It wasn’t exciting enough to end up in Rome as an unplanned destination, but there would be more drama after the cancellation and then “rerouting.” Luckily, I had come across a blog post indicating that you need to check your passport expiration dates before traveling cause each individual country has a different expiration date. Wait, my passport doesn’t expire on the expiration date, but possibly before depending on the country? So, I went to the U.S. Dept. of State website and discovered that you have to have a valid passport for 3 additional months for Hungary and no special requirement for Japan. “Hungary is a party to the Schengen Agreement. Your U.S passport should be valid for at least three months beyond your planned date of departure. U.S. citizens may enter Hungary for up to 90 days within each 180 day period, for tourist or business purposes. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. For additional details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet.” (US Dept. of State website) I knew this well before our trip and could have renewed, it’s just that I didn’t want to pay for new passports then cause they would still be valid as I had done the calculations. We had about 115 days, which is more than 3 months! So when we got in the Air France line at LAX and a guy takes off with our passports from the passport check-in line, I’m sort of suspicious. He comes back a few minutes later and returns our passports to us. Then, we get to the check-in counter and the female employee again takes off with our passports. My husband has no idea what is going on as he doesn’t want to know these travel details, but he’s starting to get nervous. I’m just thinking, I know my calculations were good, I just hope they haven’t arbitrarily made some change. Finally, she comes back…. Apparently calculating simple arithmetic can be quite challenging. She wanted to know when we were planning on leaving Europe and I said the date and it was still a fair bit earlier than the requirement (as our itinerary should have indicated on her console) so we then got our boarding passes and we were off to our A380. So, just make sure your passport will be valid in the individual country before you try to go there; unless you have a shiny new BLUE one, then you’re probably good! Back to BUDAPEST…. We spent the entire Nov. 29th walking around the city. Lowlights: The 1 Euro store where my friend’s wife had to get some supplies (It made Dollar store look like Nordstrom!) and Highlights: being with my friend, seeing the Christmas market, touring St. Stephen’s Basilica, and having the rest of the family see the Danube and surrounding buildings lit up in all their glory. The Christmas market was fantastic. As a person who very much loves Christmas carols and singing them, I found the American Christmas music piped in to be a little unfortunate. I know they were probably catering to the paying crowd, but at least they could have played: Stille Nacht and O Tannenbaum. ( Just so you know, I’m aware that I wasn’t in Deutschland….) However, I didn’t come to hear Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Our fellow American countrymen were aplenty as we saw many full Viking River Cruises buses, but the market had a good variety of Europeans and Americans. On another note, I have never seen lodging so cheap as what hotels were going for in Budapest so I expected that things would be cheaper there. This was not the case, the prices were comparable to the rest of Europe. For example: 22 Euros per person breakfast at our hotel was a bit too high for us in my opinion and it was nowhere near the chicest address in town either! Without further adieu…….