We had a great itinerary for traveling back to the US for Christmas. Let’s call this plan Alpha. Alpha was sleek, streamline, familiar, and beautiful. Alpha was to take about 16 hours door to door- quite reasonable for traveling between a small town in Scotland and Midwest America. She was the best plan we could hope for, especially in traveling with a 10 month old baby.
Then winter weather pummelled the UK, particularly London- which, of course, was our connecting city. At 2:30AM, Alpha was dealt a serious blow- we learned that our flight from Edinburgh to London was cancelled.
Yet there was hope she could be resuscitated- another flight to London was to leave just an hour earlier than ours. We awoke very early in the morning and took a taxi to Edinburgh to try to get on it.
Alpha passed away shortly after we arrived at the airport- the queue at the service desk for our airline would haven taken at least 6 hours, long after the departure of the alternative flight to London.
At this point it became clear that we were at a dead end. London Heathrow airport had not been accepting flights for a day or two, and it was obvious there was no way we could be rescheduled on another transatlantic flight before Christmas. Since many transatlantic flights were leaving from London, we needed to get there to make our connection.
Arriving just after us at the airport were our friends Kevin and Chaiss with their young daughter. They too were on the cancelled flight to London; they too just wanted to get home for Christmas. Realizing we were in the same situation, we split a taxi to Glasgow airport (2 hour trip) in the hopes that we might catch a flight to London and make our connections. Alpha just might not be dead after all.
We arrived in Glasgow to find Alpha’s ice cold corpse- the service queue for our airline was long and their flight to London was also cancelled. But both families decided we needed to keep trying, so we entered what would be a 4 hour queue for our airline’s service desk.
When finally reaching assistance, plan Beta was birthed. Beta was like a port-a-potty: ugly in almost all respects, but gets the job done. Beta was an evening flight from Glasgow to Dublin, an overnight in a hotel in Dublin, and early morning train to Shannon (in southwest Ireland), a noon flight to Boston, a short layover for a connection to Chicago (or, for our friends, to Houston).
Beta died just a few hours later at the boarding gate of the flight to Dublin. All flights to Dublin cancelled due to snow. Back to the service queue for another 4 hour wait.
At about 10PM the kind airline worker gave us plan Gamma. Gamma was like Beta’s homely sister- very similar, but not as good- it was a day later and took us through New York rather than Boston. We needed lodging for the night in Glasgow, and all the hotels near the airport were booked. A phone call to a very accommodating friend of mine who happens to live in Glasgow saved all 6 of us from sleeping in the airport.
After a rejuvenating night’s sleep and some wonderful hospitality, we prepared to return to the airport… then Dublin airport closed for a few hours, then indefinitely. Flight cancelled, death to Gamma.
We immediately hatched plan Delta. Delta consisted largely of desperation mixed with sheer determination. Delta was 2 hour drive to the west coast of Scotland, a 2 hour late night ferry over to Belfast, Ireland, and what would be a 6 hour overnight taxi to Shannon airport where we would resume following Gamma.
Already worn down from 2 days of (mostly just attempting to) travel, the ferry was nauseating but surprisingly luxurious. Exhaustion was in full effect. The taxi journey, which endured from 11pm to 5am and essentially crossed the entire island of Ireland, involved terrifyingly hazardous winter conditions. While both kids slept on the ride, no adults did. Oh, and the taxi cost more than my original transatlantic plane ticket- but it got us to Shannon.
In the end, Delta was successful- Shannon onward was uneventful, apart from the delirium induced by slept-deprivation.
70 hours of travel, a total of 7.5 hours of sleep. It’s hard to rightly describe this experience: exhaustion, hope, frustration, patience, devastating disappointment, resolute determination, fervent prayer. Yet God’s grace was evident in a sweet, easygoing and sleep-anywhere baby, good traveling companions, hospitable Glaswegian friends, helpful taxi drivers, kind and sympathetic strangers, hard-working ticket agents, everything we really needed just when we needed it, and Kate’s first Christmas with all our family.