How Not to Take Your Family to Costa Rica

‘Have you got Esther?’  the lady at the Virgin check-in desk asked.
‘Who’s Esther?’ I asked
‘No…sorry… do you have an E-S-T-A?’ she tried again.
I guess the blank, confused look on my face answered the question.

It was 7.00am at Heathrow on a Good Friday morning.  The airport was relatively quiet and my family was excited to be starting our trip to Costa Rica, meticulously planned more than six months before.  We had a detailed itinerary, and I had made sure that every detail had been covered.  Except I didn’t know about ESTAs.  Our family travel usually takes us East and we hadn’t been to or through the US for a few years.  The check-in desk is not the place to find out that a special licence is needed to travel to the US these days.  The Virgin staff pointed me to the Internet Cafe upstairs and explained that it was possible to buy the ESTAs online and they were often quick to get approved, but that they can take up to 72 hours.  My heart sank. Continue Reading →