I’ve developed something of a split personality when it comes to travel lately. I can recall my father saying to me many years ago that he really had no desire to hop on airplanes anymore. He had traveled for a living for decades, and was just plain worn out. All I could think of at the time was, “How could anyone NOT want to get on a plane and go somewhere?”
Well, I haven’t turned into my father just yet. But, I have developed a little bit of an allergic reaction to airplanes. Whether it’s lack of sleep or never being home for more than a handful of days, I’m just plain tired. But, I still love travel. That dichotomy gave me a fun idea for a blog post. Maybe it’ll be a flop, but I had fun writing it. Hope you enjoy:
I had just finished a meeting in Salt Lake City for work. I had flown in the night before, landing around midnight. By the time I got to sleep it was 1am local time (or 3am where I woke up on the East Coast that morning). The alarm was set for 5am. Tired but happy to be headed home, I finished my meeting and sprinted to the airport. I made my flight with plenty of time to spare.
Before I flew out to Salt Lake City, the family and I had been in New York City catching a Yankees game. We got to see rookie Aaron Judge hit a home run further than any I’ve ever seen. There was a stop or two in Little Italy and some shopping. All in all, a fun weekend.
I was sitting in first class for my flights home. I’d fly to Chicago, then on to Washington-Dulles. I’d land at 9, have a reasonable shot of putting the kids to sleep and spend a little time with Michelle. The flight attendant came around to offer a couple of subpar choices for lunch. Buffalo chicken mac n cheese. Bleh. But, hey. I’m headed home in a reasonably comfy seat and I can get some work done. Except, the power ports aren’t functional for the flight. My seat mate’s phone is ready to die, so I loan her some power as we commiserate about the joys of business travel.
Our family has trips to the Grand Canyon, New Mexico, Colorado, Nova Scotia and Deep Creek, Maryland this summer. Throw in some Hersheypark and we’ll have a great summer on the road showing our kids the world.
Our captain informs us there’s a small hydraulic fluid issue and we’ll be delayed about 15-20 minutes. I have just shy of an hour to connect in Chicago. I should be fine.
My daughter was on an airplane more than 100 times before her 10th birthday. She really believes the world is small, that she can go anywhere she wants. That’s such a great feeling as a parent.
About 45 minutes before our scheduled arrival time in Chicago, the captain comes back on the PA to address us. We’re diverting to Minneapolis? Before our scheduled arrival time???? Weather in Chicago has caused a slow-down. We don’t have enough fuel, so we need to land somewhere. As I find out from my friend Stephan, all planes arriving from the West are on hold while flights from the East (including all the afternoon European arrivals) land. That smoke you smell? Yup, that’s my plan to see the kids before bed going up in flames.
My daughter deals with some anxiety issues from time to time. She’s learning how to deal with it better. One of the ways she does so is by using friends at school for support. One of her friends deals with the same issues, so they’re “worry buddies”. Her friend moved to Europe, which really disappointed her. We planned a trip to Europe to visit her friend. Seeing both of them together was really quite a treat. When another friend of Cat’s announced she was moving away this year, Cat was unfazed. She told me, “I know we can go visit.”
My seat-mate and I spend the time it takes to divert to Minneapolis researching backup options on how to get home. She’s headed to Newark, where there’s also a bit of weather. She’s Global Services with United. United takes great care of their Global Services members. I’m betting she gets significantly better service than me when we call to deal with our situation. Foreshadowing, I was wrong.
My family got to take an “emergency Disney trip” this year to catch one of our favorite attractions a final time before it went away. The airline tickets and hotels were all paid for with miles and points. Even though I got violently and comically ill on the trip, we truly got a ton of value out of that trip. Those are memories our family isn’t likely to forget anytime soon.
As soon as we land, both my seat-mate and I hop on the phone. I ask the 1K agent I reach to “protect” me on a later flight, Protecting is a process where the agent reserves a seat on a later flight but doesn’t re-issue the ticket. This allows you to hold seats on two different flights while you figure out what the heck is going on. The agent tells me she’s no longer allowed to protect me on a flight. She says that she can get fired for doing it. I politely ask if she can check with a supervisor to see if an exception can be made because of my status. She agrees to ask and puts me on hold. I see there’s only two seats left on the flight I want. I sure hope she doesn’t keep me on hold too long.
Disney has been a special place for our family over the years. Remember those anxiety issues our daughter faces? Well, her elementary school principal has been such a huge part in helping Cat conquer those fears. We had another Disney trip last year where we surprised her with a visit from our super Disney friend Lauren AND she got to spend the day at Disney World with her principal. Talk about a memorable moment!
I’m still on hold with United. My Global Services seat-mate is trying to get moved to a nonstop flight from Minneapolis to Newark so she can avoid the Chicago weather. This is a good plan, but United is having none of it. I coach her to be a bit more persistent. The pilot tells us we’ll be delayed about an hour. I’m still on hold and now officially nervous the later flight is going to sell out before the agent comes back on the phone.
Travel has made a world of difference in my life. The first international trip I took with my wife was to London. We didn’t really understand how rough the time change would be on the short flight. We stayed up talking and had more than a glass or two of champagne. Back then, the US-based airlines still served REALLY good champagne. We showed up to London just a bit tipsy. Thankfully, our hotel had pity on us and let us check-in at 9:30 am. We promptly fell asleep, ruining our sleep schedule for the rest of the trip. Great memories!
The agent comes back on the phone line with me. She tells me she realizes I’m not going to make my original flight. I had already confirmed that and was contemplating hanging up and starting over with a new agent. Thankfully, my patience paid off. She was holding a seat for me on the later flight out of Chicago to Dulles and quickly got me ticketed. Meanwhile, my Global Services friend still seems stuck in neutral. The pilot stops by to update us on refueling. He said we were almost to the Chicago holding pattern when they turned us away. I start wondering if that 15-minute mechanical delay at the beginning of our trip cost me a chance to see my kids that evening.
Charlie loves trains, amongst other things. We find out about a train that we can sleep in overnight that’s in central Pennsylvania. Charlie asks if we can go sleep in the train when we go to Hersheypark? Done.
Back on the plane. Our Global Services hero makes a strong move and convinces the gate agent to let her off the plane so she can take the nonstop flight from Minneapolis home to New York. She hefts her bag out of the overhead bin like a pro, no easy task for a woman who’s 7 months pregnant. But, she’s a road warrior. She heads for the front of the plane. I’m happy that at least one of us is getting home. As we sit longer at Minneapolis, I’m starting to wonder if I’ll make the new, later flight I have booked. There’s one more flight later that night I can still catch and still make it home. At this point, it starts to sink in that my wife will be asleep LONG before I get home. Sigh.
My daughter made me a plastic plane of little beads that I wear whenever I fly. It’s a great reminder that I need to get the heck home to my family. Charlie doesn’t have quite the same love for planes as Catherine does, but he’s starting to get more interested. On our flight to Phoenix recently, Charlie points at my plastic plane and says he wants to make me an airport out of beads that I can wear when I fly. Gotta love kids!
The pilot announces we’re done refueling. They’re buttoning things up and we should be pushing back soon to get in line to take-off for Chicago. My Global Service seat-mate re-enters the plane and stows her luggage again. The flight from Minneapolis to Newark just took a 2-hour delay. She and I spend the next 15 minutes laughing about friends we have that think business travel is cool. Then, we both cry just a little bit.
My daughter has finally figured out what a mileage run is. That’s where you get on a plane and fly somewhere with no real purpose other than to earn miles. Maybe you fly to Seattle for the day to have a cup of chowder. She’s decided this crazy concept might be fun. My wheels start turning on where to fly for the day with my daughter.
Back on the plane to Chicago, my Global Services seat-mate and I are starting to get nervous about our new, later connecting flights. It’s 100% clear neither of us is getting to eat dinner. I offer to let her recharge her phone from my laptop again (my external battery now long dead). We split a bag of smokehouse almonds. If you tell me I’m lucky to travel for a living, I just might smack you. I apologize in advance.
Two years ago, the family went to Greece and Paris for summer vacation. The airline tickets and hotels were free. Our kids got a big kick out of making their own fresh-squeezed orange juice in the morning while they looked out on the ocean. I love travel!
We taxi out to try to take off in Minneapolis. Alas, still not meant to be. We have to wait behind a line of planes that isn’t moving. We’re all waiting for clearance. We have a longer flight plan to get around some weather. I now have just less than 30 minutes to make my connection. I hate travel!
When our family arrives in Paris, we find out we have the presidential suite at our hotel. Our daughter and our family friend, Gabby, walk into the room to find out e have a stellar view of the Eiffel Tower. I’m not sure who screamed loudest. That was two years ago. My ears are still ringing.
We finally get airborne. Looks like I’ll have about 15 minutes to sprint for my flight. My Global Services seat-mate has about the same amount of time. But, she has to change terminals. And, she’s still very pregnant. And yet, I’m betting on her to make it. I debate fishing another bag of smokehouse almonds out of my bag as a second course for dinner.
Our kids are enjoying the first big summer trip. We’ve hit the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon, two stunning bucket list items. It’s gonna be a great summer!
We land in Chicago. We land about as far away from our gate as you can possibly land. We taxi for almost 20 minutes. At this point, it feels pretty likely we’ll both miss our flights. When we get near our gate, there’s traffic in the alleyway. Once we get to our gate, we need to wait a few more minutes for a crew to show up and guide us in. The jet bridge takes forever to deploy. Finally, not quite like the thoroughbreds at Churchill Downs, we’re off! Jeebus, that pregnant woman can run!
I can’t wait to spend time at Deep Creek Lake and Nova Scotia with family. If I can ever get home, this is going to be a great summer!
I run all the way down the B concourse to the opposite end. As I run, I can see a blur on the monitors that states my flight is boarding. No kidding! The door is scheduled to close in 6 minutes. I can do this! I make it to the gate and…..the flight hasn’t started boarding yet. In fact, the inbound folks haven’t gotten off the plane yet, despite the United app and the monitors telling a different story. I’m pissed they made me run!
We wait another 20 minutes before boarding starts. By the time we’re prepared to take-off for DC, it’s almost the time my original flight was supposed to land. I e-mail my seat-mate from my previous flight to see if she made her flight. She did! We’ll both get home tonight to our respective families, if quite a bit later than normal. We both have family vacations coming up, something to be excited about on the (sometimes) gloomy road of business travel.
The Final Two Pennies
I can’t tell you how many times someone has said, “Oh, you travel for a living? You’re so lucky!” Don’t get me wrong. I am lucky. I’m thankful for many things, not the least of which is a great family. I’m thankful for the experiences that all of that business travel affords our family. There’s no way we could afford to travel to all the places we’ve been without miles and points.
But, do I feel lucky to board a plane a few times a month for business? Not really, no. I’ll deal with the trade-off, but family time is precious to me.
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