I had an amazing time at #DisneySMMC but I’ll post about that another day. Instead, I’m writing about my trip home while it’s still fresh in my mind. On Saturday, while I enjoyed some much needed rest and relaxation on Disney’s private island Castaway Cay, a cloud still loomed in my mind.
My four year old daughter and I scheduled a flight home for 12 noon the next day. I figured that was enough time to get to the airport (it was) but had a growing concern about the potential blizzard moving into Boston, our destination. As the title would indicate, we ended up delayed. Here’s how we made our decisions and dealt with the interruption.
Debarking the Disney Wonder
Just a quick note, a 12 noon flight would have been no problem getting off the Disney Wonder. It’s a small ship and even though it was mostly full, we were off by 8 AM and on a bus by 8:10.
On board airline check in rules: you put your checked baggage out with tags by 10:30 PM the night before and then pick them up in your home airport. We had nothing to declare so pretty much walked straight through customs. We were at the airport before 9:00 AM and I joked that it was the earliest I’ve ever been at the airport for a flight (it is, as far as I can remember).
Going to be three hours early for a flight for the first time in my life thanks to @DisneyCruise transportation
— Joe Cheung (@asthejoeflies) February 12, 2017
One final point, the checkout checklist said that for flights before 12 noon you need to be off the boat by 8 AM or else they’ll pull your bags. Didn’t stick around long enough to find out but it’s something worth noting.
Delay 1: IRROPS
Being three hours early for a flight was a very foreign experience for me. Luckily we ran into Leslie from Trips with Tykes – her daughter V and M had bonded quite a bit on the trip. Everything seemed all good as the two kids celebrated their favorite part of the cruise:
Then at around 10 AM I got a text from Delta saying our flight had been delayed by one hour. Uh oh. It looked to be because of delays at Logan, but now the total time I had to kill at the airport had ballooned to four hours! Let me give Delta credit here: sometimes with American I don’t hear about the delay until, you know, after departure time. It helped to get the text before we went through security.
We ate an early lunch and ended up going through security around 11:45 AM. Boarding was a piece of cake and M was happily watching Peppa Pig as the cabin doors closed. All good, until…
Delay 2: Mechanical
So we taxied onto the runway. I heard the engines spin up and then…nothing. After a bit of a delay, the pilot came on the intercom to say there was an equipment issue and he was waiting for advisement from the powers that be. Ten minutes later he announced what we all knew: we were headed back to the gate.
We soon found out the number 2 engine starter had an issue. The pilot said that if MCO had the part, the delay would be about an hour. If the part had to be flown in, all bets were off. Well, by the time we got back into the terminal: all bets were off.
Again, Delta did the best they could – there were sodas and water within minutes of us deplaning. Sandwiches arrived about 10-15 minutes later. But at this point it was 2 PM, we were only scheduled to get an update at 6:00 PM, and I had been at the airport for five hours. Decision time.
Making alternate plans
At times like these, I generally like to utilize all avenues available to me: humans, phone, internet. So I started waiting in line at the gate counter while on hold with Delta. Thankfully, I can surf the internet while on a call so I checked my Delta app too. They were offering a free flight change but worried about my two checked bags I stayed in line.
Eventually I realized that there was a Delta assist station. This was a bank of phones that put you in contact with an agent immediately: agents who had as much power as the gate agents. This was pretty clutch. At this point I figured I had two decisions:
- Wait until 6 PM and hope the flight got out that night despite the blizzard
- Find a hotel and fly out the next day
I still had one day left on my SMMC Disney ticket, but I wanted to do whatever was easiest for my daughter. Ultimately I decided that spending another four hours at the airport for the chance to go home that night was probably too much to ask of her.
So I rented a car ($35) and a room at the Doubletree at Disney Springs ($110). The helpful “gate agent” on the phone rebooked us for the 740 PM flight the next day, the only flight free.
In the end, my flight did end up taking off around 8 PM, but as my dad told me, I made the decision based on the knowledge I had at the time. While I was out ~$150, I know I made the right decision. It was just too big of a risk to stay. I was still worried about my bags but Delta assured me that they would be automatically moved to the flight.
Disney Springs, Take 2
Our first night in Orlando, we didn’t have the greatest time at Disney Springs. But due to Doubletree proximity (15 min walk), M and I decided to give it another shot. We weren’t disappointed. This time, we happened upon the World of Disney, aka the largest retail Disney store in the world. That place was a LOT of fun for a Disney fan. I managed to get out of there only buying two items, but it was pretty difficult!
We also enjoyed our return visit because we had some “magical”, unplanned moments. First, on our way down from the pedestrian bridge, we got a great view of a set of floor lights shaped like a Mickey. M was so excited to run down there and just walk around in circles, tracing Mickey with her path and I just marveled at how much fun a 4 year old can have doing the simplest things.
We also ran into a “fairy” who sprinkled pixie dust on M’s head. Honestly, if I had known it was going to be glitter I probably would have passed! But M was so excited to have the pixie dust PLUS the fairy was from “the kingdom of Burlington, MA” so we had a nice chat about Boston’s Frozen Ever After situation. Moral of the story? Extended daddy daughter time is rarely a bad thing.
One final flight change
Before we left for Hollywood Studios on our final morning (M loves the Disney Jr. Live! show), I decided to see if we could get on an earlier flight. The logistics of getting home at 930 PM are pretty difficult!
For this, I tried out Delta’s Twitter account, @Delta. This Twitter account houses the true wizards. They confirmed me (not standby) on an earlier flight and made sure my bags got rerouted for the second time. It turned out to be a lifesaver because the 740 PM got pushed to 930 PM (still due to Boston weather).
I can’t say enough about Delta’s entire customer service team through this whole experience – while I wish their plane didn’t break down they did such a great job accommodating us. We got one extra day of magic with the least amount of stress thanks to them.
Flight delays are tough. Day long flight delays are tougher. Making decisions with a 4 year old might be the most stressful part of all. Still, thanks to my Fairy Godmother (my wife, helping me make the right decisions from afar), the seven dwarves (Delta’s Customer Service team), and Minnie Mouse (my surprisingly non melted down daughter), we had one extra magical day in Orlando!
Update: Delta is even giving us $150 for our trouble, yay!
1st tip would be to skip the Disney nightmare. Once your kids turn 7-8 they’ll quickly outgrow this overgrown commercialism