Long Layover, Short Tips: When the Travel Time Exceeds your Patience

Remembering December:                                                                                                                                                          
When on a vacation to Florida, you prepare yourself for the scorching sun, a cozy time on the beach, a kid stampede in Disney and if you’re lucky, a huge sale of stuff you really don’t need but just can’t resist - somewhere. But you’d never expect a snow storm to ruin your holiday or the climax of your holiday. We didn’t either, so we were in our shorts and summer clothes when we heard of cancellations and delays in flight schedule because of the snow storm in, well, Chicago.

We had a connecting flight from Orlando to Seattle – at Chicago, and this turned out to be a great anti-climax for our otherwise great trip with friends and their little minions.

We spent a total of 20 hours waiting for - our flight, another flight that could have been our flight, the pilot who didn’t turn up and for our final landing. We found our luggage - finally. But since we have this rich experience of being almost lost in transition for almost a day, I thought I’d share our pearls of wisdom for any future incidents that God forbid may befall on you.

Here are some quick tips to help you sail through an unexpected delay, especially when there’s a little kid tagging around:

1.  Stretch your limbs: It’s going to be a long wait. To book ourselves in alternate flight, we had two choices – either stay on the phone with the airlines call center for 3 hours or stand in the line to talk to that elusive customer service rep.  So we decided to divide and conquer. I got on the phone line and DH stood in the actual physical line. Thankfully Disney World had prepared us for long waits and to patiently wait our turn to get on the rides. So this was the practical application of lessons learnt at Mickey Land – just that we weren’t used to waiting through the night.
2.   Let the kids watch TV: Let go. You’re actually left with little options of entertainment. Thank God for cartoons, DD was on her own. She had finished all her activity books waiting for 5 hours for the darned flight, and just as she was about to turn up the crank, we spotted the kids section. Small miracles, really.
3.  If a total stranger offers to watch your child while you go connect with your spouse strategizing on your next steps, take him up. Just keep an eye from a distance, but for the most part – take up the offer. DD talks to everyone and when she struck a conversation with a coupla guys, they were so amused by her, that they offered to watch over her while I caught up with DH to scheme up on possible alternate options. Thanks Brad and Jordan – I hope you guys have reached home safely too.
4.    If there’s no place to sit, because over 3000 flights have been cancelled and people from all those flights are stranded with you, sit down on the floor – it’s ok. You anyhow have to dry clean your clothes and disinfect yourself. Your tush deserves some downtime.
5.    Watch people around you. You are frustrated, but there are simple things around that can bring a smile to your face – a grown man pretending to be Superman, an old couple sharing a romantic kiss, a little child trying to shred the tissue in her hands into pieces. Just take a few minutes and watch.
6.    And try to guess the stories of your fellow travelers.  Maybe there’s someone there who really needs to get back to attend a wedding, maybe someone else just wants to stay stranded with strangers and doesn't want to go back. Keep your brain active – you don’t need caffeine all the time.  Trust me.
7.    Stay alert. They usually don’t announce all flight delays and cancellation, but they do announce flight take off. Even if you’re in the loo, listen to the customer rep on the speaker. You can crib about how shrill her voice was later.
8.   Share your charger and power socket:  Since we’re caught in a place we’re not familiar with, we want to be as prepared and as safe as possible, but that’s not just us; it’s everyone else too. Try to be nice and don’t hog the power socket. Share. Be realistic about the amount of charge your cool phone really needs to help you out of a pickle.
9.   Dance with your child: It’s a stress buster. Your extremely loud child wants attention. She wants you to listen to her. Pause and listen. “Mamma, if the flight is cancelled, what will the pilot drive?” Laugh a bit. Hold your child’s hand and skip and dance and count the number of colored patterns on the carpet. What’s the worst that could happen? You’ll amuse a few fellow passengers. Good job!
10.  Curse a little: Ofcourse, you’re only human. If you need to vent it out, go ahead by all means and yell in a safe area. We don’t want the kids to hear us, but we sure as well want to get it out of our system.
11.Wait for the missing pilot:  When our flight was finally ready, there was no co-pilot. So the flight wouldn’t take off. We were a very accommodating set of passengers - we were ok with just one pilot, but the airline would just not allow the take-off.  The pilot’s absence cost us an additional 4 hours. But given the fact that we had already spent close to 15 hours in the airport, 4 more didn’t seem too much.
12. Wait for your treasure: In all likelihood, your luggage is lost. Stay calm and breathe. If you’re lucky, you’ll get it – in 5 days.  We’re on 2 and counting.

But you’re home! And hopefully you have more stuff than what was in the bag to last you 5 full days.

Welcome back!