We talk about travel a lot on this blog. Whether for business or pleasure, we have learned a great deal concerning what makes for a stress-free travel experience. But even knowing the ins and outs, you can still get that proverbial wake up call when life throws you a curve. Case in point, our recent experience on our trip to Florida. On a lighter note, stay tuned for future posts about some of the awesome attractions, restaurants and accommodations that the Sunshine State has to offer.
If I had to state my number one tip when it comes to ensuring a smooth travel experience, I would have to go with budgeting adequate time to get to where you need to be. And we learned the hard way that you can’t rely on information about things like wait times at borders that are posted on various online sources. We were flying out of Detroit and decided to take the Bluewater Bridge from Sarnia. All our online research suggested a 20-30 minute delay could be expected on the day and time we would be crossing the bridge. Using our “timing is everything” rule of travel, we budgeted a full hour to cross the border just to be safe.
From the second we approached the terminals on the Canadian side, we knew we were in trouble. The traffic was at a standstill. As the time ticked by and our heart rates quickened, we decided drastic times call for drastic measures. Since the only lane in use for us regular travellers was highly congested, I decided to jump over to the Nexus line and take my chances. I was able to pass 30 odd vehicles before I cut back into my proper lane. I figured missing a flight compared to being one car later trying to cross the border to shop was a no-brainer. Even with the jump, we were still behind 20 or more cars to get to the terminal, and the border officers were taking their time on this day.
In the end, it took us the better part of 2 hours to make it from one side of the bridge to the other. When the the border officer on the U.S. side found out what time our flight was leaving from DTW, he was nice enough to mention – “there’s no way you can make your flight”. Thanks for the vote of confidence! Stressed to the max, we decided we had to turn on the nitrous and do our best to get to the airport as quickly as possible. We only had to do 10 or so miles over the speed limit to give us enough time to make it to the gate for our flight. With the max speed limit set at 70 miles an hour (which is nice) – we were confident, but still sweating that we could make it on time.
We were soooooo close to making it to the airport unscathed. We were coming off the ramp literally a couple hundred yards from the airport entrance when I noticed the posted speed limit dropped to 45. I quickly slowed down only to have my lovely wife exclaim – “what are you doing, there’s no time for that – give er’!!!” So I did. Famous last words I guess. Seconds later, a suped up Charger Cop car with the cherries flashing appeared out of thin air. It was all over – at least we thought. The officer was nice enough, but didn’t buy our pleas to let us go so we could make the flight “our daughter is going to Disney for the first time, she will be crushed.” “Sir, you really need to budget more time for those unexpected delays when travelling.” OUCH!!! He did do his best to write up my ticket quickly and get us on our way, but we were now down to less than 30 minutes to drop off our car, check in (don’t get me started about the Delta online check-in system) and get our buns to the gate for departure.
Have you ever watched the reality show The Amazing Race? We got our own little taste of that experience, literally running full speed through the airport with luggage and daughter in tow. But I’m happy to say – we made it! We were the last to board the plane and couldn’t all sit together, but we made it. Wow. Quite a rocky start to the trip, but lesson learned. Don’t trust posted wait times, and faced with potentially missing a flight, budget that extra time and just accept that you have to sit around the airport. Boring yes, but well worth avoiding the extra stress. For now, back to the cage.