Adventures in Wonderland

I recently went to Cancun for an end of the year vacation.

We stayed at this fantastic adults-only, all-inclusive resort. Everything you could possibly want to eat and drink, whenever you want? That’s my idea of a good time.

We enjoyed LOTS of room service.

I mostly wrote, read, drank wine, and napped. In my opinion, the best part of freelancing is the freedom that it gives you. Most of us don’t travel all the time, wandering the world like gypsies. Most of us have roots put down and adhere to reasonably normal work schedules.

But that’s not the point. The point is that we CAN if we want to.

I planned a light workload for the four days I was in Cancun, intentionally busting ass on other projects to leave myself light tasks for vacation. I woke up every morning and worked for a few hours before relaxing and enjoying myself. And I LOVED it.

It was a great trip, until we arrived at the airport to come home.

On the flight there, we flew SunCountry. On the way home, however, I purchased tickets through Spirit Airlines for the first time.

For those of you who don’t know, Spirit Airlines is an ultra-low cost airline operating out of Florida with service throughout the US and to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South Americas.

This airline has an overwhelming amount of negative reviews from customers, but I can tell you from experience that if you’re prepared and you’ve read all the information on their website, it’s possible to have a pleasant experience.

Our flight was delayed due to inclement weather at the plane’s point of origin. This delay meant that we would miss our connecting flight home. The first rule of travel: BE NICE TO THE AIRPORT EMPLOYEES. If you’re nice to them, they’ll do what they can to take care of you.

The lady explained that we could take the delayed flight, stay the night in our connecting city, and catch the next flight home the following day. After pressing her for any other options, she offered us a nonstop flight out of Cancun the next morning. This meant we would have to scrounge for a hotel near the airport, preferably with a shuttle to avoid any further complications. But it was a direct flight, and it would get us home sooner than hanging out in the wrong state all day.

She also explained that unfortunately, since the delay was due to inclement weather, the airline couldn’t offer us any kind of compensation for the hotel, but she would be happy to help us find one nearby.

She did, paired us with an escort to the shuttles, and upgraded our seats to the Big Front Seats.

So we stayed another night in Cancun and all things considered, it could have been worse.

I’m not disappointed with Spirit. But I understand why a LOT of people are, and it basically boils down to reading the fine print. Spirit is not like any typical airline. Things we take for granted as industry standard, such as complimentary beverages or free carry-ons, don’t exist with Spirit. Most folks don’t realize what they’re getting themselves into, and are consequently quite upset to find their expectations unmet.

I’m here to outline these specifications and educate my fellow travelers on what to expect when flying Spirit.

The main focus of their branding is that you get what you pay for. And they mean that LITERALLY. They call it “Bare Fares”. The ticket price secures transportation for you and one personal item from point A to point B. That’s it.

When you purchase a ticket with Spirit Airlines, don’t forget to do the following:

  • Buy your bags WHEN you book. This will save you a considerable amount of money. Small personal items, such as a purse or small backpack, are free. Carry-on bags at the time of booking cost around $35. Before and during online check-in, they’re $45. At the gate, they’re $100. Spirit justifies these charges by explaining that processing your bags at the gate wastes time and resources, slowing down the check-in process for other passengers.
  • There is a small price difference in bags (between $5 and $10 more for carry-ons versus checked bags).
  • Buy your seats WHEN you book! The general seating doesn’t have much legroom. The only exception to this is if you purchase the Big Front Seats (which are worth it, in my opinion, because it’s still WAY cheaper than a business class ticket and quite comfortable).
  • Print your boarding pass off ahead of time. This will save you $10 at the gate.
  • You will be charged for refreshments on the plane. Savvy shoppers can carry their own snacks and water bottle. I coughed up $5.50 for a cup of noodles and a soda. You can view the full menu right here so you know what to expect and budget for.
  • Spirit does NOT give refunds, so it’s wise to purchase travel insurance with your ticket (and understand exactly what it covers).
  • Arrive 2 hours prior to departure for domestic flights and 3 hours for international ones.
  • You must have a printed boarding pass IN YOUR HAND at least 45 minutes before your scheduled departure (60 minutes for international flights) or face cancellation of all reservations and seating assignments. Spirit does NOT play with this rule! I watched a guy get closed out of boarding because he arrived at check-in 45 minutes before his international flight.

Also, just some general advice for traveling to make your life easier:

  • When you travel, print EVERYTHING and carry hard copies. Email is a great tool, but if you don’t have service, access to wifi, or your phone gets damaged, you’re up a creek.
  • Also, as with any international flight, be sure you know exactly what documentation you need. Passports can take 8-10 weeks to process!
  • Pack liquids in Ziplocs and stash at the top of your bag, so they’re easier to get out at security.
  • Pack a pen or pencil in your carry on! International flights require you to fill out customs forms, and the customs process goes quicker if your forms are complete when you deplane.
  • Pack electronics, basic toiletries, medication, and spare undies in your carry-on.
  • Dressing in layers will make your flight more comfortable.
  • Notify your bank and card companies of your travel plans and destination.

Traveling is all about planning. Be sure you understand what you’ve signed up for and make sure you’ve got all the documents you need. Wear comfy shoes, don’t forget your chargers, and bring something to pass the time. Keep an open mind and expect plans to get delayed or changed. It IS an adventure, after all.

Safe travels, my friends! The road goes ever on and on.

 

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