Cuba has been on my Bucket List since I was in college. Last October, when I came across airfare for $274 round trip I booked it immediately after a quick consult with the husband. Endless hours were then spent planning this trip as there wasn’t a ton of information on family travel to Cuba online for Americans.
We informed the boys’ school because the trip fell during the regular school year. My husband and I planned time off from work accordingly. We then spent what seemed like endless nights up late packing and organizing everything for a family of five. We got Cuban books from the library and listened to Cuban music.
In other words: not only were we excited about our vacation, but a lot of time goes into preparing. (That’s an understatement, right?)
Two days before we were supposed to fly out, my daughter, age 3, came down with a cold. We thought nothing of it as this is her first year of preschool, so she has been averaging a cold every other week.
The next day she still had a cold, but again we thought it was just a basic cold. She would be better by Saturday, vacation day … or so we thought. I came home from work later that afternoon and our babysitter informed me our daughter was now sounding “wheezy.”
However, we needed to drive an hour and a half to an airport hotel as we had an early morning flight out the next morning. Against our better judgment, we loaded up the car with the luggage that had already been packed, all three kids and stopped at Noodles to grab dinner on our way out of town. Our 3-year-old sat there and wouldn’t even touch her mac ’n’ cheese. This was completely not like her. My husband and I looked at each other and both knew that our next stop would be Children’s Urgent Care.
Thank gosh we did. Three-plus hours later, three breathing treatments, a dose of steroids and a serious conversation with the doctor about what to look for in case her breathing worsened and we needed to call 911, we headed home.
The diagnosis turned out to be RSV, an upper respiratory viral infection that can be serious in younger children. I laid in bed that night with our daughter and did not sleep more than 15 minutes at a time without waking up in a panic that she wasn’t breathing – even though she was. We made it through the night and she continued to improve.
On Saturday morning, completely exhausted, it hit me we would probably not be able to rebook this trip as our airplane tickets were non-refundable. After shedding a few tears, I pulled it together and started making phone calls.
By a miracle from the travel gods, I was able to rebook everything for a small fee. The airport hotel, a Sheraton, seeing I was an SPG member graciously refunded us our hotel stay, the Airbnb in Cuba was so sweet and understanding and offered to refund us or rebook, the beach apartment in Varadero I rebooked for no charge thanks to Booking.com and lastly the airlines. I called American Airlines and gave them our sob story. The agent said that she was sorry, but there was nothing she could do. It would be $150 per ticket to change them plus the difference in airfare. In complete desperation, I asked her if there was anyone else I could plead my case with. She recommended I email Customer Relations. I did immediately and within 24 hours they responded with an email stating they completely understood, valued me as a customer and would waive the change fee (not sure if that is official airline lingo). We only had to pay the difference in flights which turns out was only $48 per ticket.
My husband cringes when you even mention the word “insurance,” but this is a perfect example of the importance of it. With three kids it’s shocking this is the first time we needed it. But then it got me thinking of all the things that could go wrong: stomach flu, someone breaks their arm, lice – it’s an endless list when it comes to kids. Not to mention what could happen while on vacation.
When we rebooked Cuba, we did so with travel insurance through Allianz. We were both surprised at the cost. It wasn’t as much as we thought it would be. Most importantly, it gave us peace of mind. Although we didn’t end up needing to use it on the trip to Cuba (the second time) we were glad we had it … Just in case. I don’t think anyone would have believed me if I had to reschedule a second time.