I wouldn’t call myself a world traveller, but I have planned the occasional trip to Europe, Disneyworld, St. Martin and our family’s most recent venture at Christmas to Panama.
While planning the Panama trip I spent hours on-line to avoid an overnight stay in Miami due to the hassle of seven people getting off a flight, piling into a cab and checking into a hotel; then packing up the next morning to catch a flight, plus the extra costs associated with an overnight stay – hotel, cab and food. But as I learned sometimes destiny is unavoidable.
After the first leg of our seven-hour trip home, a three-hour flight from Panama to Miami, we arrived early at the Miami International Airport. The first sign there was a glitch in our travel plans was when the American travellers were asked to proceed in a separate lineup. Believing we had scored a fast ticket to catching our connecting flight – I had a feeling of glee.
Alas, it was short lived as we proceeded to the customs area, where thousands of people were queued in over 20 lines to have their passports stamped. Did I stress thousands? Over the two and half hours that we waited, with three teenagers, a nine year old and five year old, I struggled to manage my frustration and anger. Each minute that ticked away was one less minute we had to make our connecting flight to New York and our hotel reservation. Fortunately, our younger two had electronic games to entertain themselves.
I would love to tell you I handled the situation with grace. After standing in the customs line for two and half hours, missing our connecting flight and then being guided to stand in yet another line at the American Airline ticket counter I had no grace left.
To make a long story short, by the time we cleared customs and collected our luggage it was 9:15pm. We were told we missed our flight. We proceeded to the next line where we stood for another two hours. By the time everything was said and done it was 11:30pm. Thankfully, the airline rebooked our tickets at no cost, but the flight didn’t depart until the next day. I was tired and choked, but what really fueled my fury is our original flight to New York was delayed and didn’t depart until 10:30pm. My worst fear was now a reality – we were stuck at the MIA overnight.
While running through the airport to try and catch our original flight I noticed a sign for a military lounge. With nowhere to go and a limited budget my husband inquired as to whether we could stay overnight in the lounge and thankfully we could. It became our soft place to land after a frustrating night.
With school breaks and family vacations taking place this month across the county I urge military families flying to American airports to check out whether there is a military lounge at the airport they are travelling to. They are safe havens when travelling.