Every five years, my husband and I take a big trip together without the kids. There have been little trips here and there fora night or two, but these trips are week-long, no-cell-service and many-many-adult-beverages-consumed sort of trips. If you’ve been with me a while, you’ll remember we did a Norwegian Cruise in 2011. This year, we headed to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.
This post is all about our trip home via Spirit Airlines.
I’m going to break this trip down into several parts and I’ll add in the links to the categories once they are all posted.
So read what you want, skip what you don’t, but know that all of these opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any way.
We had to be at Punta Cana International Airport 3 hours before our flight took off. From there we were headed to Fort Lauderdale on a Spirit Air flight for a bit of a layover before heading on to Detroit, which poses a temperature swing of about 60 degrees. We planned to wear jeans to the airport. Thank God we didn’t.
Punta Cana airport is open air with some giant fans to circulate air. There are no “gates” officially but instead roped off areas where you stand in line before getting on a bus that takes you out to the aircraft.
We got to the baggage area and our bag was overweight. Not surprising since it was overweight on the way to Punta Cana. The agent was helpful and got us through the process of paying the extra fee quickly. We had to pay for the extra weight in cash, but we didn’t have exact change and neither did the guy at the counter. He said, “I’ll get you at the gate.” We figured that money was gone, but it was like $4 in US so we weren’t worried.
The airport environment was stifling. And then when there was a breeze, it was usually accompanied by the smell of bus exhaust or jet fuel. We killed some time at a bar, trying to use the mostly non-existent WIFI. Another flight, to somewhere in Canada, was delayed 6 hours so there was a throng of people trying to get food at just about every walk-up window in the airport. We were so ready when our bus arrived.
As we walked through the line to board the bus to our Spirit Air flight, we came across the agent from the counter. He recognized us and gave us the 200 Pesos. So now we have some Dominican money to show the kiddos. Or in case we ever return, we have some tipping money.
We got to the plane and quickly ascended the steps into the aircraft. Thank God the air conditioning was pumping. So pumping that the air was steamy with condensation.
It was amazing. We were in the exit row so we quickly found our seats.
The flight wasn’t full, but we were asked to store our backpacks in the overhead compartment because we were in the exit row. This wasn’t the case on the way down so we weren’t prepared. It was a little bit of a bummer to have to anticipate what we wanted for the flight. After 4 different attempts to get settled, I was finally buckled into my seat and ready to go. The pilot announced we’d depart on time and likely get into Fort Lauderdale early.
But then we sat there.
The flight attendants made an announcement looking for one particular passenger, who was not on board. The man had checked in, but wasn’t on the flight. We had to wait for him to show before we could take off.
He finally boarded and we were on our way. I wanted to applaud his arrival, but I figured that’d be rude. We were going to be early after all.
We were warned that we could experience some turbulence but suddenly, during our ascent, I was terrified. It was bumpy and pitchy and I wanted off the plane. Then I thought about how I would never get home if I couldn’t stay on this plane.
I wish airlines had programs for nervous fliers. I don’t quite know what that looks like, but something to help us when our fears get the better of us. It doesn’t happen every time.
Once we were airborne and I was used to the turbulence and allowed to get out my laptop, I turned on The Color of Rain and started writing about my trip, which helped ease my mind a bit.
Before I knew it we were landing in Fort Lauderdale.
I’m usually not nervous during landing, but there was just something about it that had me on edge. We landed safely and taxied to our gate.
In Fort Lauderdale, we had to go through immigration and customs. This is where things got interesting. While we were able to use the new kiosks for our immigration vouchers and sailed through that line quickly, we had to wait for our baggage, and go to baggage re-check. No one from Spirit was at the desk yet so we were told to go up to the regular baggage check on the second floor. We hauled our stuff up the escalator and got to baggage drop. It was pretty easy from there. The baggage workers were friendly and helpful, it was just a serious pain to lug our luggage around a second time.
We breezed through security. Apparently not many people are leaving Fort Lauderdale at 6 p.m. on a Saturday. My husband showed his passport and boarding pass to the initial screener. She inquired about our duty free package. She said all looked well and just to go through security as usual. We put all of our items on the conveyor belt and I went through the scanner with no issue. He followed, but the bottle of rum didn’t fair so well.
It was sealed incorrectly by the duty free people in Punta Cana. The TSA had to open the sealed bag and run it through a scanner, but it was too dark to be scanned. The TSA agent told us we would have to put it with our checked luggage, which was already on its way to the plane.
My husband had to go out of the airport, find a box, package it up and check it at the Spirit counter. Apparently this time around, the ticketing/baggage agents weren’t quite as friendly. He got back through security pretty easily and after about 45 minutes, we were reunited. We met up for dinner and then headed to our gate. we didn’t have a ton of time to wait. I was totally unprepared and trying to download videos to my tablet because I knew I needed them.
But then my battery was going low. Ugh. Errors all over the place.
We finally got on board. It was another Fit Flight, a newer plane in the Spirit line up. We had a friendly, experienced crew handling our full flight, complete with crying babies.
The lead attendant told jokes and made the situation very light hearted. When people were concerned about the air conditioning flow being condensed, he reassured us it was just sleeping gas. Haha. I wish. They were very helpful and professional. He even joked that we should sit back, relax and enjoy the ride, even though the new seats don’t recline. So basically we should just sit there.
What was really reassuring for me as a nervous flier was the flight crew. The captain came on several time and gave us details about our flight, where we would be heading, how fast we would be going, things of that nature. Then he came on again as we were descending to give us more information, including information about sights to see in Detroit. It was the most complete information I have ever gotten from the flight crew and I loved it.
Maybe not all pilots are as good at communicating with the fliers on board, but he did a really great job. I actually wish he would have come on a few more times, maybe during the ascent, specifically giving me more information about when we taking off. You know, things like:
“We’re banking this direction but not to come in for an emergency landing, just because that’s how we get to our point of destination.”
“The loud noises you hear will soon die out as we scale back on the engine when we get to cruising altitude.”
But I guess that have to do their job and, you know, fly the plane.
Given how nervous I was, how much Xanax I consumed (and still couldn’t sleep), this was the best flight I’ve had in a while—mostly due to the entire flight crew. I wish I could remember all of their names, but there was Priscilla.
They all did fantastic and I’m so glad to have been flying with them to my final destination.
Well, not my FINAL destination, but home. Home. I meant home.
Thanks for getting me back to my little girls Spirit!