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The time the Polar Vortex made me rethink my travel plans

As you get older, a lot of things change. I won’t go through this exhausting list right now but where travel is concerned, for me it boils down to being more “gun shy.” By this I mean to say that I’m more apprehensive where booking trips are concerned.

See, the thing is I work full-time and unlike awesome places like ahem, Europe and Australia (and I think even our neighbor to the north is included in this), I don’t have ridiculous amounts of time off. So I’m not embellishing when I say that I truly “ration” my paid time off, making sure that I use it most judiciously to make it last the whole year and not be “out” by May. 
While I had every intention of planning a trip to Seattle next month, factors that would be outside of my control ultimately swayed me in the direction of not doing so. The amount of (cool) places you can fly to direct from Pittsburgh’s airport, well, you can count them on two hands (no joke just about).  Seattle of course is a destination you can’t fly direct from here so it would have meant connections through either Chicago’s O’Hare, Newark, or Washington’s Dulles airport, or going somewhat out of the way by flying south and connecting through Houston. I had come to terms with a slightly longer transit day by going to Houston only to discover that my flight options coming back were less than desirable (arriving in Pittsburgh at midnight local time-no thanks). 
Then a pretty major thing called the “Polar Vortex” happened that truly made me completely rule out the idea of doing a cross-country trip in a long weekend and connecting in an airport like Chicago’s that is almost always backed up on a good day…on a bad day it can be a nightmare. If everything were to go according to plan I would have no problem flying all the way to Seattle, Washington AND connecting, all in the span of a long weekend but with travel, nothing ever goes completely to plan. So I really didn’t want to chance fate with my first trip to Seattle and have it potentially ruined or marred by the travel gods (some of my worst flight delays have been at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport including the time that we boarded a plane there only to be told moments later by the captain that we needed to get off it by the captain. The entire time we were waiting, the flight was listed as being ON-TIME. I’m not joking when I say this really happened and it basically came down to the airport calling some flight attendant who was not supposed to be on duty to come down to O’Hare for the quick flight to Pittsburgh.

I’ve gone on long flights during winter-Madrid, Costa Rica, London. But all of these were when I was in college, in a time that if my flight was delayed or even cancelled, and I lost a day here or there, it wouldn’t have mattered. Not to mention, the flights to Madrid and Costa Rica were both direct (oh how I miss living in a  city whose airport flies to countless international destinations direct). 

Last week consisted of me throwing about ideas on where we could possibly go next month. I’ve been to Chicago multiple times in February (ironic yes considering its the coldest place to visit), and done trips to Cleveland and Washington D.C., all fun, but this year I was looking for something more. Although I had been researching a short Disney cruise to go on, I wasn’t looking until later this year, simply because cruise fares during hurricane season are always a bargain. But I found a three night cruise on the Disney line to be just about perfect. It’s on a ship I haven’t been on yet (the Magic) and luckily for me, it’s the one that was refurbished last fall so you know everything will be in tip top shape along with some new features.

The last time I traveled somewhere warm and tropical during winter was almost ten years ago. I’ll never forget spending a weekend in February at a beach in Costa Rica where the temperatures were in the 90s (F). Especially considering that the week before in Philadelphia I had been wearing a winter coat.  But next month I’ll have that experience again where I’ll get to experience “summer” in “winter.”

I have every intention of making it to Seattle this year…I’d just prefer to travel there when at least the weather gods would be more in my favor.

Anyone else traveling somewhere this winter?

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  • Reply
    January 20, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I hope you make it to Seattle! However, I completely understand the flight situation. My friend’s parents were going to come out for a week and then the “polar vortex” happened. They were delayed and could not get reschedule until 4 days later, which meant they would only have 2 days total. Instead, they decided to not travel at all. I absolutely avoid Chicago O’Hare airport at all cost while flying back to the east coast!

    I would love to take advantage of a flight to Hawaii, but it may have to wait until next year.

    • Reply
      Julie Tulba
      January 21, 2014 at 3:14 am

      I’m sorry to hear about the disappointing news with your friend’s parents. But yes, that was exactly what I was afraid of. I did however buy travel insurance for our cruise next month…I think it’s the first time I’ve ever done this. But two years ago we had reservations to go to Chicago for a long weekend. Less than a week before we were to go they received the biggest blizzard they had had in over a decade. All week long I was on pins and needles wondering if our trip would happen (I hadn’t bought insurance). Thankfully it did!

      We connected thru O’Hare coming back from Hawaii and thankfully everything was right on time (a blessing since we had already been up all night traveling). Although yes, plenty of times there have been so many delays, always at the end of the trip when I just want to get home!

      I’m hoping there comes up some incredible flight deal to Hawaii for you at some point this year, as in one too good to pass up 🙂

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