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Getting out of Dodge

I need to buy airline tickets for myself, 2 teenagers, and 2 Yorkipoos from MCI Kansas City to VLC Valencia.  We will be accompanied by 6 checked suitcases, 3 carry-ons, and 3 small backpacks.  Add in the band equipment and we will have 2 clarinets, a trumpet, and an accordion.

And a partridge in a pear tree.  Traveling light is obviously not our forte.

My daughters have flown numerous times and are pros on an airplane.  Our little doggies have never flown, though.

NO, I cannot fly them in the cargo hold!  I am flooded with fearful, anxious thoughts.

I have lost weeks of my life seeking a way to cross the Atlantic without checking my dogs in cargo.

I have read about emotional support animals, service animals, and size restrictions for pets to fly in the cabin with their humans.  Our dogs are a little too tall and will not fit under the seats in front of us, so in-cabin is not an option.

How about a private charter?  I did a price check.  Not an option.

A pet transportation company quoted me $3,900.  Nope.

Can we go by ship instead?  Yes, but it takes a long time to cross the Atlantic Ocean.  The dogs will be kenneled for most of the trip unless being exercised.  Then they will be quarantined in the United Kingdom before being released to me.

Quarantine?!  There is no way I’m going into the UK with my dogs!

I grabbed my cell phone and took a super cute photo of the dogs lounging on a fluffy white swag beanbag chair.  They were sporting new haircuts and loved the attention.  I planned to send the photo to Mr. Beast, a YouTuber who gives away crazy amounts of money.  Maybe he will charter a private plane for us.  Sadly, his website said no monetary solicitations are accepted.

Wanted:  Benevolent Billionaire – or someone with a private plane!  I’ll even pitch in some gas money if we can bum a ride to Europe.  Please!

My husband rants that we should leave the dogs here in the United States.

The kids cry NO, and an argument ensues.  They are already unhappy about the trip.  Leaving their dogs behind is a deal-breaker and besides, who can we leave them with for almost a year?

After numerous searches for flight routes and ticket prices, I was out of sorts.  It is September and we need to go in November.  Tickets won’t get any cheaper as we get closer to the date and the more direct routes will sell out.

I found a beautiful 8-hour 10-minute direct flight from Chicago to Madrid on Iberia.  Perfection!  Except that it costs $3,200 per ticket and there are 3 of us.  I can’t drop $9,600 to get to Spain.

The next option was with TAP, a Portuguese discount airline.  I went down another rabbit hole reading reviews about uncomfortable seats with no legroom and terrible food, but what do we expect?  It’s a commercial airplane, not a luxury yacht.

I called and spoke with a TAP Customer Service Specialist who I now want to adopt as my sister or hire as my therapist.  She was so warm, kind and patient as I struggled to make peace with the pets in cargo issue.  She took the time I needed and answered my questions without a rush.

After seeing so many ridiculous fares online over the past few weeks, I decided I was fine with the $462 one-way fare from Chicago to Madrid.  I preferred a connecting flight into Valencia but that plane wasn’t large enough to accommodate the pets and there was a 9-hour layover in Lisbon.  The travel time for the Madrid flight is only 10 hours start to finish, including a brief layover in Lisbon.

But wait, we have musical instruments!  The trumpet and clarinets are small, but what about the accordion?  It is too big for carry-on and will have to be checked.

No way.  I have seen how luggage gets tossed around and they cannot guarantee careful handling.

Back to more searches with more airlines and a frantic email to the accordion teacher.  Thankfully, she had a solution.  Take the instrument apart at the bellows and bubble wrap the keyboard portion.  It can get checked in a suitcase full of clothing.  Carefully wrap the other side with the buttons and delicate reeds and take that portion in the carry-on.  Brilliant!

But it may be too tall for the 22” maximum carry-on length and as Murphy’s Law would have it, the accordion is at the repair shop so I can’t measure it.  I guessed that it could be 22” in height and went downstairs to the storage room.

I started opening all the big suitcases, then the medium ones until, like a Russian motherhood doll, the small carry-on suitcases were revealed.  It was almost midnight and I was measuring carry-ons in the basement.  I was surrounded by concrete block walls and a single light bulb illuminated the eerie space.  The house was quiet by now, as everyone else was sleeping.

Boohoo!  The carry-ons are all 18 or 19 inches long.  We have a duffel bag that will work though, so I went back online to purchase the tickets.

The decision has been made and the tickets purchased.  I will rent a minivan and drive us from Kansas City to Chicago on November 3 and 4.  The plane will leave on November 4 in the evening at 18:20.  I quickly subtract 12 to get 6:20 p.m.

Ten hours of prayer later, we will be reunited with our fur babies.  I will think good thoughts about the 6 checked bags, 3 carry-ons, 3 backpacks, 2 teenage daughters, and my own sanity.  Gonzalo will be waiting for us in Madrid to deal with our big hot mess of STUFF.

It is 12:30 a.m. and I have a full day of work at the office tomorrow (today).  Time for some sleep!

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