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Suburban Island

Vacation Devastation
Sunday, Aug. 15, 2004, 11:47 a.m.

QUESTION: Guess who is not in Orlando on Vacation?

WHAT I LEARNED: Some places have hurricane seasons.

I am not in Orlando today. I am not kickin' it with Mickey and Minnie. I am not chillin' in my one-week-in-paradise crib while I bask in the adulation of my family and listen to their ceaseless repetition of the statement- thanks mom for planning this awesome vacation - you're the best. There was none of that to be had yesterday morning at all. Similarly, today there are no overwhelming spans of palm trees, overheated streams of sunshine, or overpriced selections of park food to be found. Instead, there was some unnecessary air travel yesterday morning thanks to a nameless and almost bankrupt airline, endless suitcase lugging, hastily purchased carryout Chinese food for lunch, a few hour nap grabbed in the afternoon, and a 11th hour vacation rescue strategy quickly devised that at this hour has been successfully put in place.

Such a positive resolution to the vacation devastation hardly would have seemed possible just 24 hours earlier. It’s always a rough road to getting a family on the path to family vacation fun. On Friday, I stayed up all night to get us all ready for the big trip to the sunshine state. There is always packing to finish and last minute arrangements and a checklist of tasks to complete. Suddenly however, there was more. There were weather channel updates to watch, regular calls to the airline to make, and constant family consultations regarding what to do about the Florida trip, facing me as well.

I tried to sort it all out ahead of time. Common sense says don’t fly into a national disaster zone for your vacation. Right up until the last minute I was working the phones trying to get a sensible answer from the three components that made up the heart of our trip – the airline, the resort, and the Mouse. No such luck was forthcoming to me – the mom responsible for pulling off the fun family vacation. The resort told me Friday afternoon - we have our own generators. That's good if I am already down there in the middle of a major storm but how exactly does that create a vacation mood for me pre-departure? At 3:00 AM or so, I called to check on The Mouse and the parks and they say - we’re open for business as usual tomorrow and by the way…have a magical day. Reality check needed in Aisle 5. The airline says - we're going on schedule. Ouch – that really hurt. By this time, I’m thinking as any rational person might - can’t you just cancel our flights into a hurricane and tornado zone so we can stay on the ground and piece our vacationing lives back together again - after I get myself a few hours of sleep? Evidently not. The airline was adamant – we’re flying.

So what could we do but get all our bags and non-refundable tickets to Orlando via a connection in Charlotte, NC together and drive to the airport? Nothing. So that's what we did. Everyone was grouchy. Everyone was tired. However, the airport is like a dream. No one is there, we get the fastest curbside luggage check-in ever, and we are down at our gate sipping coffee in no time. Of course, all the coffee does is enhance the grouchy, tired, whiny side of all involved – except my son, who is like a trained arbitrator or union negotiator. In the end, I stalked off in tears to the lady’s room feeling very unappreciated. The fact was that even though traveling to Orlando was nutty, if we didn’t travel, we’d lose our airfares because the airline couldn’t re-book us on another flight until at least late Monday - which was worthless to us. Somehow I felt responsible for this family catastrophe.

So we had to take a flight to Charlotte, NC and then we had to fly right back home again because - just as any thinking person would realize in the first place – the flight to Orlando was indeed cancelled. Thank you almost-bankrupt airline for making us fly around all morning when you could have just figured this one out before ever stepping foot on the first plane and given us a voucher or refund right from the get-go.

While standing in line at the airline service counter, I devised – out of true desperation – another vacation plan. It was one I had considered late the night before, as a back up plan to our Orlando trip so I knew it would work. The answer was the beach. The weather was good there and it was a drive, not a flight, to get to our destination. I pitched it to my son, who was feeling pretty devastated about the no-Florida-trip situation and still determined to find a way to make it work. I said – we’ll reschedule our Orlando trip for later in the year when it’s cold and the sunshine will be really nice AND we’ll go to the beach for a few days back home instead. It took a moment to sink in but then this solution took and everyone was satisfied.

I began to realize that even though this was an unbelievably stressful and disappointed day, in the end I was winding up with something that I really wanted and was feeling deprived about – our annual trip to the beach. I am going to get my week of peace and quiet at the beach after all. God does work in mysterious ways.

Yesterday my son got on the web and did some beach rental research. This morning we lucked out and were able to book an oceanfront condo that someone else hadn’t show up to claim. It’s reasonable. It’s a great location. And we leave tomorrow.

Crisis averted. We are now officially going on vacation. Again.

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