The handy thing about wearing a mask on an airplane is that you can bawl your eyes out and nobody can tell. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning…
Canceled. It’s the one word no traveler wants to see on the morning of their flight. It’s especially not what we wanted to see on the morning we were flying from Seattle to Austin to see my husband’s brother and family. We’d already canceled a trip to see them at Thanksgiving because half our household had Covid. This was the do over trip… something to make up for the intense disappointment we’d all experienced a month earlier. We’d driven to Seattle the evening before our flight because the roads were dicey with all the snow we’d gotten after Christmas. It took us 3 hours to do a 2 hour drive to our hotel and the flight status still said “on time” so we went to bed feeling excited for the following day. Our family loves to travel and we love the people we were headed to visit!
When the 6am alarm jarred us awake the next morning, there was an email that our flight had been canceled. I called our airline and the message said the wait time was approximately 10-20 hours. (We still hadn’t received a call back, 2 days later!) There were no flights going out of Seattle to anywhere close to Texas. We tried Portland. Nothing. We entertained renting a car and driving to Texas. We talked about going home. Our kids were FREAKING out… their cousins mean the world to them and the thought of not seeing everyone was unbearable for my boys.
There’s nothing like bawling kids to amp up Mom and Dad into super hero fix-it mode. We came up with a hair-brained plan and gave the kids a choice. Option 1: We go home and try to get on a flight in a couple days and hope the forecast didn’t dump more snow like it was promising. ** Option 2: Hustle our buns to the car rental shop, rent a car and drive to San Francisco to catch a flight to Dallas and then drive another 3 hours to Austin with just enough time to spare to play with cousins before bedtime. We needed a massive buy-in from the kids for this to work… NO complaining, NO whining and definitely NO fighting in the car. Guess what they picked?
We hustled to my car, parked it at SeaTac for our return flight and rented a one way rental to San Francisco. Packed into the rental, we headed on an adventure that felt like the best possible option while also fully aware that this was maybe a little crazy!!
It took us 13.5 hours with stops for gas and the fastest food we could get, to finally arrive in San Francisco. We drove through rain, slush, black ice, snow and finally dry roads. We listened to an audio book together, the kids played games and watched movies and mostly impressed us with their commitment to this ridiculous adventure. The sight of our hotel at 1:30am left us all feeling delirious and possibly a bit deranged. Like a turkey left in the oven too long, everyone was dry and brittle with little patience or logic left. We’d been awake for 20 hours and collapsed into bed, exhausted.
The next morning, everyone packed up their bags with joy, knowing our extreme measures were paying off. We headed to the airport, returned our car and made our way to airport security on the train. It was during this last trek that we got another email. Our new, expensive and non-refundable flight was delayed. At first it was only 30 minutes and that seemed fine. But then it was an hour. And then it was 2.5 hours. At this point, we’d be arriving in Austin after the cousins were in bed… if we arrived at all! What if this flight canceled too?!? And to top it off, we saw another flight that was not available the day before, headed directly to Austin and leaving in 20 minutes. It was just too much.
Finally, FINALLY, we boarded our flight. After all the delays, we just sat there on the airplane, waiting for someone to announce that the flight was canceled and we should exit the aircraft. I mean, why not? At this point, anything was possible. When the wheels finally lifted off the ground, I sat back with a huge sigh of relief.
And then… the final straw. After a canceled flight, 2 hotels, 17 hours of driving and another flight delayed 3 times, I sat down in my seat on the plane and opened my table to watch Emily in Paris, season 2. I’d downloaded the whole season, saving it for this trip and after so much stress, time and extra money spent, I sighed happily, knowing that FINALLY I could start this vacation and relax. I clicked on the Netflix icon and it would NOT open. We tried everything. It. Would. Not. Open. Can you hear that last straw snap? I was on a flight with nothing but a mediocre book and my own heaping pile of self pity and exhaustion. I sat there stewing and about halfway through the flight, it just bubbled over and there was nothing left to do but cry.
And that’s where my mask came to the rescue. Along with the airplane noise and dim lighting, not even my son next to me noticed as I sobbed my eyes out. Lol!! I’m not very good at crying… I’m better at stuffing. But man, when I finally do, I feel like a new person afterwards!! This time was no different.
We did finally make it to Austin where we had the best time with family. The kids played hard, we all stayed up late every night, laughed until we cried, rang in the New Year, and finally headed home again. And now… after our real life ‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles’ adventure is over, the laundry is washed and we’re settling back in at home, I can almost laugh about it.
** It turned out that any flights we would’ve taken a few days later got canceled as well. I’m so glad we did that crazy trip or we’d never have made it to Texas!