point.  Instead, I called the US State Department’s hotline.
“Oh sure, hun, we can get you an expedited appointment,” said the helpful woman on the phone.  “The next in person for the New York City Office is January 16th.  When are you traveling?”  God bless her, she did actually try to stifle the laughter when I told her I was traveling the next day -- December 29th.  I was calling on December 28th.  She checked Stamford, Connecticut as well.  
“Just how far are you willing to travel to get your kids’ passports?” she asked.
“Very far,” I answered.
“Wow,” said the nice State Department lady.  “I don’t usually encounter parents like you.  Most people would just take the tickets and grab a pina colada and go.”
“Yes,” I confided, “so I’ve been told.  What about Maine, do you have any offices in Maine, we like driving up there.”
Of course, I was half kidding -- but it turned out we were in luck.  We could get an appointment in New Hampshire at 8 am the next morning.
I called my husband at the office, explained the situation and we simultaneously declared it:  “Road Trip!”
I quickly ran up to Poughkeepsie to get raised seal copies of the kids birth certificates -- I wasn’t taking any chances.  We all packed quickly (we just take carryons, we never check bags, it just slows you down) and, along with my two nephews, piled into the Team Mom Mobile and headed into a snowstorm in New Hampshire.  We made it there in record time, and found a fabulous spot for fresh chowda and lobster rolls.  We checked into our dive motel (hey, at least they had free wifi -- no in room coffee maker but all the Netflix you could binge on) and got up early the next morning.
New Hampshire was a winter wonderland (a far cry from the 70 degree temperatures the week before).  In fact, it was a sleet and ice wonderland and we were slipping and sliding all over the place, much to the boys’ delight (no, boys, we cannot go skiing, snowboarding or sleigh riding and still get to the passport office by 8 am).
The folks at the US Passport office in Portsmouth, New Hampshire have to go down in history as the nicest people I have ever met in a federal office.  Sure, security was tight but no one judged us for trying to get same day passports (an urban legend in the travel community).  In fact, they were sweet as pie -- until my husband put his Yankees hat on.  Then they HAD to rib him a little, after all this was Red Sox country.  
These beautiful people issued our kids’ passports in an hour and a half.  I couldn’t stop thanking and blessing them.  By the time we got out of there, the snow was turning to rain and we were back on the road to Newburgh.  By that evening we were checked into our hotel near JFK and, through the magic of cancellation fees, we were re-booked onto the next day’s flight leaving 5:30 am.  We only had to cut our vacation short by one day.
And what a magical vacation it turned out to be!  I can’t express how absolutely beautiful the Dominican Republic is.  Of course, the countryside, the beaches and the cities are breathtaking but the people are what make this tiny island nation shine.  I have never felt so welcomed ANYWHERE in my life, and I have lived in Europe and have traveled to over 30 countries.  Everyone told me that I spoke Spanish like a native (not true, but the fact that they would say so was incredibly flattering nonetheless).  I spoke Spanish to everyone and I LOVED every minute of it!
Our next vacation through the DVC will be back in Disney World; but after that, we are planning to visit Costa Rica, home of the Pura Vida.  I’d like the kids to travel through the Americas as much as possible, improving their Spanish along the way.
Because I can map out on two hands the number of vacations we have left while our oldest in still in high school.  And you better believe I am going to make sure those vacations are spectacular, whether it’s New England or New Zealand, this family’s gonna travel!

Be sure to put traveling on your list of Resolutions.  Have a great day, everyone and, as always, remember to count your blessings!  Love <3 Mrs. Lo