What costs over $10,000, is an escape in the middle of the night and leads to an
encounter with unsavory characters? Our heroine of the story comes with a bit of
backgroud – her father helped unseat an Israeli prime minister and a steamy tale
As is often the case in our highly tense environment, the
desire to escape overseas can be overwhelming. When Tova contacted our office in
the spring it was the sincere belief that she could book an inexpensive ticket
for her teen daughter to attend summer camp in the United States. Diligently
reviewing all the options, she chose with her travel consultant’s sage advice,
to purchase a United Airlines ticket to Chicago. Documents were reviewed,
payment was made and all was merry. The bliss was short lived as the mother was
in the midst of a messy divorce and the husband appeared to use his daughter as
bait to receive some monetary compensation.
Truly believing her soon to
be ex-husband would stop their own daughter from leaving the country, the mother
decided that summer camp in the Midwest was not to be.
She thought to
outsmart her recalcitrant spouse and let her daughter fly out a few hours
earlier. To double her odds of escaping unscathed, she decided to join her
daughter and fly as well. Going to the courts to stop someone from leaving the
country is sadly a fairly easy process in Israel.
Any attorney worth his
salt can request such a fiat on the flimsiest of accusations, ranging from a
debt owed to claiming the parent is trying to relocate the minor abroad. Rarely
refused and with the paucity of ports, the passenger is stopped at the airport
until a court hearing can be held. Crude, but very effective.
that the daughter should not be made to suffer, it was decided to add a visit to
the “Happiest Place on Earth” – Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. Now mother and
daughter could find some solace as they traipsed through the Magic
Instead of United Airlines into Newark, new tickets were issued
on Delta to JFK & later down to Orlando. Tova wanted to close every detail
in Israel. Rental cars & hotels were discussed in great detail. She wanted a
large car with automatic drive. Her travel consultant noted that in the US,
renting a manual shift car was near impossible so an automatic car wouldn’t be a
Keep in mind that in principle, renting a car abroad is less
expensive then renting the same car in the US locally.
The large chains,
such as Hertz, Avis or Alamo tend to have lower rates abroad, designed for
tourists, undercutting what is sold on their site to US citizens. Overseas
clients are told though that to rent a car they must present an international
drivers license as well as an international credit card. It should be noted
though that it’s worth exploring some of the cheaper rental sites such as
Enterprise or Rent-a-Wreck.
She didn’t want a hotel property inside
Disney as the cost was prohibitive and with hundreds of motels dotted around the
parks, it was suggested that she choose one of the chains, assuming that their
level of cleanliness wouldn’t be an issue. Thus, a Quality Inn was selected and
a double room with two twin beds was reserved.
After much give and take,
she finalized the rest of her trip and remembered to arrange health insurance.
Not so surprisingly, she had no credit card to make payment as her bank account
had been frozen. Her mother was supportive throughout and elected to front her
money until her cash flow crisis could be resolved. In enquiring how she would
rent the car without a credit card, she rejoined that a new bank account had
been opened and on the day of her flight the card would be at her branch. She
was cutting it close, but her travel consultant knew he had done all that was
Or so he thought.
At 3:30 in the morning text messages
starting buzzing incessantly. Tova seemed to have had an epiphany that her ex
had discovered their change of departure and, rather than risk another day in
Israel and the possibility that she would not be allowed to leave, she and her
dutiful daughter made a mad dash to the airport hoping they could fly 24 hours
earlier. Out of luck, the sympathetic Delta airline representative informed the
forlorn ladies; not a seat was to be had.
Hanging around the gate in the
hope that two seats would open up, was not to be.
The flight was
completely sold out and thus the fervent requests to get them out of the country
immediately could not be realized.
At this stage she reached out to her
So far, Tova had purchased three tickets and canceled
those same three tickets. The next flight in the morning was to Newark on United
Airlines, but her rental car was reserved for a pick up at JFK. Not to worry she
said, her uncle would pick them up in Newark and drive them to Alamo in
When reminded that she would require a credit card, she assured her
agent that her uncle was a seasoned traveler and that she would pressure Alamo
to using his credit card as a guarantee.
Exhausted and sleep deprived,
the ladies embarked on United Airlines and landed in Newark later that day. Her
uncle collected the slightly refreshed duo and drove them over to the Alamo lot
outside JFK. Tova reported that it was a cold and uninviting locale and that the
clerks were uncaring of her plight. They refused point blank to add him as a
second driver and would not let him use his credit card as a guarantee. He did
offer Tova the use of his car while they were in New York; so other than a
colossal waste of time, it did work out.
Somehow she arranged for her
Israeli credit card to be couriered to the US and the following week when she
flew down to Orlando, her rental car was picked up as planned.
use the GPS she had preordered to locate her Quality Inn hotel in Orlando was a
daunting challenge. She missed the off ramps, couldn’t find the exact street and
tried several times to phone the property only to be given less than clear
She was adamant that the room would be adjacent to the
parking lot as she had no desire to traverse a darkened property by herself
together with her daughter. Two hours later as the sun set in Orlando she pulled
into the property. Meeting a friendly wino in the lobby who offered her a swig
from her bottle did little to calm her nerves.
Being shown the room she
had a fit. Reeking of smoke and with threadbare sheets, she asked for another
room only to be told the hotel had no other rooms to offer.
she had stopped along the way at another hotel to ask directions, and while the
room rate was 50 percent more than what she had planned on paying, elected to
leave the hotel immediately and head to a more welcoming property. Calling her
travel consultant once more in the wee hours, she was told there would be no
cancelation fee and that her report would be submitted in full.
of her stay went off without a hitch, the flights back to Newark and then to Tel
Aviv were humdrum, or at least not worthy of intervention from her travel
In concluding, one can say that Tova was indeed being tested.
One would not want to wish her trials and tribulations on anyone.
really have a stop order forbidding her to take her daughter out of the country?
We never got the answer to that but with all she went through, I can only hope
it was worth it.
The writer is the CEO of Ziontours Jerusalem For
questions & comments, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org