“You are kidding me?” It was a statement, rather than a question. I was doing my best to keep my emotions in check while my pitch crescendoed towards a section of the aural spectrum only dogs can hear.
“Sorry but you can’t board the flight because you don’t have a visa,” said the check-in assistant. I’ve travelled to more than 55 countries. I thought I knew how to travel. What I’d learnt is: lesson number 1 - don’t leave all the travel arrangements to your husband.
“I wondered why I couldn’t check in online,” DH (Darling Husband) says.
“But you flew there on business four months ago. Didn’t you need a visa then?” I whined.
“Well, I had a slip of paper, but I thought it was for the lounge,” he mused, having five minutes earlier gone as white as a sheet as he realised that yet again we were at risk of missing a flight. It’s a reoccurring theme in our marriage. Next time I arrive at the airport, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if an alarm went off and the loud speaker announced: “The McClures have entered the building. For your own safety please keep out of their way and avoid eye contact.”
Lesson number two - you may have a British passport, but it doesn’t open all doors. You actually do need a visa for Australia.
So we’re standing in the middle of the Changi airport, the children are bored and we’ve learnt that we’ve (I use the collective term loosely) forgotten this step. There is an hour and half until our flight sweeps off the runway, with, or without us. We have a choice: We can pay $70 per person and arrange to have the Qantas desk file for an immediate visa, or we can go online, and do it ourselves for free. So being cheapskates (or looking at it the other way, saving $280), we took the DIY route. DH’s visa came through fine. Apparently I am, along with my seven and five-year-old daughters, slightly more suspicious. No visa. No travel.
“We’ll keep the desk open another three or four minutes,” said the check-in assistant with a cheery smile.
I legged it back to Qantas, tossing aside luggage and pensioners in my lunge for the counter, panting and asking with a “pretty please” if they would be so kind as to take my money and get me a visa.
Voila. The doors open; check-in completed, passport control negotiated, a mad run with two small children across the terminal with seconds to spare…to be met by a long security queue at the gate, followed by an hour sitting on the apron. I felt like someone was secretly filming our soap opera, or we were starring in a National Lampoon film.
All in all a fairly relaxed start to the holiday. There was one advantage: I didn’t even mind paying for the wine on board. It was for medicinal purposes.
Oh, did I mention that our luggage didn’t arrive. That’s right: two small children, no toothbrushes, clean clothes or any way of charging our phones. So I’m going to stop here before my laptop battery runs o...
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Here's the itinerary we created and our photos.