This past weekend Mark and I travelled up to Yorkshire for a weekend break. During the three and a half hour car journey we filled our time with various conversations, many of which concerned my favourite subject….Disney! We talked about plans for our next trip to Walt Disney World in October 2012 and, as the weather turned wintry, we reminisced about our last WDW trip in December 2010.
Just like most of my WDW trips I had booked the December 2010 holiday about 18 months in advance. This gave me plenty of time to daydream and make plans for our daily schedule (you know I like planning, right?). I had taken care of ADR’s, booking tours and party tickets, scheduling park hours, parade times, Extra Magic Hours. I was ready to go, everything would run like clockwork……and then something happened that I had never factored into my planning (or even daydreaming)!!
Around October last year I had been talking to a work colleague about my holiday plans and she had mentioned that the weather forecasts had been predicting snow at the end of November / beginning of December. Now for those who do not live in the UK I should explain that in the East of England where I live we don’t have horrendous winters. We may have snowfall that disrupts everyday travel for a day or two but we still get around, and I think we have it quite easy. So at this point I felt that this predicted snowfall would either never happen (weather forecasts are always wrong!) or it wouldn’t be anything serious.
However….a couple of days before we were due to travel down to Gatwick airport, to fly out of the UK for Orlando….it snowed. And things did get disrupted. And I did start to panic. But everyone around me told me not to worry, that it would pass, that there would be no way that they would close Gatwick airport because of the snow….
You know what happened next, don’t you? They started cancelling flights. And then they closed Gatwick airport. And all my Disney planning and daydreaming started to crumble. I had looked forward to this trip for the 18 months it had been booked, and it had been five years since my last trip to the World.
But it was okay, people were still saying positive things around me. To make things easier on this trip (even before the snow) we had decided to drive down to the airport the night before our flight and stay in a hotel, making it a stress-free start to our holiday. And so, Mark and I found ourselves leaving our cosy warm house, leaving the not so snowy roads of our city, and travelling on a motorway to an airport which at that point was closed due to bad weather. But we still had a glimmer of hope; our flight had not yet been cancelled, they still hoped that the weather would clear and the airport would reopen the following day.
If you are used to driving in the UK then you will know how traffic on the M25 works. This three lane motorway circles London and the surrounding area, and is very busy. On the day we used it we saw maybe two dozen cars…oh, and a few abandoned by the side of the road where the snow was so deep that drivers could not drive any further. The usual two-hour journey took us four hours that day. I had to watch the road up ahead warning Mark of built up ice and letting him know when to move into another part of the road to avoid it.
But we made it. We had passed several flashing signs warning us that the airport was closed but we were determined to get to our destination. Providing we could get to the airport and our flight had not been cancelled then we would still be flying out to Orlando the next day.
After four tiring hours we pulled into a very snowy car park at the airport. We stepped out of the car and I got a text message. It was from our airline…..cancelling our flight…cancelling my long overdue dream WDW holiday….
We knew we couldn’t turn around and drive home. It was getting dark and the weather was bad. We knew we had the hotel so we decided to at least stay for that one night. After checking in and making our way to the room we tried to gather our thoughts. We needed to contact our holiday company. We needed to find out if they could get us out on another flight if Gatwick reopened. We needed to decide how many days we could shorten our holiday by if they could get us on another flight, or when we had to give in and admit defeat.
We tried calling our holiday company and couldn’t get through. As our hotel was linked to the airport terminal we decided to take a walk and see if any of the company’s representatives were re-booking people stranded at the airport. Just as we were about to leave our hotel room we tried to call the company again…and someone picked up. As the holiday had been booked in my name I had to speak to the person on the other end of the line, and I soon realised that I just couldn’t hide how I devastated I felt and started crying like a baby!! After Mark had taken control of the conversation we discovered that we were one of the first passengers to get through on the phone and we had a chance of getting on another flight, two days after we were originally due to fly out. They were even able to extend the holiday by two days meaning that we didn’t miss out, they just needed to check with Disney that they could still accommodate us at our resort. I remember thinking that I didn’t care where I stayed, I’d move to a different resort every day if it meant my holiday went ahead!
Once we knew we could be flying out two days later (if the airport reopened in time) we decided that we would be taking a risk driving home in the snow and then having to travel back again on the day of our flight. And that’s when we made the crazy decision to stay at the hotel for another two nights; don’t forget this is a hotel next to an airport, a snowed in airport at that! Despite having to pay double the advance rate for our two extra nights we considered ourselves the lucky ones. Both the hotel lobby and airport terminals were full of people sitting around with luggage, either waiting for the airport to reopen for their flight out or waiting for the local transport network to start up again so that they could get home. We were lucky because we had a bed, a shower, a kettle, and a tv. And we camped out at that hotel for three nights, waiting for the snow to clear, for the airport to reopen, and the flights schedule to begin again.
Each day we watched the news and weather reports for updates on the snow and travel chaos. The airport didn’t reopen until the morning of our scheduled flight. The snow seemed to hang around, not melting, just teasing us.
The morning we were due to fly out I was woken at 5.40am by a text message. My heart sank when I realised it was about our flight. But that message was to tell us that our flight was only delayed….by five hours! In the past I had moaned about being delayed by one hour but this time I didn’t care; I had sat in a hotel room for two and a half days…another five hours wouldn’t hurt.
And so, we sat in our departure lounge for our extra five hours. Our bags were checked in and we could see the runway being cleared. It felt like the room almost cheered when we watched the first plane take off that day. I have never felt so relieved to step onto a plane and make myself comfortable for that nine-hour flight to my dream destination.
And that’s why we reminisce about this and smile, rather than cry. This is why I decided to share this experience on my blog. Something so negative turned into a positive because we still managed to get to Walt Disney World at the end of it, and have a wonderful two week holiday…..and that’s how we make memories for daydreaming Disney!