Picking up where I left off on the Part I post of my holiday travel saga – A Christmas and A New Years Miracle? (Part I).
Before we boarded the plane to Richmond, Virginia, we suddenly had so many logistics to handle like cancelling our Amtrak train tickets from Washington, DC to Richmond for the next day and cancelling the hotel for that evening in D.C. We also needed to rearrange our hotel accommodations in Richmond at the Linden Row Inn to start a day earlier. It was a made rush on the phone and online before getting on the plane but we were so happy to be going directly to Richmond, VA to start our Christmas holiday with my family!
While in Richmond we had fun exploring downtown Richmond and Carytown with my sister and then a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my brother, his wife, their son and of course my sister and her husband and son.
Christmas Eve we stopped by my sister’s favorite distillery Trial & Error and did some whiskey and infused vodka tasting which was fun!
My brother’s son, my 10 year old nephew, brought some of his stuffed animals for me to repair (I had my trusty traveling needle and thread) while we were together, so I did a couple “surgical” procedures on his “well loved” stuffed friends while we visited:
On the 26th of December it was time for John and I to say goodbye and take Amtrak train to Washington D.C. to catch our flight back to Denver on Wednesday the 27th. We were staying overnight in D.C. and in the morning going to sightsee a tiny bit before heading to the airport.
We were feeling so grateful that Christmas with my family was a success as we sat on the train headed to D.C. when a couple things suddenly happened…
First the train ahead of us hit a parked car on the track (luckily no one was inside the car) and our train was stopped for a hour or so while the crash was resolved.
Then we got a message from Southwest Airlines that our flight to Denver from D.C. on December 27th was CANCELED. Just cancelled with no rescheduling. We had a message to see an airline agent to re-book.
So once we got into D.C. instead of heading to our hotel, we took an Uber to Ronald Reagan Airport to see what was up. Boy were we in for a surprise! We didn’t have all the details at the time but SW Airlines had completed melted down. They cancelled all flights across the country for Wednesday to Friday, halting their operations until they regrouped. It made the national news and the U.S. Department of Transportation said they were going to put the airlines under investigation as they stranded thousands of people after the Christmas holiday.
We got to the SW Airlines ticket counter and we were told there were no flights until Saturday December 31st! So we were stranded in D.C. from Tuesday Dec 27 until Saturday Dec 31!!!!!
Here are links to a couple of the news stories that summarizes what happened with SW Airlines:
A wonderful summary on Wikipedia:
And one of the many videos of news stories of the travel nightmare that hit the U.S. courtesy of SW Airlines:
There are numerous sad stories of families missing major holiday vacations and missing luggage. The airport was filled with people who had been basically camping at the airport and long lines of people trying to find their luggage or speak with a gate agent.
John and I were upset as we were missing our dog Mike and looking forward to returning home to him, we had parked our car the airport and had to incur 4 – 5 more days of daily charges; and we now had to incur the cost of a hotel for 4 additional nights as well as food. Plus we had packed light and our clothes really needed a laundering (and we had run out of clean underwear!). Also we had planned to be home way before New Years Eve and enjoy a couple days at home, and New Years Eve, etc. before the New Year began.
So now you might be wondering – why didn’t we just book a flight home on another airline as the other airlines had not melted down and were operating as normal? Well we checked every airline that could get us to Denver and flights up through Friday ranged for a one way flight from $2100 to $4300 per person (only last minute first class flights were available on other airlines). It was much less expensive to stay in the D.C. area until Saturday and fly home at no additional cost via SW Airlines.
But we decided to make the best of it and see it as a forced vacation in Washington D.C.
We decided to only stay one night at the hotel we booked near the White House area in D.C. and move to stay in Alexandria, Virginia, which is sort of suburb of D.C. for the rest of our stay. It is a safer area, has the wonderful Old Town Alexandria to wander about, is right on the Metro line (DC area transit system), and is only two stops from Ronald Reagan Airport which we would eventually fly home from.
Wednesday the 28th we wandered around Old Town Alexandria and had a fun time despite our situation. I’ll do a separate blog post on that as this wandering involved an absolutely awesome yarn shop as well as fabric shop!
Thursday we decided to spend 1 – 2 days in Washington D.C. playing tourist. We both wanted to see the Library of Congress and although I’ve been to D.C. many times since I grew up on the East Coast, I’d never been to the Supreme Court and wanted to see that. We figured we could also fit in some Smithsonian Museums too!
Here we are at the King Street Metro Station in Alexandria about to head back into Washington D.C. for our first day of sightseeing at our nation’s capital on Thursday December 29th:
In addition to that separate post on our adventures in Old Town Alexandria, I’ll have a separate post on our adventures in D.C.
But we only spent one day in D.C….why? Because another miracle happened, one I like to call THE NEW YEARS MIRACLE.
The afternoon of Thursday December 29th, we had just finished visiting the Supreme Court building and went to wait on line at the Library of Congress for a tour. While on line we discovered we could only get into the building with “timed entry tickets” which we had to buy online, and they were sold out for the day. John got online and got us timed entry tickets for Friday so we could try again during are planned day 2 of touring D.C.
As we were exiting the line, a large family group was confused as to where they needed to wait on line to get into the Library of Congress. We stopped to help them and pointed them to the line. They asked us how was the Library of Congress and we explained we couldn’t get in because the timed entry tickets were sold out. Well they said they had TWO EXTRA tickets and we could join their group and get in!
We were so happy as this left more time the next day to see other things in D.C. and we were really looking forward to touring the Library of Congress, one of the few venues in D.C. neither of us had seen.
Little did we know this was part one of a two part miracle, as while we were touring the Library of Congress we got a text that SW Airlines was restoring regular operations.
We looked at their flights online and saw there were flights on FRIDAY from D.C. to Denver AND one flight that evening back to Denver!
We quickly ended our day in D.C. and took the Metro to Ronald Reagan Airport to see a SW Airlines ticket agent! We convinced them to put us on the Thursday evening flight and not to charge us the $700+ dollars the flight cost.
The we rushed back to our hotel, which was 2 Metro stops away, packed as fast as we could and headed back to the airport! Amazingly our hotel, Embassy Suites heard our saga and kindly refunded us our hotel room charges for Thursday and Friday night (another part of the miracle, like perhaps a part three)!
And late Thursday December 29th we returned to Denver! Two days earlier than Saturday (huge smile)!
In addition to being able to return home earlier than planned, we were so grateful to the people we randomly met who shared their tickets to the Library of Congress with us as (little did we know at the time) we would not be in town the next day to see it!
So that’s the shorter version of our holiday travel saga, I’d put you to sleep if I provided all the details, ha!
I’ll close out with a couple of humorous airplane travel memes courtesy of demilked.com: