Puerto Vallarta Vacation: The Good, The Bad, and The TSA Agent

– Posted in: Bright Side of Life, Elfie, Family, First World Problems, Jasper, Losin' It, Mean People, Newt, Personal Insanity, Things To Do with Kids, Travel, Vacation, Worst Mom Randomness, Worst Mom Rants

So we’re back from Mexico. We failed to get pictures of us swimming with dolphins, ate one of the best meals of our lives, and almost got in a fist fight with a TSA agent. Just your typical spring break…

A little background: Tenzin, my husband, and I made the monumentally bad decision to purchase a timeshare down in Puerto Vallarta almost six years ago while celebrating our tenth anniversary. We haven’t been back since due to the company’s horrible customer service and our deep seeded hatred for everyone involved. So needless to say, we have quite a few weeks stored up.

Anyway, we finally got back to our “happy place” about the whole thing and went down for a week with the kids, my aunt, and my cousin. We arrived at Villa Del Palmar and all was going just swimmingly until our “personal concierge” told us that all of the fabulous member discounts that she’d just laid on us were contingent on us going to Villa Del Palmar Flamingos (where we originally bought this nightmare) for a “membership update.” At 8 the next morning. For only 60 minutes. And clearly they wouldn’t be trying to sell us anything…

This is when I pretty much lost my shit. I tend to get kind of nasty on the phone with people at times, but in person, I’m generally more subdued. This time? Not so much. We basically told this woman that they were all a bunch of crooks and liars and that unless they wanted me to make a full-on, YouTube-worthy scene, they really, really didn’t want me at Flamingos in a meeting where they were trying to sell us useless crap. Really.

So that was fun.

The rest of the trip was awesome. We got a kick-ass room that let us walk right onto the beach or to the pool. Every morning, I’d get up, take my coffee out to a lounge chair, and watch the waves. And I slept! Without Ambien. And I didn’t wake up 20 times. Why? Here are a few theories:

  • Massive amounts of sun and swimming.
  • Absence of doing the “list making” thing while falling asleep.
  • Humidity (sounds weird but remember I live in Nevada).
  • Major white noise (the air conditioner was pretty loud).
  • Lousy Internet connection, so I stayed off FB, barely texted, and didn’t write anything.
  • The vision of sitting on a lounge chair, drinking coffee, and watching the waves is my actual “happy place” when someone says, “Go to your happy place.”

So I guess I just need to swim outside every day, turn off my brain at night, get a humidifier and white noise machine, and completely unplug. No problem…

The kids, of course, enjoyed “the things you didn’t pay thousands of dollars for” as kids always do. Elfie entertained herself for hours by going up and down the elevator, and Newt spent about half the time lounging on the couch with the iPad. As for the rest, here’s how it went:

Happy little girl rides in Mexican taxi without a seatbelt

Elfie loved living dangerously — riding in taxis without seat belts (what?!).


Boy riding floating blue seal raft in swimming pool

The kids had more fun with this blow-up seal that somehow got named “Blue Bells” than anything else on the trip. It of course came home.


Family in outdoor bathtub on patio in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

We had a bathtub on the patio. Which was awesome until we realized how much sand got into it when we used it and felt so bad for the cleaning woman that we ended up tipping her a zillion dollars.


Mom and kids sharing a big virgin strawberry margarita

The kids and I shared a lot of drinks. Alcohol doesn’t agree with my meds, so we went virgin (sucks to be me).


Boy models funny sombrero with price tag still on it

Poor Newt got his first real sunburn. But it didn’t stop him from rockin’ this bad-ass sombrero.


Family eating at Barcelona Tapas in Puerto Vallarta

We had THE BEST dinner at Barcelona Tapas. With the best view. Oh dear lord. I can die happy now. Well, maybe if I can go back.


We swam with the dolphins, like, actually swam with them, at Aquaventuras Park, and it was the coolest thing ever. I was so proud of Elfie because she was terrified but then pulled herself together and did it. And then her parents freaked out and didn’t buy all the pictures because it seemed too expensive. Still. Kicking. Myself. At least we had plenty of Fanta.

Dog lounging on back

And Jasper? He was home with our friends who sent this picture with the caption: So, his little brown eyes said, “I’d really be more comfortable on your bed!” and I couldn’t resist.

The worst part of the trip came at the end when we had a bad run-in with a vile TSA agent at the Phoenix airport. We were late for our connecting flight — even though we had a two hour layover, it still wasn’t enough because the place is so understaffed. We finally got through the X-ray and were grabbing our stuff off the belt, and this woman pulled Newt’s empty water bottle out of his bag. It is possible — possible — that there was half a teaspoon of water in this thing. I specifically emptied it and put it in there because it’s really important to him. He’s had it for about two years (which is pretty amazing for a kid, if you know about kids and water bottles). It’s banged up, dented, chipped. It’s been everywhere with him. He loves this thing.

Anyway, she tells us there’s liquid in it, and if we want it, we have to go back out of security and dump it or drink it. I try to tell her there’s nothing in it, but she yells at me not to touch it. Things are getting heated because we basically have the choice to go back out, empty an already empty container and risk getting trapped in the “employee” line that they claim we can come back through, or give the thing up completely.

I don’t want to make too big a deal out of this because clearly I’m not some Syrian refugee who was forced to choose between her children or something, but this was a stressful moment. I knew Newt would be really upset if I let them take the water bottle. And I had about five seconds to make the decision. It gave me the slightest sliver of insight into how horrible it would be to experience living in a police-state.

I ended up telling her to take it. And then I threw a small tantrum, grabbing our bags and flinging them off the conveyor belt. I turned to the kids and they were sobbing. They were actually hugging, trying to console each other over Newt’s favorite bottle.

So I flipped the whole security section the bird and told Phoenix to F-off (and I did indeed use the entire word).

It probably sounds crazy to a lot of people to be so upset about a water bottle. But for one thing, my kids (and I) are sentimental people. We’ve had some pretty big losses over the last few years, so when we happen to lose things that we care about, it hits us kind of hard.

It would just be nice if people like the bitchy TSA agent would remember that the human beings she comes across have different stories. And a banged up water bottle may mean a lot more to one person than it does to another. And that even though the black-and-white rule is “no liquid through the screening area,” using your best discretion to interpret that rule is what makes implementation of the rule reasonable. And useful.

And saying something small — like, “I’m so sorry. I can see this is obviously a child’s water bottle, and I’m sure it’s fine, but we have to follow protocol” — would’ve gone a really long way. Much further than yelling at us like we were suspects in a murder interrogation.

Incidentally, we barely made it to our flight. They were holding the doors. And when we sat down, we realized my aunt had gotten through the screening area with her bottle.

It had about half a cup of water in it.

boy and girl sitting on dolphin statue

Last picture of Newt and his water bottle at the dolphin park.

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16 Comments… add one

Mary April 10, 2013, 8:31 pm

I’m so glad you guys had such a good time! you will have to post more photos in Family! The water bottle thing is so freaking ridiculous! Good lord! Also, we have a white noise machine. Rick had one when we got married and we always use it. The one we have now came from Sharper Image and has all sorts of settings. They also have them at target for under $20. I highly recommend it. Syd and I even used it at the family reunion as we shared a room with mom and Polly and Polly talks in her sleep and snores. Syd and I put it between us and could (almost) not hear her!

Tammy April 10, 2013, 8:38 pm

I’m pretty sure that helped a TON. I sleep with snoring man, and I didn’t really notice how much I didn’t notice until we came home last night.

I think we’ll be doing a Shutterfly deal or something to post all the pics.

Auntie April 10, 2013, 8:59 pm

Besides the big mean TSA lady, it was a wonderful trip! I already miss my coffee (and alcoholic beverages) on the beach!

Tammy April 10, 2013, 11:09 pm

Me too (besides the alcoholic beverages). This feels a lot like when we got back from Disneyland. Take me back!

Jeneral Insanity April 10, 2013, 10:27 pm

First of all, I have to comment on the sombrero. I freaking love that thing – and what makes it even better is that it’s $15.00 US, but $187.50 pesos (or whatever the hell currency they use there now). It makes me glad to live in The States…

2nd: I want to punch that TSA lady in the junk. People like that make me want to get all stereotypical and assume that she’s barren and has a horrible relationship with her family and her boyfriend and her 16 cats, so the only place she can feel like she’s “in charge of her destiny” is at work, where she gets to torture small, innocent children into throwing away their beloved water bottles because there’s a drop of liquid in there.
Any human being with ANY amount of compassion would have let you do a double take/drip dry in the trash can that they keep RIGHT FREAKING THERE for smokers to throw their lighters away in…
The fact that your Aunt made it through with water in her bottle just makes me fume even more!

Rabble rabble and stuff…
I could really go on and on, but I won’t.

I’m so sorry that you had to deal with that. It seems like I’ve always had more problems flying WITH kids than without. The only time I’ve had to have water tested to be sure it is in fact H2O was when travelling with a baby.
My half full Aquafina bottle (by myself) has NEVER been a problem. A baby bottle measured to exactly 6oz of water? TOTALLY different story.

It’s like they assume that all people flying with children are really just there with hostages to blow shit up.
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Tammy April 10, 2013, 11:12 pm

Yes! Because everyone knows the number of terrorist acts involving children as props is just staggeringly high.

Thanks for wanting to punch her in the junk for me. You’re a true friend.

Joni April 10, 2013, 11:33 pm

Sounded like a fun trip. Way to tell that TSA agent off. I can totally picture the whole thing in my mind. I’m so glad Auntie and son got to go with you. (I don’t know if I’m supposed to use their real names on your blog). haha

Tammy April 10, 2013, 11:57 pm

I suppose I should come up with some good pseudonyms for them…

Cheryl S. April 11, 2013, 7:27 am

Okay, I love, love, love your vacation. It sounds blissful and awesome and fun and sunny and warm, and all things delightful. Your vacation is my new happy place.

Minus the time share sharks and the TSA twat. The TSA/water bottle story actually made me tear up. I totally get it. Totally. And in my humble, you didn’t react STRONGLY enough, although if you had, you might have been strong-armed by an air marshall and held in detention. Possibly deported. Over a water bottle. Wow. Just wow.

I love the pictures. We are hoping to go to Vegas in August. It’s not Mexico, but there is heat and a pool and we love the Palazzo.

Thank you for sharing!!

Tammy May 5, 2013, 5:20 pm

I’m glad you don’t think I over reacted. You feel like a crazy person when it’s all happening, but it really is a big deal when it’s your kid and your story.

Vegas will be tons of fun. Just have to go all in on the tourist thing and don’t hold back.

Andrea April 11, 2013, 5:11 pm

Sleep and swimming with dolphins! Yes! So happy for you!
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Tammy May 5, 2013, 5:20 pm

I know! Seriously, right?

Vanessa November 11, 2013, 12:17 pm

I’m glad you had a good vacation, but I have several significant concerns with this post. First of all, the humanitarian crisis in Syria is a horrific, ongoing crisis. Yes, you acknowledge that the water bottle situation wasn’t as bad as a Syrian mother choosing between her children “or something”, but you say it in a flippant tone that suggests you really couldn’t care less.

Secondly, the “bitchy” TSA agent should have been more courteous, it’s true. But just like you had a long day, she likely had a long day. A day that might have included determining which Syrians were starving, tortured refugees seeking a means of survival were worth of admission. Or a day when she confiscated some of the thousands of guns and weapons that people try to bring through security each year. Or a day when a fellow women chooses to use a word like “bitchy” to describe her instead of just “mean” or “grouchy” or “rude”.

And while it’s fine to be sentimental about favourite items, you handled this situation in the worse possible way. You basically threw a little fit – alarming other agents to a possible security concern and therefore distracting them from their job, and proving to your kids that a piece of plastic (or was it metal) was more important than showing respect to agents of the law. Not to mention holding up other travelers and making the room feel on edge.

So why not drink the water? Why not step out of the line for 5 minutes? A stressed out employee who’s being strict on enforcing the rules, one who lacks of sense of humor, is in no way a hint of what happens in a police state. Maybe you should ask those Syrian women you care about so deeply what their experiences are like in a police state.

I travel for a living. I’ve spent hundreds of hours in airports, have had horrible travel experiences – including the ones where I just want to break down and cry – I’ve seen the rules applied in the most ridiculous and inconsistent ways that make me want to scream. But instead I smile and get on my way. Because I want the TSA agents to have a damn good day. I want them to feel 100%. I don’t want to distract them for one second from the main job, which is keeping us all safe. If being an eagle-eye to catch the guns and grenades also means their sharp vision catches my moist water bottle every now and then, so be it.

Tammy November 11, 2013, 9:32 pm

Vanessa, I’m in kind of a shitty mood, so I’m just going to lay it out for you.

1) You clearly have no idea who I am or what my feelings are about the humanitarian crisis in Syria are, but saying that I couldn’t care less based on the reading of one blog post is an incredibly rude thing to say.

2) If you’re going to try and make logical arguments to rationalize the behavior of the TSA agent in question, don’t throw out ridiculous scenarios featuring said starving Syrian refugees coming through the Phoenix airport. It makes you lose credibility.

3) While I understand you taking issue with me using the word “bitchy,” it seems that you sort of have it in for me at this point and are looking to nit-pick the crap out of me, so it probably won’t even matter to you that the first adjective I used to describe her was “vile.” But yes, even I, in all my perfection, sometimes default to base-level, sexist name calling when I’m feeling particularly pissed off.

4) Since you seem to lack the ability to understand subtly and sarcasm, let me just make sure to clear up for you that in the comment above, I was not indeed calling myself perfect.

5) You weren’t with me to see all the other TSA agents “alarmed” by my behavior — which they were not because I will guarantee you that this woman pulls this kind of power-trip shit all the time and they’re used to it. And no, I won’t teach my kids to blindly follow “the law” and never question authority when authority is using its power poorly and without thought. And clearly you can’t read — or don’t bother to read well — because I was pretty damn clear about why the bottle was important and the steps I took before we packed BECAUSE it was important. But maybe you don’t understand because you’re one of those heartless jerks who hates kids and wishes they’d keep them off planes and out of Starbucks. I don’t know.

6) Why didn’t I drink the water? Again, try reading. Clearly you didn’t do very well on the SAT’s. We barely made it to the next plane as it was. It was the reason it was such a stressful event in the first place.

7) As for me comparing this to being a Syrian refugee and living in a police state, again, go frickin’ read: “I don’t want to make too big a deal out of this because clearly I’m not some Syrian refugee…” and “It gave me the slightest sliver of insight into how horrible it would be…” Did I SAY it was just like being a Syrian refugee? Did I actually compare my frickin’ plight with a water bottle to the woman who’s starving and has lost all her kids? No. Don’t you ever say that shit to me. Don’t you ever accuse me of that. You don’t know me. You don’t know my heart and what I feel and how I vote and what I work for every day.

7) I and the rest of the world apologize for not being able to smile and be on our way the way you can — without fail, ever — even when you want to scream or break down. You are clearly — clearly — a much better human being. We salute you.*

*BTW, that’s sarcasm. I know you have trouble with that.
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Cheryl S. November 12, 2013, 5:47 am

Wow. Just wow. I was all prepared to have your back, Tammy…but clearly, you got this. But I will say to the pillar of society and human interaction perfectionist Vanessa that perhaps you might want to peek at some of the other blog entries on her page, or perhaps catch a glimpse of her about me section before you nit-pick, and nit-pick you did. You are what we call a troll. And? What I call a bitch.

Mama of Two Amazing Girls November 12, 2013, 5:24 am

Don’t fret. Vanessa couldn’t help herself. She’s so busy forcing a smile on her face to every TSA agent she is routinely offended by that she just can’t help but go find random blogs about TSA agents, defend them vehemently to prop them back on a pedestal and then tear down the author of the ‘unflattering’ post.
All that control she’s so proud of – you know how she puts a smile on her face and just take it – it is lost when she gets online. Sad. Pathetic.

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