Vacation 2009 – On your mark, get set, fizzle!

2009 is a “big” vacation year and this time we chose to do our vacation in the spring while the elementary kids are off track because it meant only Emily would have to miss class. We thought it would be fun to go back east and visit Williamsburg VA, Washington D.C., and Maryland where Nancy’s aunt lives. I had more United Airlines miles that I was able to use in booking the tickets. Unfortunately, when I tried to book it was impossible to get any flights out of Salt Lake City on United miles. Our only option was to fly out of Boise, ID – a five hour drive from Salt Lake City.

The Boise airport

We left Salt Lake on Friday and drove up to Boise where we spent the night in a hotel before catching our flight on Saturday morning. The other problem with flying United Airlines is that they often fly through O’Hare airport. I hate flying through O’Hare. Every time I go through there my flight gets delayed and this time was no exception. We flew in from Boise on time but when we got to O’Hare, our connecting flight to Richmond VA was delayed due to bad weather in Chicago. For some reason we were able to fly in but no flights were going out. No worries, we thought, we’ll just wait out the two hour delay and get to our hotel a bit late. Unfortunately, about about an hour’s wait I got an automated email from United stating that our flight had been canceled. I turned to look at the flight board and it was like the classic scene from a movie when all the flight statuses started changing to canceled. There was a mad rush to the ticket and customer service counters as thousands of stranded travelers tried to figure out how to get out of Chicago.

Waiting around in O’Hare airport

After spending an hour in line I finally got to the ticket counter and reviewed my options with the agent. The agent said she could put us up in a hotel that night and the fly two of us to Richmond VA the next day. The rest of us would have to until Monday or Tuesday (remember it was Saturday) because all the flights to Richmond were already booked due to a NASCAR race. Spending two or three nights in Chicago certainly didn’t appeal to me. Splitting up didn’t appeal to me. I started grasping for straws on ways to get out of Chicago that night (the storms had finally blown over and flights were going out again).

“How about flying into Reagan National?” Nope – full.
“How about Dulles?” Full.
“Newport News VA?” All full.

Finally the ticket lady said, “I can fly all of you into Baltimore. The flight leaves in 45 minutes. Do you want it or not?”. I did the math and it meant that we would get into Baltimore at about 1:00 a.m. with a 3 hour drive to Richmond so we would wind up at the hotel at 4:00 a.m. I weighed that with the prospect of spending 2 or 3 nights in Chicago on a United Airlines hotel voucher and took about 2 seconds to decide: “Book it”. Nancy collected the kids while I got on the phone and started making rental car reservations for a minivan in Baltimore. How difficult is it to rent a minivan in Baltimore MD from your cell phone in Chicago that you want to pick up at 1:00 a.m. and drive out of state one-way to Richmond VA? I’m here to tell you that it’s pretty darn difficult. We eventually found a minivan but the one-way charges were so exorbitant that we had to agree to drop it off in Baltimore before the week was over. No problem, we would just drop it off when we went to visit Nancy’s aunt in Maryland later in the week.

After making the arrangements we caught the flight and winged it to Baltimore. We picked up the car and I managed to stay awake and drive the 3 hours to Richmond where we wearily checked into our hotel to start our vacation. Oh yeah, our luggage didn’t go with us to Baltimore. We were told we would be able to pick it up the next day in Richmond. “No problem”, I thought, “we’ll have time to go to the Richmond airport Sunday morning, pick up our luggage, and still make it to 1:00 church”. Unfortunately, we were once again about to learn the nature of Murphy’s Law.

We went to the Richmond airport on Sunday morning to pick up our luggage at the United baggage office. The first problem: nobody was at the office. The second problem: there were a bunch of bags stacked up outside the office and I could only see one of our bags – two were missing. Nancy tracked down the luggage lady and she investigated where our other two bags were. “Oh”, she said happily, “they’re still in Chicago!” How on earth the airline managed to send one of our bags on to Richmond but leave two in Chicago is beyond me. I was so frustrated and annoyed at the airline that I had to leave the luggage office and let Nancy deal with it because I was afraid would completely lose my temper.

Luckily for Nancy and I, the one bag that made it to Richmond had our clothes and underwear in it. Nancy made arrangements for the airline to drop the missing bags off at the hotel once they finally made it to Richmond and then headed out to Walmart to buy some temporary clothes for the kids. Needless to say we scrapped Church plans and just ended up relaxing at the hotel trying to overcome such an awful start to the vacation.

1 comment

  1. Good gracious, I’m glad you recorded that classic vacation snafu start. Everybody has one of those never-ending nightmares but the trick is to be able to tell and laugh about it years from now. Good job on the telling.

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