Air Travel

Our Past Year in the USA

I can't believe we've been back in the USA for a year. A whole yeaR!

It's been a wild and strange ride and even though we're from the USA - Florida is a whole different bird than the Midwest. It's like the flamingo compared to the robin. Night and day. 

I love the weather (really, I do) and there are fewer mosquitos than I ever imagined here. I even like our little community... but everything here seems forced and nobody is happy. The daily grind is too much and everyone suffers. Maybe we'd feel differently if we lived either in the city OR in a proper little single-family neighborhood (wait, did I just say that?!?!) but we're halfway between Miami and Ft Lauderdale in a sort of suburban twilight zone. This is not what we signed up for when we moved here, full of hope and great expectations a year ago.

It's been a learning experience for sure. BUT to be honest, this time in the USA has helped us in many ways, too. 

  1. Brad and the girls have acquired Italian citizenship through his paternal grandfather's line.
  2. I was able to claim Dutch citizenship through my mother. With this and #1, that means the whole family now has EU passports! 
  3. We had amazing visits from our parents. It was a wonderful time to have the kids spend so much time with their grandparents and many memories were made. 
  4. We were able to get all of our worldly possessions out of my father-in law's basement after 7 years and we're doing some major purging of stuff now. 
  5. We realized that this place is not for us long term. Meaning the USA. Meaning now. This was a big realization because while we were in South America, we (I) had this idea that I wanted to be back in the USA, at least for a time and I was all for this move.

But we're finding many things that we don't love here, and the good doesn't outweigh the bad for us: The lockdown drills at our children's elementary school, practicing for the event of an active shooter. The rat race. The commuter (and consumer) society. The lack of a social network. What we disliked 10 years ago about life in the USA, we still dislike.

 

Our lives are certainly richer from being here and experiencing life in the USA again and I'm glad we came here, if only for a year. We are a family that extremely thankful for our options, though!

Celebrating Mother's Day 2017 with Middle Eastern food in Florida

Celebrating Mother's Day 2017 with Middle Eastern food in Florida

Since we have these newly acquired EU passports burning a hole in our pockets and a 20-year-long dream (since our first vacation together to Spain in 1997) to live there someday, that dream is finally happening.

Me & F (almost 5!) on our way to Valencia, Spain. Showing off the continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) on my arm for Type 1 Diabetes

Me & F (almost 5!) on our way to Valencia, Spain. Showing off the continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) on my arm for Type 1 Diabetes

We visited Valencia, Spain in April 2017 as a family vacation and we're now in the throngs of preparing to move there.

We'll be out of our apartment by the middle of June, then after a bit of travel, we'll arrive in Valencia, Spain the second week in July. 

Then it starts all over again: Looking for an apartment, furnishings, schools, bank account, residency, utilities, friends, health insurance, doctors and medications -- not necessarily in that order!

Plus, this is the first time we're moving with a proper shipping container, albeit a small one. That's an adventure unto itself. Our two dogs were the most stressful part of the move to Uruguay back in 2009. I think the shipping container will be the most stressful part here!

Stick around. I can't guarantee that we'll have a lot of time to write over the next few weeks, but we WILL have a lot to write about. :) 


To learn more about us and our family's international adventures over the past 8 years, click the "About" button on the top right side of this page. 

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Living the Life, Bariloche Style

We made it into San Carlos de Bariloche late last night after a long day of travel. Our non-stop flights were booked months ago with Pluna but we learned two weeks ago that the Pluna permit was pulled by the Argentine government and Pluna was no longer allowed to fly into Bariloche. Luckily, the airline re-accommodated us on other airlines and we ended up flying Pluna to Buenos Aires and LAN from BA to Bariloche - after a 5 hour layover in Buenos Aires. It was late when we finally arrived in Bariloche and even later after we claimed all of our bags and the dogs, but we made it. Many thanks to our new landlord Jamie, who picked us up from the airport in his truck. We all just barely fit.

The house we are renting is exceeding our expectations and we even had a bottle of wine, a box of handmade Bariloche chocolates and a budín to greet us upon arrival. Fabulous! We are exploring every inch of the space and getting unpacked. The dogs already love having a fenced-in yard for the first time in their lives and the many plants and birds have been a huge source of entertainment already for our daughter.

The most spectacular aspect of the house is not the inside, but the view to the outside. We'd seen photos of this view before we got here, but it is even more breathtaking in person. It looks like a painted set in a play and it's hard to believe it is real and we can gaze onto this very landscape every day we are here.

I think we're going to enjoy being in San Carlos de Bariloche. We have a lot to do to set up our (temporary) lives here but we can't wait to get out and explore.

Toddler Equipment

We have found that with baby stuff, having the proper equipment is essential, especially when traveling.  We wrote about our BabyEssentials list previously, but we have some revised observations now that we're past the baby stage and have a very tall 2-year-old. Since we don't have a car, we walk a minimum of 5 miles per day and about half of that with the stroller.  Our small umbrella stroller, which we loved, broke just before we left for the USA in December, so we brought another one here that we had in storage. Unfortunately with our daughter at the upper weight limit of this new stroller stroller, it is impossible to navigate these treacherous sidewalks and our daily travels are a pain, not to mention increasingly dangerous as the wheels like to get stuck.  Thankfully, we've found a great alternative and we've picked up a Mountain Buggy Urban Stroller holds kids up to 70 lbs (I will need serious help if I am trying to push a kid that big, bit it's great for our 33 pound/15 kg 2 year old!). I am so excited!

One thing that we planned for perfectly is a car seat (~that unfortunately doesn't get much use here). When our daughter grew out of her sweet little baby seat at 9 months, we graduated directly to the Sunshine Kids Radian80 Convertible Car Seat which is FAA approved for airline use, the only foldable car seat, and the only one with a steel (rather than plastic) frame. This amazing seat fits kids up to 80 lbs.  No need for a larger seat or a booster, which new studies are finding are not much help in a crash anyway.

Yes, we bring this car seat through airports and on the plane with us. It's heavy, but it makes for a well-behaved kid in her own, familiar seat.  When not in use, we fold it and store it in a suitcase.  Can't do that with any other car seat!

Surprising as it may seem, the Radian 80 also fit rear-facing into the back seat of our Mini Cooper when we were living in the USA.  I wasn't sure that the combination of a tall car seat and a small car would work, but it did and at 5'-10" tall,  I could still squeeze into the front passenger seat.

We learned our lesson with the stroller.  Montevideo sidewalks are a beast to navigate and very hard on strollers. Our first stroller had a good run of 9 hard months here.  Kids equipment to purchase new in Montevideo is expensive and many times not the best quality. Plan ahead and purchase in advance (before you get to MVD) when looking for the big items necessary to travel with babies, toddlers and even older kids.

 

Dogs in Uruguay Part 2- Gear & Our Airline Experiences

After the paperwork and necessary shots were completed for our dogs, we had to consider how they were to be transported and what was going to happen to them during the long journey to Uruguay. We had previously looked into animal shipping companies that can handle all of the paperwork and logistics for you- including providing a crate for the animal and grooming before departure. These are door-to-door services, and as such, have a hefty price tag. We were quoted between $3500-4500 to ship the two dogs separately from us. We decided for that sort of price, we could go through the steps and handle it on our own.

Pug in Suitcase

Our first questions for the airline involved the crates: We had two plastic dog crates, one large that can hold both dogs and one small. We would have loved to put both dogs in the larger crate together since they are always together and really quite attached, but it was against airline regulations. Dogs have to be the same breed and under 6 weeks old to be allowed in the same crate for international travel. Our pugs were 8 and 6 years old at the time of our travel to South America, so that plan wouldn't work.

/>We sold our larger crate and went out to look for another small crate that would be more comfortable for a single dog and easier to transport. We found a great Bargain Hound crate that is perfect for airline travel.  Not only was the Bargain Hound crate sturdy and a perfect size, it had the following features:

  • Lockable wing nuts to secure the top and bottom together (some airlines require this)
  • Ventillation holes on all four sides
  • Carrying handle
  • Enclosed door pegs- some brands have the metal ends of the door latches exposed on the top and bottom of the crate, creating a potential danger for pets and children.  The bargain hound crate had this enclosed for safety.
  • Zip tie holes to secure the crate door during travel.  The agent at the airline check in will do this for you.  The bargain hound crate had dedicated holes for the zip ties, our other crate did not.
  • Pet travel kit with international travel stickers, water bowl and zip ties

We brought one crate to the airport for a dry run the weekend before our projected departure to make sure all of our questions were answered and there were no unexpected surprises.  I highly recommend doing this when you have pets and so much luggage.  The airline also appreciated it because they could make a note in our record of our discussions and expect us to take a while upon check in.

We packed the crates with a folded 'mattress' of fleece blankets with a towel as the core.  I figured this would keep the dogs warm when leaving MN and the towels would provide some absorbency in case of accidents. It worked perfectly. On top of each crate, I duct-taped a gallon size ziplock bag which contained the dogs leash, two meals worth of food in a smaller ziplock, a few extra zip ties in case the dogs had to be removed, a small water bottle to refill the bowls during transit and another ziplock bag with copies of all the dogs paperwork.  The top of each crate also had the international travel information sticker and the dogs name written in permanent marker.

We arrived at the airport the day of our departure to find that the check-in agents were waiting for us.  We had our own dedicated line for check-in and it was very much appreciated.  The agent asked at check-in if we were interested in a short-check for the dogs and we had never heard of this before.  Since we were flying from MN to Chicago, Chicago to Miami, Miami to Montevideo, we could check the dogs for all or only a portion of the journey.  Our longest layover was in Miami and since that was almost halfway according to the overall transit time, that would make the most sense for a short check.  We could claim the dogs in Miami, walk them and have them out of the crate for a while, then re-check before our flight.  We opted to check the dogs all the way through to avoid the stress on their part (and ours) to have to put them back into the crates for another check-in and long flight to Montevideo.

After all of our bags and boxes were weighted and tagged, it was time to take the dogs for a final potty break and get them packed up.  After I removed the dogs from the crates, a TSA agent came over to inspect both crates and bedding. I took the dogs to their approved area outside the entry (who knew there was such a distinction?) and came back to find the inspection completed and the agents ready to seal the dog crates.  One last kiss to the pups and in they went.  The crates were zip-tied, water bowls filled and away the Pugs went.

We all traveled safely and securely- and were reunited in Montevideo.  The dogs were happy to see us and anxious for a potty break and food.  Thankfully there were no messy dog crates, which I had feared.  We hired a truck at the airport to transport us and all of our things to the hotel- and our adventure in Montevideo began...

Next up in the “Dogs in Uruguay” series: Dog culture in Montevideo, licensing and the cost of dog food.

Dogs in Uruguay- Prep for the Journey

We arrived in Uruguay this past March with our daughter, all of our stuff and two funny little Pugs named Pablo and Paloma. The dogs were by far the most stressful part of the move, in part because we had never traveled with pets before.

Can't we both just go in this big crate? There are many details of traveling, boarding, vet care, food and licensing that we've encountered since our journey to Uruguay began. This will be documented in a multi-part Pet series.

Prep for the Journey:

Uruguay has no quarantine for cats and dogs, and is pretty relaxed regarding a lot of import/customs requirements through the airport.  Since we didn't know if we were going through customs in Buenos Aires or Montevideo, we had to comply with the customs requirements for both countries. The paperwork required to export a pet from the USA and import to Argentina or Uruguay is quite involved and required three trips to our local MN Vet and one to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) office to get the official approval.  All information on the export of cats and dogs, including specific country requirements, can be collected at the USDA website. For export from the USA/import to Argentina (the more strict location), a dog needs:

  • A 1-year rabies shot administered less that a year, but more than a month before traveling
  • A vet exam within 10 days of travel
  • Tapeworm medication administered by the vet at the exam
  • Paperwork completed by the vet in both Spanish and English

We also asked for a cold-weather waiver from our vet to allow the dogs to fly down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

The paperwork from your vet then needs to be taken to your local USDA APHIS office for review by the APHIS Vet and receive the official seal of approval ($48 for both dogs).  Our APHIS office in St. Paul was incredible with helping our local vet understand what is needed for import into Argentina/Uruguay and making sure everything was completed  correctly.  Please contact your local USDA APHIS office first and they can send your vet all the necessary information.

Ours was a somewhat unusual experience because we were flying with Pugs.  Pugs and other snub-nose breeds can overheat easily and as a result, there are tight restrictions on the temperature range that they can fly.  All stops along our route had to be within the temperatures of 32-75 degrees Fahrenheit (this can be different depending on your airline).  In March, it was cold in MN, but potentially above 75 degrees in Miami. Since we waited until the temperatures looked good, then booked our flights last minute, we also complied with the animal import requirements for Argentina, just in case that would give us a better route for the temperature limits. Thankfully we had the additional cold weather waiver  because temperatures were hovering around the freezing mark when we left. We ended up flying from Minneapolis-Chicago-Miami-Uruguay and even after the extremely long travel time, the Pugs came through just fine.

Be aware that there are also summer embargoes where due to the heat, animals are not allowed to fly.  Spring and fall are the best times to travel with pets when crossing the equator. Check with your airline about all requirements before booking your ticket.

Next up in the "Dogs in Uruguay" series: Necessary gear and the adventure at the Airport - including "What is a short check?"