Saturday, September 13, 2014

15 weeks.

Traveling on vacation... (aka world worst traveling compliments of United Airlines.)

I decided I wanted to travel to MN this fall to see family and to announce the pregnancy of #5 in person. I found I could do it mostly on travel points on the credit card if I was willing to travel at some less than ideal hours with a layover each direction. Feeling that by the time I was 12 weeks along I'd be able to handle it just fine, I purchased my tickets.

 Since we were scheduled to arrive in MN at 10:45 PM, I decided to book a hotel through Expedia  to spend the night. Mom would pick me up the next morning. Wanting to save money, I choose the cheapest hotel that was "guaranteed" to have a shuttle.

Again wanting to avoid spending extra money. we decided that Rick would drop us off and pick us up from the airport. In order to do that, the kids and I had to ride in with him to work and then come back and pick him up so he could drop us off at the airport and he could take the van home. (Is that confusing enough?) We were out the door about 6:20 AM. Got home by 8 AM. Spent the next 2 1/2 hours trying to leave the house in reasonable condition and I tried to rest knowing the day would be long.
Picking Rick up and being dropped off at the airport was uneventful as was the first flight. Our scheduled 3 hour layover was going to give us plenty of time to find our next flight and eat supper.

Turns out that even though both gates were in the B concourse in Denver it took a good 20 min to walk from point A to point B.  Along the way we hunted for a place to eat supper finally deciding on pizza hut for the kids and a sandwich and fries (kids ate almost all of those) for mommy.

While waiting for our connecting flight to land, my kids found a grandmotherly lady in her late 60's who thought they were adorable and visited with them until our next flight.

 Here came the first hitch. A "minor" maintenance problem was identified and would be fixed shortly. That shortly turned into an additional 2 hour layover. I was quite wilted by the time we finally boarded our replacement plane from Wichita. I put the 2 older girls behind me. Sitting next to them was a daddy of a 4 year old and an 8 year old. He entertained them very well explaining to them how to flap their wings to help launch the plane.
Lucas sat in front of me. Emmy was with me. Beside me sat a mommy who's babies were in their teens but she LOVED babies. She and Emmy entertained each other very nicely until Emmy went to sleep as did the other 3. Smooth sailing until landing. Then Abby started to toss and turn and cry. She couldn't wake up enough to realize that her ears were hurting and that the man next to her had asked permission to give her gum to take care of it. Finally I  turned around and lifted her over the seat into the seat next to me to wake her up enough to chew the gum which did work. Simultaneously, Emmy started crying cause her ears were hurting. Fortunately, we still nurse a little bit so that took care of her ears.
We landed at 12:30 and we made our way towards baggage claim and to find our shuttle. There was no shuttle. 6 miles and $22.50 later a taxi dropped us off at our not so nice hotel. After checking in, I was directed to take my 6 bags and 4 tired children across the parking lot and up to the third floor via stairs to go to bed. Finally to bed at 1:30 AM. That was only the trip going there. And I thought that was bad. The trip home was 10 times worse!
The return trip: Mom was wanting to do a few special things for us on the way to the airport so we stopped at Taco Bell for lunch ( bought enough for supper too) then Culvers for their yummy creamy ice cream.
 She was a little concerned we might be slowed down with traffic and was in a hurry.
Suddenly I heard throwing up  sounds from the back seat. I had brought a bucket with us cause Abri was "off her feed" that day and I wanted to be prepared just in case. Well lets just say that the bucket caught the last little bit as we pulled off the busy interstate to clean her and the van up. (Some nice man stopped during the midst of it to make sure everything was ok.) Fortunately mom had a garbage bag that I was able to put soiled clothes in and she took over cleaning up the seat so I wouldn't be sick the rest of the day from doing it. (What a considerate mom I have )

Arriving at the airport I rented a smarte carte and loaded all our stuff onto it, kissed mom good-bye promising to let her know when we had arrived home. The security people were so nice, allowing us to take the cart all the way to our gate. How easy.
 The flight was uneventful and short.

Then came Denver.... Again! Only an hour layover meant we pretty much needed to find our gate and not make any pit stops nor dawdle.  We boarded in a timely manner and sat and sat and sat. Finally the pilot came on the intercom to tell us that they had identified an maintenance issue and the mechanics had been called and we should just sit tight and see what they had to say. In the mean time, my natives were growing restless from sitting without going anywhere.

The Pilot come back on the intercom to tell us that the plane was grounded and we would have to deplane and collect all our luggage that had been checked at the gate and wait while another plane was pulled from the hanger for us.
During that time, I had turned off my phone. Rick tried to call me to tell me that the transmission had gone out on the van when he tried to leave from work and that he had gotten a rental van and would be picking us up in that. Ughhh... Can't get any worse, right? Wrong!

We boarded the replacement plane and sat and sat and sat. The pilot came on the intercom, "Well folks, you aren't going to believe this... We have identified another minor maintenance issue. The good news is that if it can't be fixed, we'll over-ride it manually and can fly anyway. We are awaiting the mechanics." 20 min later that problem was fixed. YEAH!

The plane backed up maybe 100 feet and stopped. We sat and sat and sat. Again the pilot, "You won't believe this folks, another maintenance issue. We have called the mechanics." We sat and sat and sat while waiting for them to show up. Shortly after they showed up we were told the plane wouldn't be flying that night and that was the last back up plane.

 All 4 of my kids were sacked out. How was I going to manage 4 sleeping children and 5 carry-ons.  Against my will the tears began seeping out. People were offering to get my carry-ons down and attempted to wake my kids. The kids kept crying and trying to crawl back into the corners of their seats. We were the last ones off the plane.

  Abrianna curled up in the middle of the jet way as we waited for our checked at the gate baggage. Abby just cried. Another mommy offered the usage of her jog stroller to allow her to sleep till we got up to customer service. People helped carry bags and push the stroller.  I unloaded my bags and 3 children unto a heap on the floor to sleep while I stood in line with a sleeping Emmy in my "pack pack."

The attendant asked if it was just me and my baby. "No, its 5 tickets" I sighed" Consequently I was the last one with a hotel booked, meal vouchers, and a new flight schedule. The attendant proudly handed them to me with direction on how to find the shuttle. "Ummmm... Wait a minute!" I said, "Can you get a golf cart or something like that? I have 5 bags and 4 sleeping kids and I'm pregnant." "Well, its not far and they can't really drive a cart through those areas." she sweetly replied. "But I can't manage 4 sleeping cranky kids and 5 bags that far. If they were awake it wouldn't be a problem. They would help with the bags." I firmly replied. " Ok, let me see what I can do." she said heading back into her office for another 15 minutes. " I have somebody coming with a wheelchair to help you out," she said.

Another 15 minutes passed. A lady came pushing a wheel chair across the mostly deserted airport. We loaded Abrianna and Abby unto the chair stuffing baggage underneath. I shouldered a bag and led a sleep walking Lucas after the quickly walking lady down elevators, on a tram and finally out to the shuttle area. No shuttle. No answer at the phone number. Then we see the correct shuttle drive up. She ran out the door to flag them down. Oh how grateful I was to have everything  and everybody loaded.
Wooley's was a Castle hotel. Amazing.We had a view of the indoor stream with coy fish and real tree from our room. The beds were covered in down with 6 pillow each. The bathroom was granite and marble with a large jetted tub. Amazing. Only too short. We were there from 12:30 AM to 4:40 AM.

My night was interrupted, first Emmy wouldn't settle down for an hour. Second Rick called at 2:30 to find out what had happened to us. (The flight info said that our plane was to hand at 12:20 AM. Then it disappeared off the screen. He was able to talk to someone from another airline behind the desk who saw it had been canceled. He arrived at home immediately calling me to see where we were and when to expect us.) I groggily answered the questions turning off my dying phone. ( My charger was in my checked bag somewhere at the airport) and tried to catch a little more rest so I could get us where we needed to be.
All too soon, the phone rang to wake me up and roust everybody from their beds.  (I had made sure they were dressed and the bags pack and on the cart before we had gone to bed.) After a quick turn in the bathroom we loaded back onto the shuttle to  return to the airport.

The smarte carte idea  worked great in Minneapolis so I'd give it a try again. Getting through check in and checking the bag was easy. At the TSA security we hit a snag. "That cart can't come in here. You can't even take it through line. You must leave it right here. " So everybody grabbed their assigned bag and moved forward. A young man was assigned to help us through and soon we were on the other side making our way to the tram to get to the correct concourse.
With the gate in sight, Lucas had to use the bathroom RIGHT NOW so the girls and I sank down on some seats to wait. That's when some fellow passengers from the cancelled flight walked up and asked what they could do to help. I explained that to them I was waiting for my boy so I could leave him with the luggage and older girls so I could walk back and use my vouchers to purchase breakfast. " Please let me do that for you. " she said. I could've cried I was so grateful. Her husband stayed to chat while she went to track down bagels, juice, and granola bars.
The flight left on time, was empty and so accommodating.  Each of the older three had there own 3 chair row. They had snacks ( United doesn't give out snacks). They gave the kids coloring books and crayons. How great was that!
Landing in Seattle I found our gate, left the oldest two there with luggage and took the younger two to Wendys to purchase an early lunch. I now know why it took the fellow passenger so long to bring the breakfast back. Vouchers take awhile to process.
Abby helped carry our baked potatoes and fries. I manned the overfilled dripping frosties and another bag. Pre-boarding was happening. Another passenger who also had 4 kids ( not with her) helped me wrangle everything and everybody out to the plane. I was so grateful. We had 2 flights of stairs to get down with carry-ons and kids and dripping frosties.
The flight into Pasco was booked to the gills. A man who was in one of our assigned seat reluctantly moved. I put Emmy between Lucas and I and started messing with preparing foods to hand out to my kids. The stewardess firmly told me that Emmy HAD to be buckled or we were not taking off. (All the other flights she was allowed to sit on my lap.) Lucas moved to a vacant seat a few rows back and I placed her in the seat next to me buckling her in. She loved to buckle and unbuckle the strap. But the stewardess wouldn't have appreciated it so I spent the majority of the short flight keeping her buckled.
I noticed Abri was looking a little green around the gills so handing her the bucket I unbuckled and stepped across the aisle to turn both air vents on her. The stewardess firmly told me to sit down and buckle up as the seat belt sign was on. (It wasn't turned off on the flight cause it was short.) I told her my little girl thought she was gonna throw up and I was trying to prevent it. The stewardess wasn't impressed.
Thankfully we landed shortly thereafter and trooped off to collect bags and find blessed daddy! He loaded kids in the car, collected bags. I made my way to the one restaurant in the Pasco airport to cash out all the remainder food vouchers. Then home.
I caught a quick nap ,before Rick and I returned the rental back to the airport.
Bed welcomed me at 7:00. I have decided I will NEVER fly united again if its in my power to avoid it.