Passports, eh?

Well, two weeks after we got back, I’m finally writing about our trip to Vancouver. Great trip. Rough travel.

The whole idea of taking two adults and three kids (including a two-year-old) across coasts and countries comes down to one word: Psych. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the best family show on TV–maybe the only show that an 11-year-old, 15-year-old, and adults can enjoy equally. Hilarious, weird, spectacular–it’s a funny detective show, basically.  And one of the brilliant writers went to my high school. So a few months ago I e-mailed him and he very generously agreed to set up a visit to the set for us if we got ourselves to Vancouver. (It wound up being much more than that.) We decided the trip would be the kids’ Christmas presents/birthday presents, etc. for this year, and we booked everything and, eventually, wahoo, set out for the Birmingham airport.

So here’s the thing: The State Department web site said that children under sixteen did not need a passport, only a birth certificate, to enter Canada. We got to the airport and found out that wasn’t true. So we wound up piled up on a bench near the ticketing desk, our two-year-old happily munching cheese sticks, while my husband and I frantically searched the Internet for options and called airline customer service and the U.S. embassy in Canada and expedited passport companies and, finally Amtrak. This is really indicative of how that incredibly frustrating hour went…

United Airlines guy: Children need a passport to get into Canada, ma’am. No matter how you get there.
Me: Even by train?
United Airlines: Yes.

Fast forward to calling Amtrak….
Me: Do kids under sixteen need a passport if we take a train from Seattle to Vancouver?
Amtrak: No. Of course not.
Me: Are you really, really sure?
Amtrak: They’ve never needed a passport by train.

People are really, really not clear on rules of travel these days. Airline workers, the State Department, us–we all seemed equally clueless.

So eventually we changed our tickets to Seattle and stuck the baby on not only about seven hours of flights–including running full speed through the Houston airport to catch the ONLY plane or train that happened to be on time for the entire trip–but we also added a four hour bus/train ride at the end of all the flying. Funny, we’d worried that the baby would be what made this trip difficult. He was delighted by the whole experience. Loved every plane, train and bus. Loved having a seatbelt. Loved that ladies walked down the aisles with the express purpose of bringing you apple juice. Loved that you can ride escalators up and down in airports.

Our issues continued. As I mentioned, lots of delayed flights and trains. One night, arriving to a Seattle hotel at midnight, there was a 20-person line at the front desk, and then it happened to be the largest, longest hotel we’d ever stayed in. It was literally over a quarter a mile to our room. When we got there and slid in the key card, there was an entire family already in the room.  Also, there was a vomiting episode in the middle of the Houston airport (not while running with a stroller–this was a different leg of the trip. And involved some airport Chinese food.)

Anyway, the next entry will continue with actual Canadian experiences. Which rocked. I love that country.

Spoiler alert: Possibly rabid raccoons.



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