Monday, July 21, 2008

Travel Horror

It was December 2006, the boys would compete in their first gymnastics meet of the season AND we were going to take the entire family to Whistler BC for a mix of business and pleasure. We had traveled a lot with the kids and felt that we could handle anything. The gymnastics competition and business meeting immediately followed on another. No Problem, I am a list making problem solver. I'm up for the challenge. So I start my list:

PROBLEM #1: How to make the meet and have Tom to Canada by Sunday?
The boys are different levels and compete on different days. So Tom will fly out with one boy and Girly Wirly Saturday evening and I will fly out with the other boy and Little Man Sunday afternoon. I will be there in time for Tom to make his meeting. Problem solved!

PROBLEM #2: The meet is across the state. Which airport do we fly from?
The meet is in Tampa, so we will fly from there instead of driving back home and flying from our local airport. We will just have to drive home once we return to Florida. Problem solved!

PROBLEM #3: The weather is balmy warm in Florida and freezing in Canada. How do we pack?
Me being the genius that I am decided that the boys would fly in the team warm-ups (thin jogging suit). I would take pants in a back pack for the rest of us. We would pack our snow gear into two suitcases (one for Tom to take and one for me). Once in Canada (inside warm airport) we would pull coats from luggage and be warm. Problem solved!

PROBLEM #4: Tom will rent a van once in Vancouver, but how will I get to hotel?
The hotel has a shuttle. I scheduled it for myself and 2 kids (remember Tom will have the other 2). Once at hotel, I will have use of rental car. Problem solved!

PROBLEM #5: The gym meet changed its schedule. Instead of the boys competing on different days, the will compete same day different times.
I call the airline and change Tom's and kids to fly out on Sunday with the rest of us. The airline couldn't get all of us together. So Tom will fly out Sunday morning and the kids (all 4) and I will fly out an hour later. We will meet in Atlanta and continue to Vancouver together. Problem sort of solved, what can go wrong?

I have everything planned and packed! So off we go. The meet went extremely well and both boys won lots of medals. We relax Saturday night and make it to airport Sunday. Everything is going according to plan! Tom boards his flight and takes off. The kids and I are waiting for ours. Ours is delayed. Still not a problem, we had a long layover planned in Atlanta so that we could rendezvous, let the kids play, and eat lunch. Instead of playing and eating in Atlanta, I'll have Tom pick up lunch for us and we will eat on plane. Problem solved!

PROBLEM NOT SOLVED!!!! Our flight is now canceled and the next flight is not going to leave until 5am Monday morning. Great! Call Tom. He has to fly on without us because of his meeting. They do put us up in a hotel and give us vouchers for dinner and breakfast, but all of our luggage is checked already. All I have with me is a diaper bag, a carry on bag with some toys, diapers, and a change of clothes for Girly Wirly and Little Man. The boys have their back packs, but they are filled with books and games.

We finally make it to the airport. None of the restaurants are open for us to use our vouchers for breakfast. Not a problem, I used some of my travelers checks (at the time, I didn't carry a credit card with me) and get muffins. The airline says that I can use them for lunch in Salt Lake City. Finally, we are in the air. Could things finally be going in our favor?
NO! During our flight, we encounter a thunderstorm and are rerouted several times and delayed several hours. Because of the weather, we will miss our connecting flight.

Finally, we are land in Utah. We would have to run, but we can make the next flight. No time for lunch! The stewardess was amazing and had phoned ahead to the gate in Utah asking them to get the kids some lunch. We exit the plan they hand me McDonald's bags for the kids and run us to the next plane. Finally, we will be in Canada in a few hours and this will all be over. They tell me that our luggage (from yesterday will already be there and just to pick it up at the lost luggage counter) so don't worry!

Although it was very thoughtful for them to get us lunch, we are vegetarian and my kids would not eat the burgers just the fries! We hit more bad weather, are rerouted, and delayed by hours.

Finally, we are in Canada! We arrived so late that all of the restaurants our closed! At least I have the shuttle scheduled! Wrong! Because we were delayed and missed the one that I had scheduled, I had to reschedule. It would take him an hour to get there! Our luggage was lost, it never made it to Canada. Only one suitcase and the car seats had made it through with Tom. We had no coats or even extra clothes to layer on ourselves. WE ARE TIRED, HUNGRY, AND FREEZING!

The shuttle arrives. Originally, I had made reservations for myself and 2 kids (not all 4). There were only 3 seats for me, so we had to cram all 5 of us into the seats. At least we could keep each other warm! Some of the passengers felt sorry for us and gave us some of their donuts to eat. We finally arrived to the hotel at 11pm (PST). We had left FL at 5am (EST). YUP, it took us 20 hours to reach our destination! Tom had pizza at the hotel waiting for us. It took our clothes another 24 hours to arrive. In the end, it was worth it to see the kids experience snow for the first time.

So, because of this travel experience, I learned several ways to have a more enjoyable flight:
1. Everyone now has their own carry on luggage. If we have to check bags, everyone has an outfit in each bag.
2. Everyone carries their own food in their backpack along with their toys.
3. We fly very early in the morning so that if something does happen, we have all day to fix it!

For more travel horrors, please visit Absolutely Bananas


Summer said...

Oh my goodness, that does sound like quite the adventure!

Rachael said...

Holy cow. I'm glad that you were able to keep it together - I'm pretty sure once at the hotel I would have just fallen right over. At least now you have some really good rules regarding carryons!

It All Started With a Kiss said...

Yikes. What a disaster! It's great to hear of the kindness of strangers though.
Thanks for linking me up! :)

Abbreviated said...

That was exhausting just reading it.

Now you even have to have passports too don't you.

Simply Shannon said...

Wowzers! I guess what they say about the best laid plans is really true! That is perhaps the worst travel story of all time.
At least you learned new strategies though, right?

Stacy (mama-om) said...

Wow, what a long trip but great lessons learned!