Holiday travel? The Most Unforgettable Trip Ever

As a certified control freak, my worst tendencies arise when planning a vacation. I’d promised my dad to bring the family to Arizona for Christmas, so I planned everything. Right down to the enormous plastic bin with a locking lid for all our presents. I assigned each person a large suitcase and a hefty carry-on for our flight.

We were all excited to be leaving the rainy, dreary Northwest winter. The Arizona weather was exactly what we hoped—sunny and a balmy 70 degrees. I planned activities: garden golf and a wildlife park, but they were closed for the holidays. Even the pool was closed. 

Restless and bored, my Dad pulled out Monopoly to keep the kids entertained. The hoopla from all those carefully packed gifts in the huge bin didn’t last long either. So much for those plans.

Finally, repacking for home, I smiled proudly at my plan for an early flight back. We’d be home before nightfall. Arriving at the airport, we learned of an unexpected, massive snowstorm hitting the Pacific Northwest with a fury unseen in recent winters. Our flight was cancelled, so we changed our tickets and flew to Los Angeles. I expected the Seattle airport to be reopened by then and we’d fly straight from there.

With four suitcases, four carry-ons, and my nifty, jumbo locking plastic bin, we flew to Los Angeles. Once in LA, all flights to Seattle were cancelled except for United Airlines. My husband, the former college football player, bolted at full speed with our four tickets tucked under his arm—beating the crowd to the United counter. 

He secured the last four seats in the back row on a San Fran bound jet—connecting to Seattle. My nifty jumbo bin couldn’t be checked so we crammed everything into our luggage.  Now with much heavier carry-ons, we ran to catch our flight.

It was a turbulent landing in the rain-deluged San Francisco. The crew announced Seattle had closed again. My perfect plans unraveled totally. Contemplating options, we flew to Portland instead.  An ice storm was heading that way and ours was the final flight in before they closed the airport. We’d now been traveling for 15 hours.

Sitting in baggage claim surrounded by our suitcases and carry-ons, hubby ran to the rental car office before they closed. An hour passed. Then another. By this time, my daughter and I had discussed all the various scenarios of “what happened to Dad.” We decided, that if he didn’t return in 15 minutes, I’d leave her with the luggage and her little brother and find security. (This was before everyone had cell phones).

He finally returned, happily waving the keys to a car. We hauled our luggage to the exit and I didn’t see a car. The only thing he could rent was a 4-wheel drive, 12-passenger van—at a cost well beyond my carefully planned budget. We strapped in and drove 25 mph the rest of the night through compact snow and ice.

Our car was parked at the Seattle Red Lion Hotel where we started my well-planned odyssey. Pulling into the circle drive of the hotel, my husband was mobbed by travelers begging to be taken to the nearby Seattle airport—since the Red Lion shuttle service couldn’t handle all of the hundred waiting passengers. 

He loaded up the van and kept hauling passengers. A couple hours later, with all the tips he received, the rental costs were paid.

After chipping ice off our frozen van, we headed home. The usual two-hour drive took six. When we arrived, our long driveway was buried in nearly three feet of snow. 

Exhausted and outwardly threatening to never travel again, I helped haul our luggage to the house. Then I stopped complaining long enough to see the peaceful setting. 

I watched an amazing sunset glistening across the pristine sheet of sparkling snow. We had arrived home safe—not with my carefully arranged plans, but by God’s wonderfully imaginative, unforgettable ones.

Indeed, we'll always remember it—and now we smile at all those memories.

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