No planes, no trains, no automobiles

The alarm went off at 4 a.m.

I hadn’t slept all that well in the AC Marriott in Fort Lauderdale, but I woke up quickly. We needed to get the 4:30 a.m. shuttle to the airport for our flight.

But even before I had the chance to get out of bed, Dan delivered the bad news.

“Our flight’s canceled,” he said.

We were stunned.

A day earlier it had seemed like a good idea to change our Saturday flight — originally scheduled for 4:30 p.m. but delayed to 8:30 p.m. — to a Sunday morning one. It was noon, and we had already been at the airport since 10 a.m.

The massive thunderstorms forecast to pass through central Florida didn’t look good. Neither did all the people crammed into the airport.

“We’re not getting out of here tonight,” Dan said.

We had plenty of Marriott points, so we decided to extend our spring break by a day. We took an Uber to our hotel, where we settled into our room, enjoyed some carryout and a movie and got to bed early.

Who knew things would only be worse on Sunday?

The second leg of our flight from Tampa to Midway was one of 398 flights Southwest canceled on Sunday due to weather and an “intermittent technology issue.”

Southwest customers were not alone. A total of 3,400 flights were canceled and 8,800 were delayed across several airlines over the weekend.

Dan called Southwest. The wait time was two hours. He looked for a rental car at National, the company he uses for work. Nothing. I looked for one at any company through Expedia. None were available.

We checked Amtrak. Nothing.

Greyhound. Nothing.

Keep in mind we’re doing all of this between 4 and 4:30 a.m. with no coffee. Finally Dan tried Southwest again and realized he could push “1” for the A-list customers and got through to an agent. There were no flights from Fort Lauderdale to Chicago on Sunday. None on Monday.

“Try Orlando,” I suggested, thinking we could stay with my birth father, Bob — with whom we had just spent a week on a Royal Caribbean cruise — until we could get out. The only three tickets available were on a nonstop from Orlando to O’Hare at noon Wednesday. We took them.

Then the next challenge presented itself. How would we get to Orlando, 214 miles away?

Despite some credit card issues and our inability to recall our PayPal password, we eventually were able to book three of the last few tickets to Orlando on a Flixbus. I called Bob to tell him we had a little surprise.

“Are you coming by the house?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied, hesitant at first to add that we needed him to pick us up in Orlando, about an hour from where he lives, first.

In the interim, our associate editor, Ken, who spent spring break in Bonita Springs, sends a text that his flight home also has been canceled. Fortunately, he was at his mom’s condo, and a car was there. So he and his wife and three boys made the drive home Sunday and Monday.

Needless to say, it all worked out. Bob eventually found us in the giant outlet mall in Orlando where the bus dropped us off. Ken made it to work Tuesday and I eventually got my laptop that morning (which had been overnighted to me at the bargain price of $300). The paper was finished by 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

A few days after we got home, Southwest emailed us with three $250 certificates and an apology.

Will we use them for spring break 2023?

I doubt it. If we go anywhere, I think we’ll drive.

— Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean