The day after my wedding last July was one of the longest, hardest days of my life. That isn’t really how it was supposed to happen, but it did. Thankfully, my emergency fund saved our vacation.
Part 1 – Charleston, WV – Flight Changed
We went to AAA to set up a cruise for our honeymoon. It left from San Juan, Puerto Rico and stopped at Aruba, Curacao, Dominica, and St. Thomas. Our flight left at 7:30 the next morning. We got to the airport at 5:45 AM that Sunday. We went over to the U.S. Air check-in counter and were a little surprised to see it empty. I went the the kiosk and started to check in. It didn’t pull up our information based on my debit card, so we got out our confirmation numbers and tried again. Once again it wasn’t able to pull up our flight.
Then my wife looked up at the board of departures and arrivals and saw our flight number. Next to it it said: DEPARTED 5:30AM. That was the point when she started to cry hysterically.
My wife had gone to AAA the week before our wedding to pick up all of our tickets and itinerary. Both the tickets and the itinerary said 7:30AM. I found out later that the flight had changed months earlier.
Our wedding was in Charleston, WV so we were flying out of a pretty small airport. There was only one other flight leaving anytime soon, and that was a flight from Delta to Atlanta. So we went over to the Delta counter to see if they could exchange our tickets. They said they couldn’t do anything, but U.S. Air might be able to. We went back to their counter and proceeded to yell into the back room to try and get somebody to come and help us. They told us that since it was AAA’s mistake and not theirs, there was nothing they could do. Great.
So we called the national AAA number as the local office is obviously not open at 6:00 on a Sunday morning. They checked and said that there were no recent changes to the flight time. Because of that, we would have to contact the local office later.
Running out of options and time, we went to the Delta counter to try and get a flight to San Juan. The guy behind the counter sets everything up and says, “You’re not going to like this.” Yeah no kidding. $1400 for 2 ONE-WAY tickets. Thankfully my emergency fund saved us.
I had become debt free in February and between then and July managed to save up a few thousand dollars. Because of this I was able to just hand him my debit card and pay for the tickets. Without the emergency fund, we would have had a much worse day.
Part 2 – Charleston, WV – Delayed
That’s mostly the financial lesson of the day, but the story continues for entertainment purposes. We got through security fine and went to our gate. A few minutes later our flight showed up as delayed. We were having mechanical problems. Great. Our flight from Atlanta to San Juan is supposed to leave at 9:50. We still have time to make it but it is going to be close.
Then we got delayed again, and then one more time. At this point the people from the airlines have started to work on scheduling new flights for all the people who are going to miss their connections. This is mostly easy except for us and about 2 other groups. Plenty of flights from Atlanta to Miami for instance, not so much going to San Juan.
There are 2 flights left that day, one at 11:30, and another leaving at 5:30. We were on standby for the 11:30 and guaranteed for the 5:30 flight. Unfortunately, our cruise ship would be in the middle of the Caribbean by the time that flight landed, but whatever. Our plane is finally ready, and we take off. We are going to get to Atlanta at like 9:45, maybe if we get lucky that flight will be delayed a few minutes. Thankfully there was a screaming baby sitting right behind us to make flight go smooth.
Part 3 – Atlanta GA – Missed Our Flight, Delayed Again
We landed and then proceeded to sprint through the airport towards are gate. We got there at about 9:55 in time to see the departed sign. That plane left right on time. So we went to the Delta counter to see where the next gate is. Finally we get some good news, we have moved off of standby and are now confirmed for the 11:30 flight.
We head to the next gate and take 2 of the last seats available. We breathe a sigh of relief that we got moved up to the earlier flight and sit down to read. Then we got the announcement that our flight was delayed, we would now be leaving at 12:05. Sigh, not again. Oh well, still plenty of time to get to the ship before it leaves at 7:00PM. I went to get us some lunch and my wife saved our seats. By the time I got back the sign said 12:30. Whatever, lets eat.
After reading for a little bit I got up to go to the restroom. When I got back, our flight had been moved back to 1:30. I decided I better not leave again or the plane would never take off. At this point we were starting to get a little nervous. If the plane leaves after 3:00 we are going to miss the boat, or have to convince them to wait for us. Good luck with that.
Our flight was delayed one more time, back to about 2:30. We’re cutting it close, but we might still make it. We had some delays getting everyone loaded, but we finally managed to leave around 2:45. Luckily, there was another screaming baby sitting right behind us to help take our minds off great day we’ve had.
Part 4 – San Juan Puerto Rico
We finally make it to San Juan and we go to the baggage claim. After standing there for about 5 minutes wondering if they had lost our luggage, we realized that we were at the wrong one. There were actually 2 separate rooms for baggage claim, we were at this one because we thought it was the only one. Another small airport.
After we realized there was another luggage carousel, we actually managed to find all of our bags. At least they hadn’t lost those. We headed over to the buses that were waiting on us, gave them our bags and hoped we’d get them back at some point on the ship. We didn’t actually get to keep them with us, the bags travel separately and then they drop them off directly at your room. Hopefully.
We navigated through some fairly heavy traffic, and finally made it to the ship. We boarded at 6:45 with just 15 minutes to spare. Saying it was a long day would be a huge understatement. It was probably one of the toughest days of my life. I’m pretty sure my wife cried more that day than she ever has. Not exactly how we planned the first day of our marriage.
On the bright side because of my emergency fund we have a great story to tell. Had I not been able to pay for those tickets I don’t know what we would have done. I don’t believe in credit cards so I don’t even have one. The day would have been considerably worse had we not eventually made it to our cruise ship. Luckily the rest of the trip was much less eventful. The cruise ship was great and the islands were gorgeous. We went shopping, snorkeling, river rafting, hiking, and swimming. We did so many different things on the ship I don’t care to list them, but if you get the chance I highly recommend cruises. That is, after you are debt free of course.
After about a month of phone calls and emails we actually managed to get a refund from AAA. They decided that since the flight had changed months earlier, it was indeed their fault for not giving us the correct tickets and itinerary the week before we left. No kidding. I thought I’d use a travel agency so I wouldn’t have to worry about anything since I’d be busy getting married. Apparently I was wrong. In the future I will be making my own arrangements and not using a travel agency. I will also check to make sure my flight hasn’t changed the night before. Live and learn I guess, and always have an emergency fund!