Greetings, all who might be interested in learning more about Faith’s and my experiences on our trip to the Philippines to pick up our son, John.
We’ve been journaling every day by hand (busted laptop), so this will be a time-delayed “transfer” of our daily thoughts to my blog. Hope you enjoy reading along with us, even if we’re behind schedule in communicating our adventures.
Day 1: Flying to Manila
Our neighbor Steve was kind enough to take us to the airport. Because of some complications with our flight, we wanted to leave mega early. So, he arrived at the house at 8:30AM to take us to O’Hare for a 12:20PM flight. Complications, you ask? Well, this will be my first lesson to international travelers…
I ordered my tickets on Orbitz, because they were a LOT cheaper than buying them directly from United. I always use United, because that’s where I have my membership and frequent flier miles. Also because I completely didn’t get the memo from the adoption agency that we were supposed to fly Northwest, because they fly all the way into Manila. So, instead, we had tickets from O’Hare to Hong Kong (on United), and then from Hong Kong to Manila (on Philippine Airlines).
So, what was the problem? There were several, but the reason we wanted to be at O’Hare early is because my ticket said “Jeff Block” and my passport said “Jeffrey Michael Block”, and a United agent I talked to on the phone (after booking the flight) said that they had to match. So, lesson number one… Update your travel profiles on all sites you use to be the names that match your passport.
So, we get to O’Hare without a hitch, say our good byes, and walk up to the ticket counter with a LOT of luggage (we were taking gifts for all kinds of people and a huge bag of diapers and medical supplies to the orphanage). The agent tries to get me to use the automated checking, to which I reply that I can’t because I have to get the ticket re-issued (which is what the agent on the phone told me to do).
His response, “We don’t do that”. Translation, “You’re screwed!”
I started praying … and arguing with the agent. My basic point, “You can and you will, and I’m not leaving until you do.”
Finally, he directed us to another agent who was much more helpful. She said she didn’t think that it’d be an issue anyway, but called a manager to see if she could get it done. Everyone confirmed that it was no big deal because “Jeff” is a derivation of “Jeffrey”. If it’d been “Jeff” and “Bill”, we would have had to re-ticket. Praise God!
So, we got a picture of her for the file – you know me; lol; I’ll post it later – and headed through security. That was easy. Our wait was short at the gate (thank God we left early), but long enough to handle one last issue before leaving… Protecting our cash.
We carefully planned how much cash to take, most of which we would convert to Philippine pesos at the Manila airport. We were advised not to take travelers checks, because they are no longer accepted in most truly foreign countries (too much fraud). Also, we didn’t want to take credit cards with big limits on them.
So, we chose a small card we use only for gas, and I called them from the terminal to verify our credit limit and to make sure they knew we’d be using the card out of the country. This is my second tip to Int’l travelers. You don’t want your only credit card to be locked while trying to pay your hotel bill halfway around the world where the customer service 800-number doesn’t work. So just call them and tell them where you’ll be and what will be normal and abnormal usage for the card while you’re gone. They put a note on our file, and we’ve had no problems.
I also purchased their fraud protection. It was like $8/mo with no contract (so we can just cancel it when we get back to the States), and it protects us for up to $100k on all our cards, plus gives us a person agent that will work full time on restoring our credit if something does go wrong. Pretty well-spent $8 in my world.
Once that was done and a bit of McDonald’s was consumed (have you tried their new McGrill chicken sandwich? It’s pretty tasty.), we boarded our flight for Hong Kong with great anticipation.