Traveling anytime can be tricky, but traveling during the winter and peek holiday time can be perilous. Still, we take our risks and have many “war” stories about cancelled flights, unplanned overnight stays, delayed flights, broken airplanes, dead car batteries, etc. We have been mid flight before when the pilot informed us there was a hole in the windshield and we were returning to the airport only to sit on the tarmac in a bus while the airline figured out what to do with us. Holiday travel can also mean stores, restaurants, gas stations, and other services have limited hours or are closed. Yep, we have some stories and our most recent holiday travel not only brought some of those stories back to mind, but added to our list.
I’ll start at the beginning, which is a very good place to start. The day prior to the drive and fly portion of our journey, the husband’s van was rear-ended. He called me to say that he and the boy were okay, but they had been involved in an accident. I went to the scene to discover that the back end of our van was smashed and the rear tailgate would not and could not open.
Hmmm. . . this was the car we were driving to the airport to haul our family and luggage in comfort. The van was still drivable and safe. We decided to load the luggage in and out of the side door. I felt like the Beverly Hillbillies pulling up in front of the airport to drop off the boy, the husband, and the luggage. It was a two person job to get the luggage out of the back and out the side door. Nevertheless, it worked.
We arrived safely at the airport in time for our flights even after a blizzard had hit our area two days prior. The roads, highways, and interstates on our 120 mile journey to the airport were of varying conditions and we counted the number of cars and trucks off the sides of the roads. I just kept my hands on the wheel and adjusted speed as necessary. We had a shovel in the car with us along with a hard sided cooler with food and drinks.
Upon arrival at the airport, all went smoothly. . . checking in for our flights, checking the luggage, etc. We went through security and on to our gate. After a few moments, the time of the plane’s departure was pushed back an hour and ten minutes. I had the airlines programmed on my cell phone and made a call. Seems our connecting flight hadn’t left Chicago yet. I waited another forty minutes and made another call. Same story. At this point, I left the gate with boarding pass and ID in hand and went back to the ticket counter. I was reassured that we would arrive in Chicago in plenty of time to catch our connecting flight to Orlando. Back through security I went to re-join my family.
Well, the flight did arrive and soon we were off. Upon arrival in Chicago, we took a shuttle to another terminal and found the gate for our next flight. We actually arrived in Orlando a few minutes ahead of schedule!
Since liquids are limited to 3 ounces going through security, I wait until we are at our gate and purchase a bottle of water. We then refill the bottle regularly throughout our journey. In O’Hare, there are water fountains with bottle refill stations—very convenient!
We had also packed a soft-sided cooler inside the husband’s carry-on bag that contained sandwiches, snacks, fruit bars, granola bars, and Clementine’s. These made it through security with no problem and provided a juicy and nutritious treat for us throughout our journey. Note: Any opened items or fruits and vegetables had to be consumed prior to boarding the ship. The unopened packaged items, such as fruit bars, granola bars, and fruit snacks were okay for us to take on the ship.
Returning was another matter, but this one was on Disney, specifically Disney’s Magical Express which offers free transportation to Walt Disney World Resort guests to and from Orlando International Airport. Having traveled to Walt Disney World ten times, I can say that we have used Disney’s Magical Express for each of our trips, many times without incident. It seems that when we cruise and then go to the resorts, there is a glitch in the system.
The first time we experienced the glitch was July 2011 when we took Disney Cruise Line transfers from Orlando International to Port Canaveral and from Port Canaveral to our Walt Disney World Resort and had reserved Disney’s Magical Express for our return ride to the airport. Turns out that Magical Express didn’t have us on the “list” and we had to make some phone calls the last evening of our stay.
Having experienced this situation once already, I was determined to make sure it didn’t happen on our most recent trip. So, when checking in for our Disney Cruise Line transfers at Orlando International Airport, which shares the counter with Disney’s Magical Express, I brought out my Magical Express documents, explained what happened last time, and asked if they needed to do anything to make sure we would receive “tickets” for the return trip back to the airport. I was told to inform my resort when we check in. Okay.
Fast forward to our check-in day at Coronado Springs after our cruise and once again, I’m telling the story and asking that we are for sure going to have a ride back to the airport. Carmen was very helpful and phoned Disney’s Magical Express service while I waited to make sure everything was all right. Our travel agent had included Magical Express reservations, so all was done well on that end. Carmen assured me we were okay and would receive the “tickets” on our resort door the day prior to leaving.
When we returned to our resort after a long day of park touring, no Magical Express tickets were to be found. Three phone calls later and a trip to the front desk by the husband we were set to go. Not a very magical way to spend the last evening of our trip. I emailed Walt Disney World guest services about this issue and have yet to hear back. One time, I can understand, but for the same thing to happen twice, even after I took all those steps to make sure it didn’t happen tells me there is a glitch in the system. And, we want it worked out before our next cruise and Walt Disney World stay.
The funny thing is that each time we travel during the winter I tell myself we won’t do it again; the risks and inconveniences are too much. And, yet, two to three years later, we find ourselves once again packing up and making travel plans over the holidays; each time attempting to plan and prepare better for a smoother journey. The lessons we have learned from our “war” stories help us and give some perspective knowing that it could be worse and we have what we need to handle situations. Keeping safe is the main thing.
Safe winter travels to you and yours!