Tripped Up: Channeling the Griswolds

We've been talking about our upcoming vacation for a few weeks now. Just the five of us; a vacation without any of the usual supporting characters. This was gonna be A-MAZING!

Packed and ready for a 4:30am departure from the house, we were prepped to catch a 6am flight from our little local airport, expecting to be sipping Pina Coladas on the beach by 12:30pm while we waited for our rooms.  Depending on your perspective, everything went downhill from there, and it tested every single one of us right up until we sat down for a 11:30pm dinner just a few blocks from our final destination. The theme song from Vacation went through my head several times this day.

First, let's just say that a 4am wake-up does not make for many happy travelers in our home…except for Mr. Bigstuff - he regularly rises at 4:30 or 5:00am, and so his role began with the gentle prodding of the rest of us to ensure we made our flight. Bless my handsome early riser.

The poor TSA agent handling re-checks was clearly working beyond a level humanly possible, hustling bags on and off the conveyor at the pace of the road-runner. Two of us got pulled…and I missed the bin where he had placed my newly minted Kindle Paperwhite, purchased weeks before, specifically for this trip, beach-proof and loaded with literature to delight my fancy. I noticed this, of course, once we were on the plane, still sleep-deprived and  completely devoid of flexible thinking. It wasn't pretty. My clients might have delighted in witnessing this moment. Coach Kate was on struggle street. I required a lot of deep breaths to let go of the fact that Mr B, who valiantly tried, was unable to retrieve my device. The flight attendant who also volunteered "I can typically get these for passengers” returned empty-handed. I hope it is still sitting in the possession of TSA when we return on Saturday. Minor hiccup, right? Fasten your seat-belts, here comes some turbulence.

Our connection at Philly was T-I-G-H-T…one hour, no room for error, and likely requiring a sprint from Concourse F to A (if you haven't been through this airport, imagine a bus ride followed by zigzagging through several hallways). Our 6am departure, promptly grounded for weather, left at 7:18am. We landed at Philadelphia Airport(PHL) and arrived at concourse A/B just in time to watch our connecting flight depart at 8:10. Mr. B got busy working the system and figured out our next connecting option: 10 hours in the Philadelphia airport. He was displeased. My capacity for flexible thinking, however, had returned - how can we make the most of this unexpected layover?

  • Option (A): leave the airport to spend a few hours channeling our best Rocky Balboa

  • Option (B) stay the airport and find something to occupy our day.

  • Option (C): stay the night in Philly and leave first thing in the morning, delaying the beach time by 24 hours from our original timeline.

With no lockers to store our carry-ons, the kids shot down option A - lugging laptops and duffle bags was not appealing and when navigating 5 brains before 9am I decided to let this one go. No one wanted option (C) as it was NOT beachy, tropical or immediate, and so we searched for the #goodstuff in option (B). I always talk about “plan B” with my clients, and ours included a lot of waiting.

Waiting can be hard for the most put together of humans. It was in this waiting that I found a magical moment: for 4 solid hours I witnessed the beauty of all three children reading and napping while I caught up with a grade school chum - those with ADDers who struggle in any reading capacity will get “all the feels” from this statement.

Philadelphia airport, I am sad to report, is not anywhere you might want to get stranded. During our extended stay in PHL, we were searching for power outlets that actually worked and food that tasted decent enough to consume. Even the Philly cheese steaks were bad here. I am incredibly happy that I am taking the train to the CHADD Conference this November.

While Mr B was stirring, my inner voice came back online: "What is currently within your control?" I called the tour company to reschedule our excursion for later in the week , ordered a replacement Kindle to be shipped to the hotel, and called our diversion a win. It had to be all downhill from here, right? I was determined to live out my fantasy of reading with waves in sight.

Landing a mere 11 hours later than expected, exhausted and starving…to a room that smelled like moldy/musty carpeting, there was a lot of tension in the hour that ensued. Most restaurants were closed for the night, our room made my nose stuffy, and everyone was beat. Mr. B blew a now short fuse. Bling was hangry and talking non-stop. The Emperor was tired of making decisions - he just wanted someone to create a plan that everyone would follow. The Professor was holding it in. I just needed allergy meds and for all of my people to stop yelling. This was not the idyllic vacation we had imagined.

 We dropped our bags, stumbled into a restaurant and ordered beyond the capacity of our stomachs. The Professor finally confessed that he was sick of everyone's grumbling and inability to shift with the day's mishaps. We ate, crawled into bed, and hoped that day #2 would represent more of the vacation that we had painted in our minds.

Here's what I know: we made it, even if the path was long and frustrating. Tomorrow we could start fresh, with rested brains, an open schedule, and warm sunshine on our backs. In the spirit of Clark Griswold, I was 98% certain that this vacation was going to get better.*

 *UPDATE: A new morning and a sweeter approach landed us a complimentary upgrade to a new room, devoid of mold/mildew. Marriott truly rose to the occasion for a loyal customer. Here’s to surf, sand, and sunshine!


Kate Barrett