Kids Have to Sleep in Airport Alone – Travel Hell

Ok, that was a lie to get you to read the article. The kids didn’t actually have to sleep in the airport alone but they did sleep in the airport. Wait, I’m getting quite a bit ahead of the story here.

What follows is an account of the worst trip I have ever taken and how 2 amazing kids kept everything in check throughout the many, MANY ordeals that occurred in a short, 5 day jaunt to Los Angeles.

Everyone has a “travel hell” story. I even have a couple. Take coming from (to Vancouver, BC) from Fort Lauderdale when the kids were 5 and 8. Our connection from Dallas to Seattle was CANCELLED meaning we couldn’t fly out of Ft. L and had to wait, in the airport for 12 hours for the next flight to LA then a connection to Seattle. It got better when they actually frisked my 5 year old at security in LA! She was 5! What could she possibly be hiding in her 2′ frame?

That was a bad one. But it doesn’t even touch what happened this past weekend.

My girls are cheerleaders, and they’re really good. So good, in fact, that the eldest got to go to LA to compete this year with her team. We were excited. It’s the first time we’ve had to fly to a competition and we’d been planning since November.

As the 21st of March approached I made the necessary arrangements for our additional day in LA. We thought it would be fun to arrive a day early and see Santa Monica and Venice Beach. I booked a hotel and reserved a car. Everything was sorted and ready.

Things went well through the border line up at Peace Arch. We flew out of Bellingham airport with little difficulty and landed in Seattle on time. Since the travel agent booked us a flight that had a 4 hour stop over (ugh) in Seattle we went to grab some food and hang out. While eating we made the plan that we would wait out our 4 hour layover at the proper gate for our next flight. We hopped on the wee train and headed to the main terminal.

Once there, we scoped out a good, comfy spot, took off our shoes and loaded up Netflix. Within 3 minutes my 13 year old said “they just called our names over the PA system!”

The Alaska Airline lady called us “final boarding call”.


We bolted 2 gates over to learn that our flight had been bumped up 2 hours and they closed the doors behind us! That was a close call. I didn’t receive an itinerary change from the travel agent. Weird.

Upon arriving in LA we caught the Hertz shuttle, stood in line for our rental for 45 minutes only to find out that, in America, you have to leave a $200 credit card deposit to rent a car. No mention of that was made when I booked through the Hertz customer service 1-800 line the day before.

The Hertz guy suggested I have someone use their card to make the deposit for me. I said I could have my parents do it. I’d have to call them. He mentioned they’d have to be there in person. Huh? If I’d done it all over the internet or phone they credit card deposit would not have been “in person”.

Now we’re stranded at LAX at 11pm. Awesome.

Thankfully a friend in LA saved us the next day and, for that, we will be eternally grateful. Needless to say Santa Monica etc was out for the Friday. No car, no beach.

Our friend gave us a lift to our downtown hotel, the Marriott which, by the way, does not have free WIFI. For $160/night you have to pay an additional $9.95 for WIFI. Super.

She then dropped us in Hollywood where we got to do some super fun sight-seeing and we learned about the LA public transit system which we began using to get around.

Saturday and Sunday went relatively smoothly since we were at the competition the entire time. The people we were with were great so they made things a lot of fun.

Monday was Disneyland. What can I say? It was awesome!

We got home from DL at about midnight and I packed everything for an early start. Though our plane didn’t leave til 4:20 we decided to get to the airport early then head out to Santa Monica. By this point the girls were pretty skeptical that we’d make it to the beach at all but I was determined!

The plan was to store our bags at the airport then jump on the #3 bus to SM, shop, beach etc then get back to the airport. Well, I guess since 911 airports in the States no longer store bags. Super!

The Alaska Airlines woman had the suggestion that we go to the LAX Marriott and have them store the bags instead. Free shuttle to the Marriott, bus to Santa Monica and we were finally at the beach!

I’d looked up the Pier and read:

There is no admission to enter the Santa Monica Pier. If you are interested in the amusement park, Pacific Park does not charge upon entry.
Thinking that meant that there was no charge, I was surprised to find out that it was $5/ride. Not exorbitant but still…
We had a lot of fun at the Pier though and on the beach. We took a ton of photos and were able to get my youngest her Tom’s shoes. Her only purchase goal on the entire trip.
Heading back, we had lots of time to grab our bags and get to the airport. Here’s where it gets really great!
Upon check in we were told that flight time had been changed to 3:10pm from 4:20pm and that the doors had just closed. (no itinerary change was sent for this either :(
We missed it. Not only that, the next flight was full and the 7pm had only 3 seats. Though we managed to get those 3 seats we were told that the flight from Seattle to Bellingham at 11pm was also booked and that we would have to spend the night in SeaTac if they couldn’t get us on standby.
I’m sure you can connect the dots and work out how karma was killing us on this trip. Of course, we didn’t make the standby.  2 people didn’t show up and we needed 3 seats. We had to bunk down in the airport to wait for our 8am flight out.
Sleeping in the airport when you’re 20 and backpacking is no big deal. Sleeping in the airport with a 10 year old and a 13 year old is a BIG, BIG deal. We were freezing, hungry, exhausted.
The silver lining is this though; my girls were amazing! They didn’t complain. There were a few tears but no tantrums or overly dramatic behaviour. Just an acceptance that, as long as we’re together, we’re ok. I’m so proud of them.
That’s the story. I don’t want to tell it again. I don’t love LA and it’s going to be a while before I board another plane. I just want to stay home for a while now.
Do you have a dreadful travel story? Add it in the comments! Misery loves company ;)

6 Responses to “Kids Have to Sleep in Airport Alone – Travel Hell”

  • Sandy Tutsch Says:

    18 years old. Trip to visit my grandparents in Fla with BFF. Booked through a friend of my brother’s who was a travel agent (at least that was what he claimed). Plane was leaving Friday, then he called (this was pre-computers) “no leaving Sat”. Next call “leave friday”. Then “leave Saturday, for sure”. We went to the airport Saturday. It had left on Friday. Big tears. Frantic calls to grandparents. We eventually arrive to a closing airport. My grandparents were no where to be found. 2 hours later, as we sat on the curb, telling security “yes we are okay” they arrive. Turns out the had to drive through a road closed due to a fire, got turned around, got lost and were now best friends with the State Trouper who finally escorted them to the Airport. Other than that a great trip
    However, yours was worse as it involved kids

  • Andrew McCarnan Says:

    Flying back to Oshawa from Vancouver on Jetsgo, we were stopped on the taxiway for a long, long time. The pilot made an announcement that an Air Canada plane had declared an emergency and was returning to the airport so were were bing held in place. Bonnie had the window seat and was watching as the plane came by streaming fuel behind it and being chased by a parade of emergency vehicles. A nervous flyer at the best of times she turned to me and said “it’s a good thing we’re already on this plane or we’d be going home on the bus.”

  • mary-anne Says:

    i have 2.
    a while back i used to work for this great company that sent me often to work in our California and DC offices. i loved to business travel because it gave me the opportunity to collect scads of airmiles that i used to fly 1st class to see friends in far off places.

    once during the winter i was invited to head to Europe to ski in the Pyrenes with some Whistler friends. i had to work in DC twice this particular month so i planned to go to DC then to Europe for 10 days and then back to DC. everything was great. i spent a couple days in England, then France, then Barcelona and plenty of time to hit the slopes and hang with friends in Andorra. ultimate paradise. coming home? not so much.

    coming across the Atlantic on Virgin Airways we were warned that snowstorms were brewing and our plane would be landing at JFK a wee bit later than scheduled. Amidst the groans and moans the pilot advised that since a majority of the passengers were connecting on American Airlines to DC, AA advised that their plane would stand by until we were all safetly on it. great.

    we land at JFK only to find that where we had to connect to our AA flight was far away and we had to catch an airport shuttle. Since there were at least 100 of us, do you think they would have a shuttle waiting…no. We had to line up, in a blizzard, outside with all the others striving to get to their flights, and needless to say… it probably took at least 8 separate shuttles to get everyone on our flight over to the AA gate. My driver was so slow i could have ran there faster with my luggage in tow.

    Panicked that I missed the flight, i hit the ground running the minute the doors opened. up escalators, up elevators, down hallways… only to find that AA had cancelled the flight. and there was a mob of business men freaking out. it was late in the afternoon and we were already running about 3 hrs late. they advised that all flights were cancelled due to the blizzard but they had secured a coach to shuttle us to Washington. everyone grumbled but knowing there was no wait out that night we waited for the coach.

    by now it’s 6pm, i was to have landed in DC at 2pm… the coach arrives and we board… it’s now 8pm. the drive to DC from JFK is about 4.5hrs on a good day. it’s a blizzard. the bus we find, was an out of commission bus they hadn’t used for a while but it was ‘available’. the driver was a AA maintenance guy who had practiced on it the 2 hours while we were waiting. he’d driven semis but never a bus with people. the bathroom didn’t work. the seats were duct taped and either pitched forward or the reclined and not able to reset. and the best… the exhaust kept filling up in the bus, so blue smoke everywhere, everyone had to open their windows. the 4.5 hour drive in the blizzard, fishtailing all over the place, i held hands with the older woman sitting beside me for most of the ride because we thought we were going to die. the roads were bad and the driver was having a helluva time of it. So almost 8 hours later we arrive at the DC airport. it’s 4am and most of the place is shut down. the blizzard is crazy, there are no cars on the road. no cabs, no buses. we are asked to wait in the AA area for a rep to come because no one could really leave the airport. it’s just after 4am. no food, no coffee, hard back stacking chairs, no where to sleep. no one around to reassure us or even tell us why we were waiting or for how long. any attempts to leave the area met with security guards urging us back and advised that the airport was closed off. a lot of cranky business folks threatening to sue and tempers tired and flaring. they make us wait there until 6am. because no one started their shift until then and they were holding our bags for some reason or another. probably no on shift to deliver them to us.

    so 6am comes. some bubbly ticket agent comes and gives us coupons for coffee, says if we were unhappy we could call their head office then she wished us a happy return and disappeared through a door. omg… 100 or so tired angry hungry people traveling and and waiting for almost 24 hrs, so not happy. everyone dispersed threatening to sue. i ended up sharing a cab with two fellow travelers that were heading near my hotel.

    after several failed attempts to contact AA and complain i received, about 6 months later, a gift certificate for $100 off my next flight with AA, that expired in 90 days and a brief apology and that was that. i tore it up, have never flown on AA since.

  • wifi vending machine Says:

    Isn’t Seattle amazing?? I really love it! I went to Pike Place too when I was there, so awesome to see them throwing fish around!

  • Baymont Hotel Bellingham Says:

    Baymont Hotel Bellingham…

    [...]Kids Have to Sleep in Airport Alone – Travel Hell- |[...]…

  • Admin Says:

    Wow, that is a bad one! I can’t even imagine. Good thing you didn’t have any kids with you because they’d be even more messed up. I hope you don’t fly AA anymore!

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