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When Travels are Extended

June 2, 2010

I called my boss around 4:30 PM yesterday afternoon, and I hate to say that she wasn’t surprised to hear from me.

“What is going on?” she asked, knowing of my traveling trend.

”I won’t be in tomorrow morning.  My flight has been delayed several hours, and I’m missing my connection, so I’m booking for first thing in the morning.”

 

The plane I was suppose to be departing Madison on, was broken, it turns out.
It needed some sort of part.
That they don’t have here, on hand, in Madison.
So they flew one in.
From Minnesota.
To replace on the plane.
Before it left.
Meaning,the original flight I was supposed to be on to get to Minnesota to make a connection, was delayed until- and I quote- “sometime after 7:00 PM”  Considering that I was suppose to be in the air on my 2nd flight from St. Paul to Albany before 7:00 PM, it’s quite obvious I was not going to make my connection.
So I called my boss. I called Delta. I called my airport pick-up. I called a friend with whom I was hoping I could stay an extra, unexpected night, in Madison.

 

The funny thing is, I already had a post set to publish for this morning about what to do when your travel plans get topsy turvy. Perhaps I jinxed myself?

The not-so-funny thing is, the reason that my boss Jen wasn’t surprised to hear my voice, and that I can write such a post, is because I seem to have a bit of a bad-travel-luck-pattern at the moment.  And by “at the moment” I guess I more so mean, since the moment I started flying on airplanes at the adorable age of two.  [note: I’m  not actually sure about my first few flights, but I do remember a handful from my childhood that also lend to this pattern.]

At the start of the weekend I mentioned just a few select instances of times my flying plans have gone unexpectedly.  Christmas of 2008 it took me over 36 hours to arrive at my destination from my original airport arrival, thanks to a huge cross country snow storm. Once, when trying to get to Chicago from Myrtle Beach, we spent an expected night in Toronto. It’s rare I’m not delayed or canceled on layovers. And remember that time I boarded the wrong plane? That being said, here’s what I know.

1. Stay and Call. When a flight is cancelled, and you and 72 of your now closest friends are in line at the ticket counter, get out your cell phone. Do not leave line. Just call the airline while you wait. Sometimes you will be put on hold for longer than it takes you to get to the counter. Sometimes the person you call is a rock star and 7 minutes later your are sprinting across the concourse to get on another plane before it leaves, with a new reservation number written on the back of your hand.

I always add the reservation number of the airline/s I’m flying into my cell phone so I have them just in case. Also, make sure to keep a pen in an easy to grab area in your carry-on so you can write down notes, reservation numbers, codes, and any thing else your informant on the phoneline gives you.

2. Move away from the crowd. On three different traveling situations in the last few years, instead of standing in line with my 72 closest cancelled flight friends, I walk a few gates over, and start a nice conversation with the employees behind the counter who aren’t being bombarded. In all three cases I have enjoyed a friendly conversation, and found my way on to another flight in record time.

2. Stay Calm, second. I allow my self a full 90 seconds of freak out mode. When I boarded the wrong plane in Dallas this past December, I sat on the floor and let out a very quick, panicked cry before moving forward in making plans.

3. Who do you know? When the making of new plans isn’t going well, it’s okay to ask (who you know) for help.
I like to think that I’m a fairly good traveler. I’m not afraid to ask airport employees or flight crew questions to help me better understand where I’m going, when I’m leaving, or how best to do things. Sometimes, however, in the midst of rearranging flight plans and trying to not feel like a complete idiot, you need to hear another voice to give you rational advice. I have called my parents. I have called my boss. I have sent a text message to my sister asking if she could look something up online for me quick.

4. Everything happens for a reason. I choose to think this way when I for one reason or another am not on a flight I have a ticket for. These days, there is a good possibility that if you are not in your seat someone else is. Some people fly standby for fun, but I also know the times I have flown stand by are times I’ve really needed to be somewhere. Instead of sulking about my traveling misfortunes, I try and remember that whomever is sitting in my seat now probably really needs to be somewhere; perhaps there was an illness or a death in the family and they are rushing to get back. Perhaps their first flight was delayed and they missed their connection, running late to a wedding they are standing up in. Perhaps the person sitting next to them, who would have been sitting next to me, is the person they will end up marrying themselves in a handful of years. Your welcome, stranger in my seat!

5. Expect the best, prepare for the worst. I’m not saying that every time I approach the airport, I’m sure I’m going to be taking a different flight than planed. But nothing is worse than feeling anxious about what you could have  brought/done/said/thought of when you are alone, stranded, or waiting.  I always arrive at the airport earlier than I have to be.  If the airport website suggests 90 minutes before my flight, I shoot for 105.  If I’m flying out of a busier airport, I am always aiming to be in line to go through security at least two hours before departure time.  Why so early?  Well, first off – as you may remember, I love the airport. But also, a little extra time has helped me to be the first person who knows of delays or cancellations, and once even put on an earlier flight for no charge.  I also always travel with more snacks than I need.  I don’t go crazy, but I do bring things that are filling enough to make a decent meal substitution nutrition and filling wise. 

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If I do end up checking a bag, I try to make room in my carry on for a few “get fresh” items.  A clean t-shirt, hair brush, tooth brush. Luckily, even though I ended up checking a bag this flight, I had some extra clothes with me. Of course, this doesn’t just come in handy for delayed and canceled flights, but also gives you a way to clean up after jucie or coffee spills, and comes to your rescue if your luggage gets lost along the way.
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6. Location, Location, Location. If I am going to be in the airport for an extended amount of time, I scout the area for prime location.  I always try to be with in cord distance of an outlet (clearly), and comfy chair that I can sit in cross legged + mini table are three prime elements to a good location.  I am also fond of being near a bathroom, and not too far from where I need to be.  If I am delayed for several hours, I don’t always sit right near my gate- a few gates over may be a lot less crowded, and have better seating! I’m currently waiting for my friend Kati to pick me up rescue me, and have parked myself directly next to the door in which we will be meeting. I am also never afraid to sit on the floor, if it’s the only seating available near an outlet.

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7. Make the best of it.  There is no use being stressed about delayed or cancelled flights. It is not your fault, and these things happen. Use your time waiting in the airport to your advantage. Check out my Fighting Airport Boredom post for suggestions.  If you have several hours before your next flight, ask someone who works in the airport if there is somewhere nearby the airport that they think you may be interested in seeing.  The airport employees are usually locals, and may let you know about a little cafe down the road with amazing food, or even a park near by where you can stretch your legs.

8. Don’t be mean. Sometimes people shock me when I see them yelling at the person working the ticket counter at the airport. First off, I understand that you are angry sir, but you’ll notice that you aren’t getting anywhere with your yelling and hammering of your fist on the counter top. Well, that’s not true, where you are getting is escorted by security away from the gate. The truth is your cancelled or delayed flight, double booked seat, running late for the birth of your child is not the nice lady behind the counters fault. It’s not the mean lady behind the counters fault either, by the way.

9. Even more so: BE KIND. Have you ever worked a job in customer service? Remember those days where every single customer is a complete jerk. Go ahead and assume that whomever you are approaching for help has just trumped your worst day working at The Gap or Applebees. While a $40 sweeter or $8 burger and fries would make Scrooge flip his lid if they weren’t exactly what he wanted, please imagine what goes on when people are spending hundreds of dollars on travel arrangements.

The people who hold the “getting to your destination magic” have probably been screamed at, cursed at, threatened, overheard mumbles of name calling, and still had to go about their work without strangling anyone. Being kind helps- and it doesn’t just help you to get to where you want to be, it helps them to do their best, to improve their day, to carry on in their life with out wanting to hit someone in the face with a clip board.

Remember the last time a stranger asked you a genuine question and took the 90 seconds to really listen to the answer. Ask questions. Be genuine. Listen with sincerity. Compliment. Encourage. Smile. Change the world.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2010 6:26 am

    I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

  2. June 2, 2010 5:37 pm

    Good post full of reminders before I fly out to San Diego tomorrow! My step-dad instilled the “carry on a change of clothes and your toothbrush” lesson at a young age and it has helped me out many times. I haven’t had nearly the luck you’ve had but last summer I did have a flight canceled and could not get on a flight till 1 the next day. Instead, I got to the airport when it opened and waited at every flight by that airline going to where I was headed. I ended up on the first flight I tried as standby!! You never know! (OOh PS- once an unnamed relative lied and said she had a baby at home and needed to get back because she didn’t leave enough pumped breastmilk. It worked but OMG!)

  3. June 2, 2010 6:08 pm

    I love the reminder to be kind!! I am selling people education ($$$$). I take the mean students through the exact same process as the kind ones… but when it comes to the point where I may need to vouch for the student or speed up the process, I’m not only willing but HAPPY to go above and beyond the call of duty for the nice ones!

  4. June 2, 2010 7:37 pm

    AMEN! I’ve seen the A&E show at the airport and know that it can go smoothly or the hard way.

    And the stay in line and using the phone works wonders. I’ve had both happen.

  5. June 2, 2010 10:10 pm

    excellent reminders! i can’t stand when i see a mob of angry customers approach a desk, expecting something to be done when a flight gets canceled due to weather… do they expect the airline to magically part the clouds? 😛

  6. June 3, 2010 3:37 pm

    ah, these are all great! you are a wise sage of a traveler! 🙂

    I am a tense airplane traveler, and I prepare as if the worst will happen… so like you I have much more food than I usually need (good for snacks later on the trip!) and *GENERALLY* it seems like insurance for pretty smooth sailing…

    …but when things like delayed on cancelled flights, missed connections, rude people happen? Gaah, I lose it! 🙂 …I should print this list as my portable travel mantra.

    Kudos to your positive attitude + ingenuity… makes for a better day every time! 🙂

  7. June 5, 2010 8:29 am

    I’m traveling home Wednesday, so I will keep all of these things in mind. You never know, it could start snowing here. Ha. Seriously. At least I have a straight through flight..so I’m hoping for the best. But I’m suer I’m jinxed now. Thanks. 😉 p.s. I love that you labeled the one bag “snacks” in case you forget, heheheeh

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