How to Ruin Your Spring Break Trip in 4 Easy Steps

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Last week during my Three Things Thursday post, I mentioned that this week I would give you three ways to ruin a spring break trip. Because of a late publishing time, instead I am going with 4 Things Friday, which fits because there are really 4 sure fire ways to ruin your vacation.

The things I am going to share are not from a poll, or coming off an article I read somewhere, These are a few of the things that we did or almost did that left our recent spring break trip to Puerto Rico more of a nightmare trip than a special family vacation surprise that my husband had planned.

It all started when I got back from my most recent trip to Walt Disney World for Princess Marathon weekend. I came home sick, and remained sick with severe pneumonia for several weeks. It was during one of these sick, fever hotter than Hell, addled in the head days that my husband told me we were going to Puerto Rico for Spring Break. I do not remember this conversation, so it is very possible he told it to me when I was half dead.

A few weeks pass, and it becomes the week before his surprise trip to us and he mentions that we aren’t checking luggage, which is his reminder to pack light. He’s one of those suddenly out of the blue conversationalists, so I had to ask him to repeat what he just said because I didn’t hear him clearly. He did, and after wracking my brain trying to remember him telling me about it, I jumped up with a million things to do. But no worries, right? He (and my in-laws who will also be there…this was a large birthday celebration trip for the 4 March birthdays in the family) had everything handled. Everything. Right? No. Not right, which leads us to number 1 in ways to ruin your Spring Break trip:

    1.  Letting the un-planners plan your travel.  

My in-laws are retired. They really have endless time, no real rush to be anywere. My husband hasn’t taken a vacation in 4 years, he has limited time. Neither of them meshed up their plans, other than we were renting a 3 bedroom home for our time there. Oh, and we were flying together. My husband flies several times a week. He was fine with our flying how he normally does, on a ‘discount’ carrier but in preferred because of his mileage status; my stepmother in-law is retired from a very large air carrier and insisted we all fly together. And so we did. Or we tried to, but that leads us to number 2,

     2.  Using Buddy Passes

For people who have very open ended travel or are traveling during a dead period, Buddy Passes probably work very well for them. For a family of 5 that only has 5 days vacation time, it doesn’t work at all. Buddy Passes carries 80% of the ruination of SB ’15.

It is very hard to have a family vacation when part of the family never arrives due to being bounced off flights because of low status. With a Buddy Pass, or Non-Rev, you are are the bottom of the totem pole. After getting Bug and I on the first flight out, along with my in-laws, my husband then tried for two days to get a flight to join us. It never happened. Never. The man who surprised us with this vacation, the guy who needed a vacation more than anyone I know, was denied over and over again until he just gave up. Because he had a tight work schedule the next week, he had to be back home by a certain time. He became worried that if he ever made it down there, he wouldn’t make it back up. And he wouldn’t, because on the return Bug and I sat in the San Juan airport for a full day trying to come home. My in-laws sat in it for two additional days after us, and ended up doing what we did to get home…buying a one-way ticket on a different carrier, the ‘budget’ carrier we could have flown down on and had guaranteed seats. We would have been together if we had taken the budget carrier and we would have actually had a vacation.

Moral of this item: DON’T USE BUDDY PASSES!!

Now a lot of people messaged me on Facebook and said, ‘You’re on an island! Quit moping about the Mr. not making it, go live it up!’ and while I was initially very sad about his not being able to join us, I didn’t spend my days crying endlessly, but going to explore the island was off because of number 3 in our list of items that will ruin your vacation,

3. Not booking rental items that had ability to transfer to another party,
 or issue a refund when plans change.
Part of this problem links back to number 1 in this list, letting others plan your travel. I would go further and say, to always, always put both married parties on rental agreements, especially if you book something over Priceline or other Internet travel broker. The husband rented the car. Prepaid for the car. If he had been with us, picking up the car would have been a breeze. but because he wasn’t with us, picking up a car was not only NOT a breeze, it became completely non-existent. We even talked to someone in an office in London who agreed to do it if the counter agent would do it, but no matter what I showed them, same last name, address, credit card used to pay for it, nothing would budge Budget. No car for us unless the Mr. showed up.  Yes, we could have rented another car, if there were any left. Apparently ALL cars were rented out and those that weren’t were over $300 a day! I don’t know if I believe that but after trying for close to three hours to get a car, we took a taxi to our rental, almost an hour from San Juan.
Because I found out about this trip in relatively short notice, I did a lot of planning our excursions in just a couple of days. I had trips to the rain forest, a coffee plantation, the Bacardi rum factory and Old San Juan planned, as well as booking a night kayaking trip to the bio-luminescent bay. Some of these things I had to pay for when I booked them. I failed to ask if they were refundable. Because we were car-less, it was impossible to get to the other side of the island without another $200 taxi fee and we had to cancel which became our loss all around; loss of something cool to do as a family together, loss of the money used to book it. Even the camera gear I had rented ended up biting me in the butt! The Mr. was carrying the camera gear with him and since he didn’t get on the plane, the camera gear never made it to me. He returned it on the day he gave up on flying down. Instead of having it for a week, it was only out for less than 48 hours, but again, no refund.
Moral of item 3 is this: Have your ducks in a row. Be sure to know refund policies and make sure that if you are separated from your travel companions, you can still access the things that are necessary for that trip. If my in-laws had been separated and I tried to go to the rental, I would have been denied entry. Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t end up stranded because you booked something non-transferable.

And an extra, sure fire way to ruin your spring break vacation,

4. Letting the problems affect your ability to have fun. 

Of course I was upset. My husband had been denied a vacation he surprised US with! I was sad. I cried a good bit at first, but then I stopped crying. I had my daughter. I had my in-laws. We were in a beautiful place right off the beach, and sitting and feeling sorry for myself would have completely ruined every bit of light that our trip had left. As bad as it was, there were things that I could find that were on the bright side.

The first bright spot was the resort village of Palmas Del Mar in Humacao. Situated right by the Atlantic ocean, this vacation town was full of luxury homes, a high end hotel and lots of vacation rentals. There was a town center, with dining and shopping, and the marina also held a wealth of eateries and views of mega yachts and small fishing boats alike, with beautiful beaches to explore up and down the coast. The area was a golf cart community, and one day Bug and I spent hours just driving the cart all over the village. Way up high on a mountainside overlooking the water, way down low to the swamp forests. We drove everywhere we could and enjoyed every minute of it.

Another bright spot for us was the people of Puerto Rico. We ended up going to a couple of places multiple times because the food was good, the drinks were better, but the people were the best. We dined well (except for our stuck in the airport day), and the Mojitos and Pina Coladas may have been the best I had ever tasted.

The beach was wonderful, but whenever is the beach not a wonderful spot for regaining some peace? Bug and I spent every day at the beach, the clear blue water beckoning to us like never before. That first day, when we realized our trip had just changed on us, she and I walked down to the beach and just sat and held hands, looking out at the water, letting things sink in and praying for the ability to pick ourselves up and enjoy the time we had.

Nature was everywhere. Between the views of the ocean and the mountains, the sound of the waves and the wind blowing through the trees, sending coconuts crashing down onto our patio, there was also nesting turtles, birds I had never seen before and something new to hear, the Coqui frog. That lil frog is so loud, and I loved it! Just standing outside at night hearing thousands of them making their nightly calls was exhilarating and felt like a blessing. As different as this trip became from its original plan, hearing that frog and the waves in the distance calmed me like nothing else did. It was in that calming that I let the troubles fall away and lived in the moment of where we were. So the plans changed. We dealt with it. We still smiled. We laughed and we laughed a lot (especially during our taxi encounters). We focused on the positive and tried to shake all the negative.

Moral of number 4: Don’t focus on the negative. Not everything goes as planned. Go with plan B. Or C. All the way to Z if you have to, but don’t mire yourself down and brood about the plan that didn’t work. Enjoy what you have, while you have it. Isn’t that pretty much what we should do in life anyway?

So the moral of my whole story: Plan ahead. Plan well. Be prepared for whatever may happen and don’t forget to enjoy the good moments, because there will be good moments mixed in with the bad if you are just open to receive them.

We will try again in Puerto Rico for a family trip. What we saw was beautiful and I know the activities that we planned will be even more fun when we finally get to do them. It won’t be Spring Break next time though, and me? Well, I will be the one in charge of the planning!

Until next time,