If you’ve ever flown Spirit Airlines you know they charge for every little thing, including a carry-on. Because my trip to Mexico would only be 48 hours, I was sure I could fit everything I needed into a little backpack approved by the airlines as a “personal item.” What made this idea even better was that I already had a little day hike bag on order that would perfectly fit the dimensions allowed.
Of course, this bag that would be perfect for both my California and Tulum trip (back-to-back weekends) showed up exactly one day after my flight had me due back home. In a last minute scramble for a small backpack that wouldn’t be a total waste, I went for a cute cheap one that cost me only eleven bucks.
I was so proud of fitting an additional day’s swimwear and outfit in this little bag! I’m pretty good at packing light, mostly because I can plan what I will wear for every thing planned in my itinerary. Knowing what I will need and be wearing makes it a whole lot easier to pack. Then with any leftover room, I’ll throw in an “option” outfit. Plus, I’ve been doing the “army roll” packing technique since I was twelve.
Unfortunately, even though I’d planned outfits perfectly, my cheapness would come back to haunt me (doesn’t it always?) and my zipper would be giving me trouble the first hour after landing. It just wouldn’t work right with everything I’d crammed in! So after less than twenty-four hours of struggling (even though I’d perfected the departure flight), my backpack was broke and I was traveling around Mexico holding my bag flaps together.
I spent a lot of my last night in Playa del Carmen scouring souvenir shops for a bag that would fit the Spirit requirements, wasn’t too expensive (like the gorgeous embroidered leather backpacks I kept seeing but knew I was too poor for), and would be something I could keep using even after returning home. Finally, I found a cute cotton tote that would be perfect for my light grocery shopping when I made it back home. I cleaned out my bag, only had to lose one swimsuit cover-up that just wouldn’t fit, and thought all would be well on the flight back.
Unfortunately, it would be this clean-out and not the new bag that would cause me to almost be left in Mexico. Ai yi yi.
Tracy and I, both being Type A, had gotten to the airport three hours early after dropping off the rental car. We wanted no stress of rushing through the airport, dealing with any customs stuff, and finding our yet unnamed gate. Even after the unnecessary line at the “one” Spirit ticket kiosk, we still had time to explore the airport shops and have a sit-down meal at the airport Margaritaville. We were living a very relaxed airport life. Then it was time to board and right as they were asking for my boarding pass it was mentioned that I also needed the customs form that hadn’t been needed since landing in Mexico two days earlier. Even as I dumped my new bag out, I clearly remembered disposing (carefully, I might add) of that little slip of paper that hadn’t seemed at all important at the time.
I would not be allowed on the plane without it and there was only twenty or so people left to board before take off. I was freaking out. I got instructions from the flight attendant twice on where I had to go to get a replacement. Tracy handed me two 20 dollar bills quickly – because of course they would only take cash – and then I began to run through the airport. My destination was outside of security and by now it was midday so those lines were long, very long. I ran to the side where it looked to be a handicap access area and said, “I’m getting a new customs form. I’m coming right back through here.”
Without waiting for approval, I ran out to the main entrance of the Cancun Airport. I got a new customs form (thankfully I’d brought along my passport with my wallet – my bag was with Tracy back at the boarding line). And then ran back to the security checkpoint. The lines were so long it looked like it would take me at least half an hour to get through – but no, I ran back to the side line and rushed back under the handicap sign. I nodded to the woman who I’d spoken to without waiting for confirmation, threw my stuff on the conveyor belt, and ran back through the duty-free shops. At the gate, it was just Tracy and the flight attendant left, the later giving me a surprised, “Oh, you made it.” So some people don’t make it?!
After wasting more time by checking all my stuff, dangerous chemical test swabs and a pat down, they finally let me on the plane. Tracy was a trooper for waiting; I would’ve hated if she got stuck in Mexico because of me! We could somewhat laugh about it after taking our seats, but mostly my heart was still pumping and I couldn’t yet appreciate crossing a new experience off my bucket list – running through an airport.