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The Most Unwonderful Time of the Year…for Traveling

j0438374On December 17th at 5 AM, we set out for a long trek across the country with our one-year old in tow.  God bless the flight attendants who were willing to hold our dear one and prevent him from continuing to yell out of sheer boredom.  Steve and I were just plumb tuckered out from waking up at 3 AM, and our little guy didn’t fall asleep until the last hour of the 5 hour flight across country.  Gee thanks, buddy.

We ended up with an “internet special” on airfare, purchased kindly by the relatives who hosted us for holiday fêtes.  That special meant that we would end up traveling on 4 different airlines round-trip and that we’d encounter 6AM departures on the initial leg of travel each day.  That “special” also meant we’d hop from multiple cities on the way home without even a hope of a direct flight home.

But, it’s for Christmas!  We could deal with anything . . . even weather delays . . . right?

After traveling to the northwest multiple times and encountering traveling woes on each trip, you’d think I would have learned my lesson by now.

Slight annoyance, but not a deal-killer was the U.S. Airways policy to charge for EVERYTHING on the 5-hour cross-country flight.  Want water?  Expect to pay $2 for an itty-bitty bottle.  Didn’t get your water at the airport before your connecting gate?  Tough luck, better have cash on hand to shell it out for the precious H2O on board!  Peanuts and pretzels?  $3 or $5 per pack, depending.  Seriously.

Our connecting flight gave us 5 minutes to RUN to our gate before we boarded our cross-country flight.  So, no, there was no time to buy water.  We did plan ahead and purchased cheese sticks and bananas to get us through the long travel day.  Calvin never went hungry, and he still loves bananas, but that’s all he ate the day we traveled!

Finally, when we were at Sea-Tac airport awaiting our final flight to Spokane, WA, we were delayed.  Just as we were about to taxi to the runway, an elderly gentleman got out of his seat and high-tailed it to the lavatory.  The flight attendant scolded him to get back to his seat or we’d miss our only go at take-off, but he said he HAD to go or there’d be problems (our take off had already been delayed over an hour, so we weren’t on time anyway).  So, instead of just letting him get his business done (we still had an awful long way to taxi), the attendant called the flight deck to tell them what was up.  So, flight deck pulled to the side of the taxi way to make sure everyone was buckled.  Then, the flight attendant muttered under her breath…loud enough for those of us in the back to hear, “Great!  Now we just missed our only chance to go!”

She said that because weather was already sketchy and Spokane was having some weather issues.  Before long, they told us the Spokane airport had closed and we were returning back to the gate.

Everyone groaned.

We were told to hang out for the next 30 minutes before they’d decide what to do next.  We asked about getting a direct flight into the city where we’d have to drive to from Spokane, but they weren’t ready to let us off the plane.  Seriously!

Finally, we all re-boarded, and took off.  They had plowed the runway at Spokane, and our flight deck was hoping to get us there within a window of time before more snow piled up.

We landed safely.

The entire cabin erupted in applause and sighs of relief.

Once on the ground, we realized why there was such a plight.  There was a TON of snow everywhere.  Major roads in Spokane had been closed.

My brave uncle and aunt picked us up in their large and heavy SUV that could face any winter blizzard, and that’s exactly what we drove through to get home 3 hours later.

I’ll post about the exceptionally wonderful Christmas parties, joyous time with family, and precious memories with Calvin in a future post.  But, I do want to mention the return trip.  I think that sealed the deal for me to avoid winter travel from this moment forward…for the rest of my life.

We had a 6AM departure from Spokane.  Do the math for arriving at least 1 hour early to the airport plus road travel, and we might as well leave from the house at midnight to make it happen.  Instead, my grandparents put us up in a nearby hotel with my aunt and uncle.  We’d take the hotel shuttle to the airport in the morning and catch our flight.  Sounds perfect?  It was a good idea.  Found out the next day that the roads to Spokane were closed for 2 hours due to weather.

That lovely winter weather accumulated 5 feet of snow in 3 weeks in Spokane.  There was snow plowed into the medians and sidewalks.  Cars that had parked overnight at the hotel for travel were plowed in with 8 foot WALLS of snow.  It was intense.

On December 30th, the Spokane airport was extremely busy at 4:45 AM.  Packed out.  It took us FOR-EV-ER to get through security.  There was no consistency to how the various TSA folks were scanning IDs and boarding passes.  The only thing to note is that one line had 3 people checking IDs, and the line we were directed to get in had only 1.  Hmmm…THAT makes sense.

As I walked through the metal detector with Calvin strapped to me in the mei tai, the TSA nob told me to get rid of his pacifier.  Calvin would’ve stayed peacefully asleep amidst the noise and bright lights if he could’ve had that.  Even after we separated out our shoes, coats, liquids/gels, and laptops, they STILL needed to scan through my carry-on one more time.  I guess the raisins and bananas didn’t scan well.  I have no idea, it just took for freaking-ever.

Some people like to travel without carry-ons.  They feel less encumbered.  I’ve traveled often enough to know you’ve gotta keep a few basic essentials on you, because you may get stuck in an airport for longer than you expected, or you may end up stuck somewhere without your luggage.  We encountered BOTH.

We ended up stuck in Minneapolis International Airport for 9.5 hours, when it was only supposed to be 3.

We were switched from one airline to another because otherwise we may not have made it home since weather was also supposedly sketchy at Chicago International (our NEXT supposed connection).

Finally, after one tired baby struggled through the final flight (after his numerous times flying–this was the one time he had difficulty clearing his ears), we ended up back in Richmond at 1:30AM Eastern.

Unfortunately, our luggage made it back before we did through a different airline carrier.  We could see all 3 of our bags locked behind a glass wall.  No one at the airport had the key to the baggage office for United airlines, and we flew in on Northwest for the last leg of our flight.  We could either wait at the airport another 3 hours for someone to help us at 4:30 AM, or we could drive BACK to the airport later.

With tired baby after 21 hours of traveling, we drove 1.5 hours home.  After we woke up, we spent close to 2 hours dealing with the worst customer service of all time on the phone.  Neither Northwest nor United would ‘fess up as to who was responsible for getting our luggage to us.

Finally, after being a squeaky wheel, United put in my request which was submitted to Northwest who was indeed responsible for getting us our luggage.  It was delivered to us at home by 10 pm on December 31st, free of charge.

In the future, I think I’ll stay put for the holidays.  It’s much nicer to visit eastern Washington in the summer months, anyway.  Calvin loved the holidays with family, but I think the long flights and long time in the airport were wearing on him [and us].

Hope y’all had a wonderful time with family and friends.

Happy new year!

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4 Responses

  1. Holy cow, Dolly, what a nightmare getting home. We traveled to Ruidoso, NM (considered driving, but two full days in the car with preschoolers sounded like minor hell to me) via Southwest, and somehow we missed all the major snow delays in the northwest. We left right before it got really bad, and returned right when things started to clear up. Of course, we only got one day of fun snow to play in before the rain settled in and melted it all GONE in one night. Glad you had a nice Christmas, though!

  2. Wowzers! I’m not a good flyer, and that would have sent me overboard!! Family and friends are so important to spend time with…but sometimes staying home is good too.

  3. what a crazy trip, we’ve all but given up on traveling during the holidays which is why we flew back to the US in Oct. Sounds like you had a good time w/the fam in spite of the difficulties getting there and back. Hope you had a Happy New Year!

  4. That was just a crazy trip. My family loves to travel, but I don’t think we can keep up with that. It’s really chaotic to travel during the holidays. I love being with family during the holidays, but we opt to postpone our trip when it is not too busy. We had a crazy experience before, but it was nothing compared to what you went through. Glad you are home.

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