And things had been going so well!
On top of all the visa drama, I get a mother#*!@ parking ticket because I didn’t see the giant red NO next to “Parking 8am-6pm”. Maybe this is a sign that Cookin’ Up Adventures in Russia isn’t meant to be.
Around 11:30am, I got a call from the local Travisa office saying that my invitation letter stated Russia as both the country and city I was visiting. The Russian consulate wants that corrected. That means that now I’ll need to wait 24 hours to get a revised invitation letter. Ugh! That will delay my visa by 5 business days. Now I’ll have no choice but to expedite it.
Great timing. I had just booked my flight last night! Why didn’t I wait? I’ll tell you why: Because I checked to see if a seat opened up on a flight that got to Russia in less time, and saw the total cost of it was 60,000 air miles, plus $766. I panicked thinking only my dates were on hold, but not the rate, and purchased my flight.
My visa specialist kept talking and here’s where I started sweating: expediting my three year visa would be about $300 – on top of the $300 I already paid. More than three times the cost of my flight! The visa specialist also offered to expedite a new invitation letter for a $100. How sweet of him. Cookin’ Up Adventures in Russia started feeling less and less “meant to be”.
I got off the phone determined to get an affordable invitation letter to-day. I searched on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum. Found a place that offered them for 30 bucks. It was delivered to my inbox in less than 15 minutes.
Next I had to update my visa application with the info from my new invitation letter. I called the San Francisco Travisa office, they walked me through the process and also said I could save money on expediting fees if I got a visa valid for just one month. Cost $155.
Russia is back on! Fingers crossed.
Oh my Gawd! Oh my Gawd! Another step closer to cooking in Russia. I cannot believe I’ve got a flight to Moscow on hold – using my frequent flyer miles!!!
When I called American Airlines to book with award miles, the reservation agent Darrell told me ‘I show nothing. People book those flights a year in advance.” “Oh, well.” I knew it was a long shot, I thought. Luckily Darrell was southern and chatty. He told me “Lots of customers get irate with me… I just tell them “It is what it is.” I have no control over availability!”
I thanked him for his help and he said “One thing you can try is searching AA.com yourself and find a creative way to get over there, maybe via Hong Kong or something.” “Thanks Darrell! I’ll give that a try!”
I didn’t need to get too creative at all. To my sweet surprise, I found maybe three outbound flights from LAX to Moscow with partner airlines that worked with the timing of obtaining the visa. And I found a return flight for 7 days later! Hallelujah!
I actually didn’t put the flight on hold until I received the invitation letter was in my inbox 48 hours later. (I hadn’t realized that I could hold an AAdvantage Awards flight for up to 5 days.) Trying not to be too impulsive, I figured if I’m meant to go to Russia, the flights will still be available in two days. Thankfully, they were!!! Somebody pinch me!