Tuesday Travel Trouble: Trip Swap

Today we continue with our Tuesday Travel Trouble series, today highlighting a travel-gone-wrong experience from guest writer, Kristy Taylor.  WARNING! What Kristy has attempted (and accomplished) in redeeming her almost-failed trip is NOT for the faint of heart—and it’s definitely impressive.  If you have experiences of travels gone awry that you’d be interested in sharing, send them our way at news@familyexplorers.com.

For Christmas 2010, we had planned to take our four children, ages 3, 7, 10, and 13, for a week in London.  We booked a great place that would fit us all in Belgravia, for a great price, we did all our homework, we bought BritRail passes and plane tickets, we skipped all the Christmas shopping because this was everyone’s Christmas present.  Then things started to unravel.  On Friday, one day before departure, our seven-year-old daughter broke her foot in a freak pogo-stick injury, resulting in a walking boot and crutches.  Then on Saturday, London was buried in a crazy, once-a-decade snowstorm—airport closed (off and on), flights cancelled.  We checked our flight out of DFW, and it was still scheduled, so we packed all we would need for a family of six for a week overseas, and headed to the airport.  After checking in—and checking all our bags (sometimes a necessity when you travel with youngsters)—we waited at the gate . . . for the flight to be cancelled.   Then it was back to baggage claim and four hours later, back home with a car full of frustrated, disappointed kids and parents. 

Once we got home and the kids were settled, it was time for parent-brainstorming.  What to do, what to do?  We could not get out until Tuesday afternoon, missing four days of our week in London.  Do we go late and try to re-arrange our flight home? No, that wasn’t going to work—the airlines were swamped with people doing the same thing.  We weren’t going to make it for Christmas.  We had no Christmas presents, nothing planned at all for the week because we were supposed to be away; we had to go somewhere. By about 9 pm, my husband and I had decided that if you can’t go to Europe for Christmas, what’s the next best thing? Disneyland, of course.  We had been planning to go to Disneyland for spring break, three months later, so we would just flip-flop our trips.  But now to make it happen.  I had a lot of phone calls and Internet searches to get started. 

The first call was to American Airlines to tell them that instead of going on Tuesday, we wanted to go in March.  They were very accommodating, they knew all about the weather problems, obviously, and changed our week in December to a week in March, no charge.  Next was to call the hotel.  Were they ever the star of the show!  We had already paid for our week, and they didn’t HAVE to switch us to a different week.  I got them on the phone and explained—obviously they also knew about the weather problems.  They charged us a small fee, which we were very willing to pay, and switched us to the week in March.  Kudos to B+B Belgravia for being so helpful and understanding.  (By the way, they are a great, very economical choice for families, in a great spot.  We had a little apartment at their attached location, Studios@82.  Feels a little like sleeping in an Ikea, very sparse and not the most comfortable beds, but perfect for our family of 6.)

Our BritRail tickets hadn’t been activated yet, so those could just wait for our trip in March; no money wasted there.  For those not familiar, you buy a pass for a particular area (in our case a London Plus) for a certain number of days of travel.  We had chosen three out of seven, meaning that once we took our first train journey—not Underground, but rail—the pass was stamped and activated and we could now travel as much as we wanted for three out of the next seven days.

Celebrating SPRINGTIME in London at St. James’s Park

Celebrating SPRINGTIME in London at St. James's Park

So that half of the trip was now untangled.  Next to deal with: Disney. 

It was now late Saturday night, and we needed plane tickets to California on Monday. We decided we’d also spend a couple of days in San Diego, which gave us several airports to choose from:  San Diego, LAX, John Wayne (in Orange County), Long Beach, or Ontario, all within an easy drive of Disneyland, and all with a nonstop flight from DFW.  We ended up finding flights into Long Beach, and at a reasonable price, especially considering it was now 36 hours away and the week of Christmas.  While I was booking flights, my husband was renting a minivan.  All done. 

Next, the hotels.  I am a sucker for Disney.  I like it every bit as much as the kids for all their same reasons and more.  They know what they’re doing and they do it so well.  Not cheaply, but so well.  They are clean, efficient, and dedicated to making sure you have a great vacation.  I called them next and got us adjoining rooms at the Disneyland hotel (they guarantee adjoining rooms, one of the benefits of staying with an operation so accustomed to dealing with families).  The only piece of the puzzle that didn’t work out as well was the hotel in San Diego.  There just weren’t a lot of options left for the location we wanted.  It was ok, not great, and we were just grateful to have something worked out.  By midnight I was in bed (I could have used a Valium with all the adrenaline—aka panic—I had in my system trying to figure out this mess, but I settled for a Tylenol pm and called it quits), ready to get up the next morning and unpack then repack everyone’s suitcases.

This trip also turned out great for another reason, a real blessing in disguise.  Our third child, the one on crutches, would have been hobbling around a big city, in the snow, up and down the stairs to the Tube, on a sore foot in a cast, for a week, not a pretty picture.  With the switch to Disneyland, she was in a wheelchair—free of charge, they had one at the hotel for her to check out—in one of the most handicap-accessible places on earth, with every Disney character and cast member in the park stopping to say hello to her.  It really could have gone the other way, but with a little flexibility, creative thinking, and our best manners, we managed to save the family Christmas vacation. 

Kristy’s trip swap worked out for a few key reasons:

  • The weather was so unusually bad in London that the airlines and the hotel on that end were very willing to help out. This likely would not have been the case if they’d been trying to reschedule for a different reason, but it never hurts to ask.  And because Disney is Disney and is always nice, they were willing to accommodate.
  • Since Kristy and family already had another trip in the works, with a little creativity and flexibility on their part, they were able to swap the vacations fairly quickly.
  • Kristy and her husband were nice to the people helping them make these changes; they knew they were at the mercy of the agent on the other end of the phone, so even though they were so tired and frustrated and anxious about the details all working out, they tried their best to be patient while begging for help.
  • And lastly—let’s be honest, this trip swap was not for the faint of heart.  Kristy knows the ropes of family travel and was courageous enough to try such a crazy idea as swapping trips in real-time. Not everyone may be up to this, but if you’re comfortable enough talking with folks on the phone, you know your way around the Internet, you already have a plan in mind—you may be able to pull it off, as well!

What do you all think?  Could you handle such a swap and all of the last-minute planning?  Quite the feat!!

1 reply
  1. Pheobe
    Pheobe says:

    Total kudos to them for thinking on their feet. How horrid would it have been if they hadn’t figured out a good alternative? Instead of ruining their Christmas, it was probably one of the most memorable ones they have had!


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