Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Travel - Griswold Style

Howdy and Merry Christmas folks!

Kara Bahamas travel outfit.  In her defense, it was 40 degrees in Austin when we left.

As I'm writing this (Christmas morning 2014) Kara and I sitting in the beautiful and exotic Best Western in Dania Florida.  Our should be enjoying some coffee in the cockpit of our boat in the Jib Room marina at Marsh Harbour on Abaco, but United airlines intervened yesterday and we got stuck in Ft. Lauderdale last night.  Since a Chevy Chase style comedy of errors led to us being marooned here I just thought I'd share the details.

We had an early morning flight and since we moved out of the condo so it could be rented, we had an hour plus trip to the airport.  So, we got up at 4AM central, drove to the condo and parked (to save a couple weeks of parking fees) and grabbed a cap to the airport.  We got to the airport and breezed through security, thanks TSA pre-check (totally worth it BTW).  United had contacted us the night before and let us know that our flight was going to be delayed 20 minutes from the scheduled take-off but would make up time in the air, so we'd only be 4 minutes late...not bad.  We had an hour layover in Houston to make or flight to Florida so we should be good.  Well, it took them and extra 40 minutes to load the luggage (plane was at the gate the whole time so not sure why) but we ended up being an hour late...not good.

Of course since we wanted the cheapest seats possible, we where literally the last two people off the plane, so we sprinted through the airport with 60-100 lbs of carry-ons each to get to our gate. Rollers would have sure made life easier but they don't stow well on the boat and since we where spending a coupe weeks in the islands followed by a week+ passage around Florida and back to Texas, we where using soft sided duffles and backpacks.  Let me just say that nothing quit compares to trying to sprint through the Houston airport, huffing and puffing with huge heavy bags and generally looking like a total jack ass on Christmas eve morning.

So we arrive at the gate 9 minutes before actual take-off (we had less than 20 min when we FINALLY got off the plane). Score, we made it...what's that...we're too late and you gave away our seats and we can't get on?  C'mon man, it's Christmas Eve and this will mean we miss our connection in Florida and will have to stay overnight and travel Christmas day...the Grinch was not moved.

So, we head over to the customer service desk and as we're waiting in line are able to coax each other into calming down a bit and agree to be as nice as we possibly can to the poor soul stuck working the service desk on Christmas Eve day.  It's not her fault we're stuck.  So after we explain our plight she books us on the next flight to FLL and confirms that we'll be stuck overnight and on the afternoon flight to Marsh Harbour arriving 3PM Christmas day...not ideal but it is what it is.  So, of course you're going to put us up in a hotel for the night.  No sir, that's not covered.  At this point, I think I may have been SLIGHTLY bent out of shape and 'explained to her' that since they delivered us to Houston late, gave away our tickets and wouldn't allow us onto the plane, despite the fact that it was still at the gate when we arrived, caused us to miss our flight to Abaco...they WOULD be covering the hotel...or something to that affect.  She agreed and booked the voucher.

We then headed down to the nearest bar to wait for our next flight.  As we where waiting and still feeling a bit sorry for our failed plan to be in the Bahamas by night fall.  I headed down to the restroom to recycle a bit of ethanol, and on the way I see the departure board had several flights to Midland and thought to myself...hey at least we're not going to Midland.  I mean no offense to anyone in Midland at all, I've been there and it's fine...just not really my kind of place, and it just brought home the fact that Kara and I are still pretty darn lucky...most days.

Bloody Marys at IAH

So we arrive in FLL (about the same time we where originally planning to be arriving in Abaco, went to the ticketing desk and worked with an absolutely excellent customer service Rep (Thanks Kin E.) he booked our vouchers, called the hotel to reserve us a room, provided a warm hand-off to the folks over at Silver airlines (partner airline for the Bahamas flight).  Confirm we had seats and promised he would track down our checked bags and take care of them so we didn't have to pay to re-check them.  We then hiked down to meet the hotel shuttle, our driver (Jose) was super friendly and we where trying to get ourselves back into the Holiday spirit and make the best of things.

We walked into the hotel and up to the front desk to a super friendly front desk agent.  Explained who we where and handed over our voucher.  She, Kara and I then spent the next 45 minutes trying to iron out why the voucher was tied to a credit card that by hotels standards was expired (expiration date of 12/14).  In United's view that meant 12/31/14 in the hotel's view it meant 12/1/14, since it was the 24th, this was an issue.  Once we got in touch with the folks at the United desk in Lauderdale they where very helpful and tried to work it out to the best of there ability, even offering to do a direct billing with the hotel.  Unfortunately,  since United had outstanding bills from other customers the hotel wasn't interested in extending their credit.  United offered to put us up in another hotel, but we'd have to go back to the airport and start the whole process over again...we declined.  $100 later we had our room for the night.

After dragging our stuff into the room all we wanted to do was pee and find some dinner and booze for the night.  So I hit the restroom and guess what...the toilet wouldn't flush.  So found a restroom in the lobby, notified the front desk and hiked out for a fabulous Christmas Eve TGI Fridays.  Of course it rained on us as we where walking the 15 minutes to the restaurant but at least we where outside.  We had a decent dinner and then sat at the bar for a few drinks and decompressed a bit.  We then called the hotel and Jose came to pick us up in the van, thanks again rock.

As we walked into the hotel we realized they actually sold beer and wine in the lobby, so we grabbed a few and Juanita at the front desk, even comp'd us a beer on the house.  These folks really where super friendly.  So we went up to the room, broke out the trusty ipad and proceeded to watch A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas...since we could relate to there luck.

This (Christmas) morning, we got up headed down to enjoy the buffet breakfast (Waffles and coffee) and now it's time to get our stuff together and head back to the airport.  Hoping our next entry will be from Abaco...and that we're able to find an open grocery store on the way to the marina.  Not likely, so we're thankful we have a cooler backpack with some frozen stuff to help get us by for the next day or two if needed.

Wish us luck, and see y'all soon.


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