Trials and Tribulations of Travel Today

Our week in the Caribbean was fabulous, with the exception of a few minor hiccups.

St. Thomas, looking toward St. John from Sapphire Beach. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2023. All Rights Reserved.

I’m a planner and a perfectionist. But recently, when it comes to trip planning, I’m a little less obsessive than I used to be. And, I know the reason. It is because our sons are grown and have flown the nest, all living independently for the last few years. When they were younger and we traveled together as a family, I was a little more rigid about our plans and how we’d spend our time on vacation.

The travel details I focus on now are that of place and transportation; in other words, where will we go and how will we get there? I learned early on, with our honeymoon trip to Bermuda in 1987, that getting from the airport to the resort can cause issues if you aren’t prepared with information (and reservations) at the outset. Bermuda does not allow visitors to rent cars. Bermuda buses do not allow luggage. Your choices are taking a taxi or renting a “limousine service” which we’ve done for all three of our trips there. Bear in mind, limo service means a transport van with a driver and other couples (most likely) going to the same resort.

For our trip to St. Thomas, we got a package on Expedia. I found the resort first – with availability when we wanted to go. It turns out that although it was listed on Expedia and we got a package with flights, the villa is also privately rented through a property service that manages it for the owners. It was a find so that’s all I’ll say about it here. There’s a strong chance we’ll stay there again.

Driving on the Left – Can You Do it Safely?

With the flights and accommodations taken care of, I broached my husband about driving on St. Thomas. Did he want to rent a car or not?

The conundrum was this. I had read a review of the resort that said it was not close enough to a grocery store to walk. I took that as an indication we should rent a car. Taxis are available and expensive. Ubers are not available. And, although the villa was less than a mile away, it would have been dangerous to walk to get groceries. The roads are narrow with many sharp, blind, and hair pain turns. There are no consistent sidewalks, even if they do exist in some areas.

But I knew I wasn’t going to want to drive on the left, so I let my husband decide whether to get a car or not. We did. It was a great decision, and although we did not drive that much, the convenience of being able to do so was priceless, in my opinion. Finding open parking is also a hot commodity on the USVI of St. Thomas and St. John, so that became a reason we didn’t take the car ferry to St. John.

No, our big problem with driving turned out to be getting the rental car itself. We reserved a car ahead of the trip, like we usually do, online. It was from Thrifty, a budget company that we’ve used before on our travels. The price was what I expected. The model was what we usually get.

I made sure I knew where to go after we claimed our baggage upon arrival at the airport. But, once in baggage claim, it wasn’t as obvious, even after I checked the papers I had.

We asked a gentleman at the AVIS desk, who told us they’d help us at the HERTZ desk.

A call was placed and the HERTZ attendant told us where to go outside, stand, and wait.

After twenty minutes or so, a van drove up that said Thrifty Car Rental on it. It took us and a few other couples the two miles up the road to the office. There were only three car rental desks in the airport itself. None were from the car company from which I rented. But then I knew that when I reserved the car.

The Problem Starts

Upon arrival, at 4:15 pm at the Thrifty desk, we got in line immediately. There were five couples in front of us. The woman being waited on took 30 minutes. After she was taken care of we thought the line would move along. But we noticed it didn’t move.

There was one agent for everyone who had reserved cars! Another shuttle from the airport came and dumped more visitors. Each reservation was taking 25-35 minutes to complete!

As you can imagine there was a lot of grumbling, loud enough for the desk employee to hear, as well as a group of three couples (older than us) who were loud and rude. I took them as a lesson as to how I do NOT want to act while traveling. Talk about privilege! Whew! It really was disgusting.

Professionals Don’t Cry

At first, we were annoyed at the rental taking so long but the more we waited, the more we listened. It was obvious the woman behind the desk was trying her best not to cry. She tried to remain calm and patient with everyone as she got their rental agreements finished.

We also realized that she was having a problem because the computer kept going down, as well as the chip reader for the credit cards. Some rental agreements took her two or three tries to complete.

Still, she did not cry.

It was then that I felt a great deal of sympathy for her. You see, I have cried in a professional capacity before. And it feels terrible!

By the time we got our car and headed off to the resort – on the other side of the island – it was just after 6 pm! Yikes!

I had planned our arrival to be in the daylight so my husband could navigate the island in the light while driving on the left for the first time. He had a few minutes of light, and then – darkness – driving on the left – in an unfamiliar place.

We arrived safely. Thankfully, we had great communication with the resort, who wanted to be informed if our arrival would be after 6pm. They did not have a problem staying to let us into the gated grounds and Villa.

The next seven days went off without many other hitches.

I did write about one incident we had while driving, but it all turned out fine.

© St. John, USVI. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2023. All Rights Reserved.


We were sure to arrive at the airport three hours ahead of our flight leaving as was suggested due to customs and security as well as airport inefficiency. As it turned out, that three hours was overkill.

But, then something else happened!.

Our flight home was delayed, not once, not twice, not three times, but four times! We were to fly through Miami and the flight coming in from there was too close to their expendable hours of duty in the air. The airline was trying to find another crew.

Obviously, this took time!

By the time we were delayed twice, we realized we were going to miss the connection in Miami that we needed to get to Minneapolis. We approached the desk. After what seemed like a very long time, the woman acknowledged us standing there. We told her our situation. She told us to wait and left the desk. She came back just as an overhead announcement was made that our flight would be departing from St. Thomas even later but they were not going to rebook anyone until the new flight crew was in the air.

In other words, my husband said, “You want us to sit down and wait.”

“Yes,” was the reply.

Let me just say that my husband was super nice to the airline employee, even though she was not the nicest to us – at first. She finally warmed up after he said, you want us to sit down and wait!!!

Luckily, I had the airline’s app on my phone. Within the next half hour, we were automatically rebooked on a flight from Miami to Minneapolis the next morning. Not ideal but doable for us.

The Last Thing to Fix

The last question was, where were we going to sleep?

We were very pleased with how the airlines handled this situation. We were advised to go to the customer service/rebooking desk for our airline. There we were greeted by a very pleasant lady who offered us a hotel room and food vouchers. She was super nice and after we made sure she knew that we had to be back by 3 am (our flight was for 5:40 am) she got us a hotel with a 24-hour shuttle.

We witnessed some very rude behavior at the help desk as well. Thankfully, it was not us, and we tried to take everything in stride. None of the couples being rude had children, they were just entitled people who wanted to make a stink.

What can you take away from my article?

  1. Research where you’ll get the rental car if you are getting one. I would suggest getting it at the airport if at all possible. We have used off-site agencies before without a problem, but in going back to St. Thomas, if we needed access to a car, we would opt for HERTZ or AVIS which was right in the airport.
  2. Research car vs. taxi. We still felt we came out ahead by renting the car. Taxis are expensive.
  3. Rideshare – taxis on St. Thomas and St. John can be shared to cut the cost – it helps the environment too.
  4. Take a hotel shuttle if one is available. Bear in mind these might cost as much as a taxi in a place like St. John.
  5. Take some dry goods with you – only if this is okay where you are going. It will save you from buying some groceries.
  6. Download the app for your travel agent/site (Travelocity – Expedia), and the airline you are using. This helped us so much! I won’t ever travel again without doing it.
  7. Keep a paper with all your necessary contact numbers – the hotel, your car rental, the travel agency, etc. We’ve done this for years and there have been a number of times we’ve been glad we had the information at our fingertips.
  8. Enjoy your trip!
Approaching Miami. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2023.

2 thoughts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s