Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Winter Escape Begins

Why Did It 
Have to Snow?

How to Avoid Stress of Winter Travel

You've booked your winter escape cruise months ago and the departure week has finally arrived.  Checking the weather forecast, you see that dreaded four letter word: SNOW !

This is the start of our mini-series Cruise Review of our 7 night voyage on Carnival Conquest.   Besides the obvious review of the ship, amenities, ports, food, etc., we'll also share our experiences and provide you with some advice and tips which hopefully will be useful in your future travel plans.

The Goal - Stress Free Vacation

Your daily life is filled with stress, so you want to get away from that when you head off on your vacation.  As we mentioned, that is the goal, and perhaps a lofty one at that, but let's see how one can cope with winter travels.

Winter Air Travel & Tips
  • Expect the unexpected
  • You are not in control
  • The airlines aren't in control either
  • Mother Nature is in charge
  • Add extra time and insure your trip  
  • Leave early in the day
  • Non-stop flights preferred
  • Monitor the situation and adjust plans if needed
Our Experience

We've already mentioned some key facts and tips, but let's take a closer look at our planning and how things played out.

We live in the Midwest (Chicago area), which typically has cold / snowy weather in February.   Our cruise departed Miami on Sunday, February 2nd, so the first ingredient to attempt a stress-free trip was to leave at least one day before the cruise.   We booked flights from O'Hare Saturday morning which would arrive late that afternoon.   Since we used frequent flyer miles to pay for our flights, we had connecting flights, which added another dimension to the stress level, but we were willing to accept that risk.

The National Weather Service predicted the snow storm would start Friday night and gradually get heavier with one of the peaks around mid-morning Saturday.   We could expect anywhere from 6 - 9 inches of snow when the storm ended around 6 PM Saturday.

Our flights were on United Airlines, which has its main hub at O'Hare.  That means there should be plenty of flights, some of which should get out.   Since our flight was scheduled to leave around 10 AM, we considered changing to an earlier departure. UAL had announced waivers of fees which would allow re-booking to avoid the storm without the usual heavy fees.  

We decided against changing because we looked at the origin of our flight and when it was scheduled to land in Chicago.   It was coming from San Francisco overnight and would be on the ground around 6 AM if on time.   Even if it were late, we had a four hour cushion before our departure time.

Another factor in not changing flights was the type of aircraft for our flight as well as the earlier ones.  Our plane was a Boeing 757 which has a large capacity while the earlier flights had much smaller Airbus A320 aircraft.   The final deciding factor was that our flight's destination was Houston International another one of UAL's hubs.   With all these factors, we figured that the airline would do everything possible to get our plane off the ground.

Click for Mini-Series Articles / Images
Fortunately, our thinking paid off.  We did get out on time - with about a 45 minute delay, after we pushed back from the gate, while the plane was de-iced (as you can see in the image above).   We had just enough time in Houston to get from our gate to the next one before they began boarding. 

In our next installment, we'll talk about our hotel stay in Miami.

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