I had spoken to Lindsey’s mom about their June schedule so that I could plan a trip for a later date. It wouldn’t be the birthday dream, but at least we could visit. At some point, maybe a day or two later, I received a phone call. Lindsey on one phone and her mom on another, they excitedly told me the plan.
When she had called to cancel their reservation at one of the resorts, they had told her that she would not be penalized if she rescheduled. (Normally, there is a hefty fee for canceling after 72 hrs prior to your reserved arrival.) So they started planning for a May 30th arrival (at that resort). Aside from me finding affordable tickets, etc, there were two other variables…one was cat-sitter availability and the other was whether her friend would be able to go. After those fell into place, all that was left was for me to find and schedule everything I needed.
It was a little chaotic making the arrangements while holding a conversation with both of them at once…bouncing around from website to website searching for flights, looking for availability at the places they were staying, getting a rental vehicle lined up. We were on the phone so long that I ran down the battery and had to switch handsets to continue our conversation and the research. At the same time, Lindsey was researching flights on her computer too, so I must have had 14 tabs open in Firefox; flipping back and forth between airlines, travel sites, car rental sites, and emails (Lindsey was sending me things she was finding.)
One at a time, things were lining up. It seemed every time I searched, I found cheaper airline tickets until I found them as low as I thought I could possibly find: $1047 including tax for all 5 of us (via Expedia). Next, I lined up the hotel in Flagstaff via Expedia too. A few more arrangements and the trip was mostly together. The final elements were 1 night at the Embassy Suites when we arrived and 1 night at the Embassy Suites the night before we left for home, prepaid on their website for a decent discount; and arranging a vehicle.
Initially, it looked as if I would be stuck with a mid-size car. Then I started playing with the reservation details and realized that if I didn’t get the vehicle at the airport, I could shave off that extra day which amounted to about $200 with taxes and fees. Embassy Suites ran a shuttle to and from the airport which we would use on our arrival and departure. Then I could arrange the rental vehicle with Enterprise just a mile from the hotel. Enterprise would pick us up at the hotel on Saturday morning and take us back to the hotel when we returned the vehicle. Renting off-airport made renting a mid-size SUV affordable, so that’s what I did.
After I arranged everything, we had two weeks until our trip. It’s hard on me because I’m not very patient. And it’s harder on 5 & 6 yr olds who don’t understand that we can’t leave until it’s time. I spent the first week (and some of the next) asking lots of questions of people, doing even more research, and putting together a travel book (which I already blogged about ). I went so far as to print out maps of the all the airports we would encounter (JAX, DTW, PHX, & ORD in that order). Many of my questions were about traveling with children and I received a lot of helpful information from @MomsToolbox on Twitter.
To brush up on all the TSA
crap regulations, I visited the TSA website. Honestly, some of it was a clear as mud and didn’t answer specific questions. But they did have a couple videos with kids showing kids how to go thru security. We watched it and practiced it.
I began packing way too early…the swim bag…which I ended up unpacking after I read that all my big liquids had to be checked. My swim bag is more durable than the bag I used to use to carry on all my toiletries. I started doing laundry on Wednesday (we were leaving on Friday) which turned out to be a great decision because I never would have gotten it all done and packed on Thursday alone.
Thursday, I checked the airlines websites to refresh myself on baggage and weight limits. What? $15 per checked bag? Are you kidding me? Apparently, it became standard only within the past 12 months, but what a bunch of nonsense. My “cheap” tickets were starting to feel like less of a good deal. But wait, there’s more. Now I have to pay for food??? What’s next? Pay toilets? Good grief!
As shocked as I was to discover this, I was a bit more perplexed as to why my husband who had just returned the previous Friday did not inform me of the $15 baggage fee. That bit of info would have been nice before Thursday. After I packed, I prepaid my baggage fees and printed my boarding passes.
Thursday was also the day I made lots of phone calls. I called Embassy Suites to find out how to get the shuttle from the airport. Then I called Enterprise to arrange a 9am-ish Saturday pick-up from the hotel. Traveling by myself, I can be very adaptable to the unforeseen. Traveling with 4 kids, I wanted everything in line with little room for error. I’m glad I called Enterprise because they would have shown up with a vehicle too small for the 5 of us (plus the Enterprise employee). And leaving someone behind at the hotel, as was initially suggested when I called, was not an option.
Planning for an early morning, I urged all the kids into bed about 9pm. It had been difficult all week for me to rest soundly at night, thinking of all the undone things, packing in my brain, planning for all the phone calls to be made, etc. Excitement and anticipation kept me from sleeping well on Thursday night too. Oh, well. I guess that’s why there’s a Starbucks 2.5 miles from my house.
Filled with the excitement of seeing Lindsey again after 3 yrs, the whole flying experience (it had been 4.5 yrs since our last flight) ahead of us, the anticipation of visiting new and interesting places…Friday was sure to be an interesting day…
Disclosure: I don’t work for nor have I received any compensation from the companies mentioned in my 2009 AZ Trip story. No endorsement of any company is implied by it’s inclusion.