After all of our false starts, amended and extra flights, cancelled and repurchased insurance policies and just the general sadness of our reasons for having been back in the UK, we were looking forward to getting back on the move and enjoying some time in North America.
Given our luck so far this travel year, we decided that rather than risk a problem with traffic, breakdowns, snow or ice stopping us making it to the airport in the morning, we would get to Gatwick the night before so had booked up a Premier Inn for £19.
So there we were, at the airport in good time for our flight to the States. We hadn't got a visa for the US, as we hadn't been able to risk not getting our passports back in time for our trip to Germany in the summer, so we were travelling under the visa waiver scheme.
Our plan was to be in the States for the permitted 90 days allowed under the scheme, then to leave the States and cross over to Canada by bus for the six months we can have there. So we had our return flight booked from Montreal in the autumn. As far as we could see, this is all within the rules.
When we were at the gate, the guys checking our papers (they have to check pre departure because if USA don't let you in they get fined £2000 and have to take you back) said they thought that we would have a problem because our flight back was not within the 90 days. They referred it to someone else, who phone someone else and checked, and they said it was fine, but the USA might make us book a flight from States to Canada within the 90 days. We were OK with that. So we got on the flight.
But just as they were ready to take off, we had to get off the plane. Someone had spoken to Homeland Security and they had said we had to change our flight home to the UK to within the 90 days of the US visa waiver scheme, even though by that time we would have been in Canada not the USA. They won't let us in for the 90 days unless we are due to leave the whole area, not just the States, at the end of it. Crazy.
But anyway, BA were helpful and changed our flights for free so that we were able to get back on. We had delayed the flight by 45 minutes, but I think because they announced that it was an issue with homeland security, most people were sympathetic rather than annoyed. Either that or they thought we might be dangerous criminals so were scared of us!
Of course when we arrived in Orlando they didn't even ask us about our return flight, they just made sure we knew we had to be or within the ninety days. Whether this was all just the airlines being over cautious due to past problems I don't know, but they did speak to homeland security apparently, so I suspect that it was someone a bit over zealous there.
Since then, Canadian officials have confirmed that we can have ninety days there, so whilst we haven't dared change our flights again yet, we expect that we will be able to have our time as planned.
Anyway, we are here now, and enjoying some Florida sunshine.