My 3 Hour Jamaican Vacation
My mileage run to Jamaica was a pretty relaxing 3-hour vacation. But next time I do a 3-hour vacation to Jamaica, I won’t do it after a Bahamas trip the day before.
I arrived home from my Bahamas trip around 8pm and went straight to bed. I had to be up at 3am to start getting ready for my 5:45 flight with Keri, and I did want to bring a few items for the beach–swimsuit, picnic banket, sunblo–oh wait no, we forgot that.
I was also bringing an empty suitcase along. Last time I had gone to Jamaica, I called my father to talk about my favorite rum drinks there. I mentioned one called a Hummingbird, made with rum cream, Kahlua, bananas and strawberries. He thought that sounded really good, but once I started looking for rum cream for him I learned that it isn’t sold in the United States. So I was determined to bring back some rum cream loot. (Surprise, Dad! I’ll bring it next holiday.)
This empty suitcase didn’t feel shady until Keri and I arrived at the airport and all my tickets printed out with Quad S’s. Ugh. I suppose flying to the Bahamas and then immediately turning around to fly to Jamaica is a little shady.
Our route was DCA-CLT-MBJ-CLT-PHL-DCA. Keri was a good sport for coming along for that whole route, especially the last few legs. We didn’t have a plane change in CLT, so our morning flights were actually really easy. I laughed on the plane about how much running I had to do the day before.
We sipped on over-ambitiously poured breakfast cocktails as we circled into Jamaica. I love looking at Jamaica from above. The water is so clear you can see life circling below and the mountains are a gorgeous deep green. I also started pointing out Jamaica’s Painted Ladies to Keri as we landed.
When we arrived, I was so intent on making sure we got a reputable cab, I walked past five JUTA taxi drivers to get to a sixth one at the desk. You hire a taxi driver in Jamaica who then takes you his parked car. There’s no taxi stand, and you can choose to hire whomever you want. Since I had just bypassed five employees for the sixth, all the employees started laughing at us. It was at that moment I realized I bee-lined for the only gentleman who was in our age group, and the others thought these two young women were very interested in that young man. *blush*
Either way, while still laughing, he drove us to Doctor’s Cave Beach and promised to pick us back up. Taxis are very expensive in Jamaica (because cars are very expensive) but his rate seemed reasonable–$10 or $15. We threw in an extra $5 because we really appreciated his coming back and not having to hail a random taxi.
Then we arrived at Doctor’s Cave.
Doctor’s Cave costs $5 per person for entry including access to changing rooms and extremely basic showers. They will push you to rent chairs and an umbrella, but it is not required. What’s great about Doctor’s Cave is that in addition to having a restaurant on site, there are roving waiters who will take your food and drink order from the beach.
We got a couple of cocktails and enjoyed the beach. It was extremely relaxing. I recommend taking some beach time in the winter to everyone who lives in colder climates!
Oh, and we had my suitcase, ready for Rum Cream along with us. I decided to keep it as carry-on until I was required to check it in Charlotte (which turned out to be a good call later!)
A mild sunburn later, it was time to go back to the airport. JUTA was there waiting for us (with a different driver), and we had a really uneventful ride back to the airport. We did some rum-cream shopping and grabbed a cocktail at Margaritaville till our plane boarded.
Our plane didn’t start boarding at our boarding time and I realized–it was my fault. I could see them setting up a “check point” and someone was putting on rubber gloves. They were waiting for me and my Quad S.
They called First Class and Keri and I decided to board separately, just so she wouldn’t have to deal with the search too. There was a pushy couple behind me when I was boarding, and as the woman at the gate started explaining the search to me, one of them started pushing past me. She grabbed that person for a search too. I felt a little bad for the schadenfreude I felt–but not too bad.
Aside from the Quad S’s, boarding was uneventful, and this was shaping up to be a very easy trip.
Never say that.
When we landed in Charlotte, we were told that customs was entirely full, the gates were full, and we had to wait for both to empty before we could go through customs. I got really worried at this point. Last time that happened to me in Charlotte, I was held up for an hour and 45 minutes. I missed my connection, but that flight was just CLT-DCA, which happens very often. I needed to get up to PHL and back to DCA to hit all the miles I needed for Platinum.
We could definitely get to Philadelphia from Charlotte that night, but our flight to DC from there was the last of the night. There was no way we were making it if we missed our first flight. After some discussion, we decided we were completely willing to use Starwood points to stay over night at one of their 3 local hotels and fly back from Philadelphia first thing in the morning. All offered a complimentary shuttle, the Four Points was a category 2, which meant only 3,000 points, and the Sheraton Suites and Aloft were category 3 available on cash and points. While I only had 48 hours available to fly, I still had one day left in my trial. I also considered the possibility of taking a direct flight to DC and requesting to have the miles booked applied–but that seemed too risky for this situation. It was worth the points not to worry.
We had an hour and fifty minutes for the connection and we spent a lot of it waiting.
By the time we pulled into the gate, I was sure we weren’t making it. The customs hall would be full, we had to check my bag, and take one more trip through security.
We ran off the plane. We were far ahead of our own group and bypassed other groups who had just deplaned. And we entered… an empty customs hall. I was expecting people to be pouring out of it. We got through pretty quickly and the immigration agent found our mileage run story pretty funny. He also gave me a compliment I’m still beaming about. “You girls MUST be sisters. You look alike!”
We entered baggage claim, and with no baggage to pick up, we passed probably about 2/3rds of the people in there who had gone through customs before us. We stopped at the customs agent who was a little suspicious of our lack of luggage, but waved us on dispassionately when Keri launched into an effusive description of the mileage run.
A US Airways agent was really efficient in getting my baggage checked and we were done in less than 60 seconds.
And then we ran down the hall and up the escalators to the security line. One man yelled after us, “No running, ladies!” and we changed our run into an extremely-fast-walk-that-was-pretty-much-running. There were no nudo-scopes to opt out of, so we made it through security very quickly. And then we sprinted to the plane, just in time to board.
Our Philadelphia to DC connection was uneventful, aside from remembering I had tossed my jacket into my carry-on that was now checked–and we had to go outdoors for the shuttle. My sunburn kept me reasonably warm. We split some lukewarm Chinese Food and then flew home.
The real key to us getting successfully home was us getting ahead of large groups of people through the customs part. We were the first of the new set of planes at the game to get to immigration. We had no checked bags, so we could go straight to customs. And then we just did some old-fashioned running. Oh, and I didn’t mention, it was all in heels.