Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Part 1: Home for the Holidays - Lessons in Travel

Gone are the days of a quick weekend home to enjoy family time for Christmas.  We now live almost as far away as one possibly can.  Many a friends we've met up here chose to not go home for the holidays...of which I thought was sad and not an option for Matt and I...and until this point could not understand their decision.  We planned early and purchased a couple flights (on miles we had been saving) to go back for about 12 days - 2 days to travel and 5 days with each family.  (It is a good thing we are planners, since had we waited until last minute, flights had rocketed to $1400+ to Dallas. Ridiculous.)

We were both incredibly excited to get back to the South to see family and friends we have missed since our move in June.

The interesting thing about not being able to drive to your destination is that you really have to plan out how you are going to get all luggage and presents to and from.  As we were Christmas shopping, we were consciously choosing gifts that weren't bulky and could squeeze into our suitcase.  In addition to asking for items on our Christmas list that were small and could easily be transported back.  (Unfortunately, another large duffel bag had to be added to our collection of luggage on our return flight.) Another downside is that TSA does not allow packages to be wrapped in checked luggage (as they warn they may have to unwrap them to check contents...possibly just for their own enjoyment), so all that cute wrapping paper I had purchased on clearance last year is still sitting under the bed unused. 

We headed out on a red eye (I'm learning I despise those) from Anchorage, hit up Seattle, Phoenix, Denver, Wichita, and Oklahoma City...before arriving at our final destination.  Sounds thrilling, huh?  Though it was actually smooth and filled with so much anticipation and excitement, we were oblivious to all the layovers and airport food.

Due to the fact that I took basically zero pictures and relying on others to send me photography, I have little to document at this point. However we had a great time at NCAA basketball games, attending Gaylord ICE exhibit, having a Gingerbread house competition, eating, sleeping, laughing, and just spending quality time with friends and family we have missed.

All was well until it was time to head back to Alaska.

We drive 2 hours from Matt's folks house and arrive at the Tulsa airport, check our luggage, board the plane and head towards the runway.

That's when things start heading downhill.

Then the pilot announces, "There's a storm in Houston and all incoming aircraft have been banned from landing at this point. We will wait it out and get back to you." 

Almost 2 hours pass on the runway...

Pilot again, "We have been instructed to head back to the gate and deboard the plane and await further news."

At this point our connecting flight in Houston had been missed.  We both were scheduled to work in the morning back in Anchorage (since we had already been gone almost 2 weeks) and I was bummed we might arrive a few hours later than I thought.

Several more hours passed while people hunted for available flights for us...there are only so many flights a day to Anchorage and not many (if any) direct flights at this point in the year - of which everything was completely full already, as you can for the Tulsa airport people getting us all the way up there was a challenge.  They looked through every city in the lower 48, Hawaii, even overseas.  The highlight was when we were told there was an availability to Asia...but it would still land us back into Alaska about a week later. UGH.

We waited and waited... and finally received flights on the SEVENTH OF JANUARY!! That, ladies and gentlemen, is nine days after our initial anticipated arrival!  That's the best they could do - so we were told.

After much debate and frustration and another night in Oklahoma, we decided to get on any available flights and head as north as possible and get as close we we could...being wait listed on hopes that someone else's misfortune would free up a couple seats for us to get home. 

We flew from Tulsa to Houston to Portland to Seattle...and with God watching over us, finally to Anchorage.  Surprisingly only a day later.

As wonderful a time it was back at home with family and the 80 degree weather, maybe next year the "Christmas season" will be celebrated a few weeks before or after December 25th.

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