In the first part of this story about our Christmas vacation fiasco, I told you about our arrival at the airport in the midst of a winter storm and our flight cancellations. So, I had booked a room at a hotel on the airport complex and we were about to make our way to the hotel.
The hotel was near another terminal and it was necessary to travel over to that terminal and then exit it. I was told that we could just walk across the parking lot to get to the hotel.
There are six terminals at this airport and they are connected by a rail system. To access the train, you go up to the highest level in the terminal at certain entrance points in the terminal.
I mentioned that Kaleb was getting sick and starting to run a fever. So he was sluggish and not really up to a long walk through the airport. (We actually needed to go all the way around the airport to get to the terminal near the hotel.)
We walked through the terminal until we found an entrance point to the rail system and made our way up a series of escalators to a boarding area. There were two parallel rail systems with the train running one direction on one and the opposite direction on the other. We waited for the train and one never came. Meanwhile, the train on the other side showed up several times.
An airport staff person stepped off an arriving train on the other side and told us that the train we were waiting for was not working and that we should board the next train on the other side. So we walked over to the other boarding area and waited and waited and waited for a train to arrive.
Finally, a train showed up and by that time there was quite a crowd waiting and I had to push the toddlers on and then go grab our bag. I almost didn’t make it on before the doors closed and it gave me quite a scare thinking the toddlers would be on a train without me and how would I ever find them.
The train moved forward and stopped at the next boarding point and then proceeded to the next one. At the second stop, the airport staff made us exit the train and told us the rail system was broken down.
We were still about four terminals away from where we needed to be!
We made our way out and followed all the other frustrated and angry passengers back down the escalators and began to look for signs to determine which way to go. After asking several airport personnel which way to go, one of them told us to follow him and he flagged down one of those carts that carry travelers who are disabled. I guess we looked so pitiful to him that he thought we needed some assistance.
And I agree on both counts. We were, indeed, pitiful and we certainly needed help!
Thus, we began our golf cart ride around the airport.
After the driver drove a couple of other needy passengers to their gates, he proceeded to take us to our terminal and drop-off point, navigating through the terminals following an unbelievable path. He drove swiftly through the terminal walkway honking at people to move out of our way and then he drove into a corner of the terminal and pressed an elevator button. A door opened and we drove onto an elevator for golf carts.
Yes, an elevator for golf carts!
We rode up a couple of levels and he drove out of the elevator and swiftly through the terminal walkway and we got on another golf cart elevator and went down a level. We navigated through each of the terminals in the same way. After about twenty or thirty minutes, the cart arrived at our drop-off point.
As we disembarked the cart I felt both overwhelmed and greatly relieved. I realized that this trek through the airport would have been about a two-hour walk for us that would have turned into a three or four hour walk as we backtracked trying to find our way around the airport.
Now, all we had to do was figure out where and how to exit the terminal. There was no signage pointing the way to the hotel and so I asked several people and they said to exit out the nearest door and just walk across the parking lot.
I was reluctant to exit the terminal without knowing that the hotel was just “out the door and across the parking lot” because there was a major winter storm going on outside and all our heavy coats were nicely packed in the checked baggage!
But we walked out of the terminal and there across the street in the parking area was a sign pointing the way to the hotel. So we started walking through the parking area. But we actually had to walking through several parking areas and each time we left one and entered another there were several concrete steps covered with ice to ascend or descend.
Remember, I’m still dragging a suitcase and carrying a backpack and Kaleb is feeling worse by the minute. And we’re all freezing because we just have on light jackets.
We finally made it over to the hotel after crossing several parking areas. I felt like I had frostbite by the time we got inside the hotel.
We got checked in and went up to our room up on the thirteenth or fourteenth floor. We put the bags down and headed back downstairs to eat because it was about 8:00 pm and we hadn’t eaten a meal since before we left the house at 11:00 am.
The hotel restaurant was closed for repairs and if you wanted something to eat you had to go in the bar. I didn’t want to try that with the toddlers and so we bought a stale sandwich, chips, and fruit drinks at the snack bar and that was our dinner.
I got the toddlers in bed as soon as I could because I wanted to call the airline and see what our options were. It took the toddlers a couple of hours to get settled down enough where I could call the airline. And Kaleb was feverish by this time and we had nothing with us, not even a change of clothes, to offer him any relief.
I called the airline and the best they could do was book us on a flight the day after the next day. And they didn’t seem sure that they could even do that. There was no way I was going to wait around the airport and airport hotel for two days and two nights with no change of clothing, no anything, hoping we might get a flight out. So I told them to cancel our reservation and refund us, and surprisingly they did so with little resistance.
Now the plan was somehow to recover our luggage and go home. After another long and exhausting phone call to the airline, they didn’t give me much hope that I could recover the baggage since it had been checked and had entered into a secure area. But they told me to call them back later the next morning.
Kaleb was feeling so bad he could only slip into a fitful sleep, so about 5:00 am I decided it was time to leave the baggage behind and get him (and us) home. I got them out of bed and bundled them up the best I could and got a hotel shuttle to take us to the airport terminal so I could catch another shuttle back to the long-term parking area.
I was again concerned that we would be left standing outside the airport in below freezing weather with light jackets waiting for a shuttle. But the parking shuttle showed up soon after we were dropped off by the hotel shuttle and we were on a way back to our car…riding on a shuttle that the heater wasn’t working!
Of course! It all seemed to make sense now. We’re not supposed to take this trip! For some reason, we’re not supposed to take this Christmas vacation trip. And this freezing shuttle ride is the exclamation point to this big NO!
So we got to our vehicle and I went to open the car doors and put the toddlers in their seats and the doors were frozen shut. And we were parked in the covered parking area. It seems the winter storm was worse than I realized from inside the airport! Now I’ve got to drive back on slick and icy roads for a hundred miles!
I got the doors wedged open and packed the toddlers and our little big of baggage in the car and we left the airport and the roads were, indeed, icy and slick. But it didn’t bother me so much because I was so glad to be out of the airport.
And it was still dark and there wasn’t much traffic. I consider myself a pretty good icy road driver, having grown up and learning to drive in the mountains where we had a lot of snow in the winter. It’s all the other drivers on the road that can’t navigate the ice that scares me!
All of the trip was on an interstate highway and we did pretty good, but as the traffic picked up (this was the day after Christmas) we had to slow down considerably. And I have to admit that the ice on the overpasses was so bad that it scared me at times as we drove over each one.
But we made the two hour trip in three-and-a-half hours and without incident, so I was grateful to be home safe. I vowed to myself never to try to fly anywhere again within a 500 mile radius. I now considered that a drivable distance!
And I was sad for the toddlers because they were so disappointed that we were back home and didn’t understand why we weren’t going on a plane.
Kaleb was pretty sick when we got home and I monitored his fever all day and administered fever-reducing medicines. I took him to the doctor the next day and he tested positive for flu! But he had a flu shot. Didn’t matter, it’s a different strain said the doctor.
As for our baggage. I’m happy to report that it did successfully make the trip to our destination! Over the next several days, I had long and exhausting phone calls with the airline running down our baggage. Our baggage eventually returned to the airport and that airport sent it to another airport a little closer to our home and it was delivered to our house by a courier. It arrived at our house three days after our cancelled flight.
The day we got home, I felt as though I had reached my tipping point in what I could do by myself with the toddlers. I was extremely disappointed because I wanted the toddlers to visit our relatives that included aunts and uncles and cousins from my side and my wife’s side of the family.
But it wasn’t meant to be and with Kaleb coming down with the flu, it’s best that we didn’t make the trip and expose a lot of people. Fortunately, Kenzie and I have not come down with flu symptoms….yet!
I spent almost two weeks straight, 24/7, with the toddlers by myself. Though I adore them, I have to admit I was ready for the Christmas and New Years holidays to be over and for the toddlers to get back to school and me to get back to work!
But now that I’m rested up from our Christmas vacation, I think I’m ready to make another attempt to take the toddlers on a vacation!
What do you think? Are we ready to travel again? Where should we go? And how should we get there?