. Why I got off the plane: when travel doesn't go as planned : Budget Travel Adventures

Why I got off the plane: when travel doesn’t go as planned

Travel can't always be simple and carefree

To say I am disappointed would be an understatement.  I am not sure whether to blame myself, circumstances, weather, or poor planning on my part.  Regardless of who or what is to blame, sometimes travel doesn’t go as planned.

Early this morning, I headed to the airport on my way to Boulder, Colorado as part of the College Football Travel Tour.  The morning started off well – all the way through boarding.  As everyone was seated, the pilots announced there was a delay as the computers weren’t reading the weight and balances correctly so this would have to be done manually.  A 6:25 am flight was delayed.

An hour later and everything was finally ready to go.  Flight demonstrations were done, flight attendants seated, and the plane was ready to leave the gate.  Right before we were ready to take off, the pilots made another announcement – high winds had grounded all air traffic in Denver.  We would have to wait at least an hour before we would know if we could leave.

At 7:40 am, the doors of the airplane were opened and all the passengers were allowed to leave the plane and hang out by the gate.  By 8 am, I was thinking whether or not I should leave the plane – and go home.

I spent time talking to the main flight attendant telling him about my plans to see Colorado play Arizona today.  The time was now 9 am in Boulder and the game started at 12:30 pm.  Here we were still seated on the plane, all the passengers were wandering around by the gate, and we were still an hour away from leaving the ground.  I wasn’t even sure if I was going to go as I would miss half the game.

A flight leaving at 9 am (it would be 10 am in Denver) wouldn’t land until noon.  Then we would still have to taxi to the gate which would take another 10 or 15 minutes.  At 12:15, kickoff would be 15 minutes away.  I would still have to take a shuttle to get my rental car and then make another 45 minute drive to Boulder before I could go to the game.  That’s if we left at 9 am.

Do I stay or do I go?

Finally, we got the clearance to go at 8:45 am.  As the flight attendants were taking a head count, I had to make a decision – do I go to Boulder or do I go home?

In my mind, I wrestled with all the scenarios.  At minimum, I would miss the first quarter and may not get there until halftime.  As part of a College Football Travel Tour, would it be worth going if I missed half the game?  In talking to the flight attendants, wind would be an issue in Denver all day today making it a miserable experience.

I wouldn’t be able to feature any tailgating experiences today as well.  Being as late as I was, I would miss it.  And with the high winds, there wouldn’t be much tailgating anyways.  Once the game ended, the sun would be setting and I wouldn’t have any more daylight to explore the town.

If I went, I would waste an entire day on half of a football game in high winds with little time to do anything else in Boulder.  I would be left with a day and a half to explore the town, review hotels, find places to eat, explore the campus, and find activities in Boulder.  All of this would need to be done before I left Monday afternoon.  Aside from this delay, this trip was poor planning on my part.

Travel plans canceled

At 8:35 am, I was thinking about my family.  Deep down inside, none of this seemed like a good idea and the entire trip didn’t feel right at all.  So I gathered my bags and left the airplane.

At the gate, the captain was still trying to formalize his plans and get his final schedule approved.  I told the gate attendants and pilot I was leaving because I was going to miss the game.  The pilot told me that 80 mph wind gusts were forecast in Boulder today.  And that confirmed my decision.

The staff, pilots, and flight attendants at Frontier Airlines were very helpful and understanding.  They were sympathetic towards my situation and the gate attendant was nice enough to refund my airline ticket.  Unfortunately, my hotel was non-refundable but I didn’t have to pay for anything else.

I grabbed my bags, headed downstairs, and took the shuttle back to my car.  I looked at the time as I put my bags in my car and saw Frontier Airlines flight 224 to Denver plane take off right in front of me.  The time was 8:58 am.

Regret and disappointment

When I got home, I went online and checked the status of my flight.  The plane finally landed at noon in Denver.  Wind gusts were being reported at over 80 mph.  People were posting photos of things that were blown over.  People in Boulder were calling it hurricane Boulder.

All morning, I tried to find ways to justify my decision.  And every bit of news I read made me feel a little better.  Today was no day to be outside in Boulder.  And even with the football game being played, high winds were forecast the rest of the day.  Even if I made the end of the first half, the rest of the day in Boulder wasn’t going to be much fun.

I had an awesome trip on campus and during the football game at the University of Washington.  I was looking forward to the Colorado Buffaloes football game (even if they are having a bad season).  As a little kid, I remembered watching games at Folsom Field against top teams like Nebraska during the days of Coach McCartney and looked forward to going.  Yet nothing seemed to go well today.  This trip just didn’t seem right.

However, I felt guilty all day.  Instead of being at home, I felt like I was supposed to be somewhere else.  I tortured myself in the afternoon.  I turned on the Colorado – Arizona game and watched it until the end.  The winds were bad but the sun was shining.  The game was much better than I expected and Colorado got their first Pac 12 win ever beating Arizona 48-29.  All I could think about was that I should have been there and how fun that game would have been.

What do you do when travel plans change?

Later today, I thought about the older couple sitting down in front of the ticket counter as I was getting my ticket refunded.  They had left the same flight as me, booked on American Airlines, and then didn’t get on that flight either.  Now, they were stuck in the airport, missing the start of their vacation in Costa Rica, and the wife was crying (Frontier Airlines got them booked on a 10 am flight on US Airways through Phoenix).

In their case, a delayed flight disrupted their travel plans.  In my case, a delayed flight due to mechanical issues and FAA regulations was delayed even more by weather problems.  Then I decided that getting to the game late and poor planning wouldn’t make this trip worth the effort and the amount of money I was spending.

Sometimes, travel plans are changed because of things outside of our control.  And sometimes our travel plans are changed because of choices we make.

Did I make the right decision to cancel my flight and head home?  I’ve been trying to convince myself that I did.  Yet the disappointment and regret has been hanging over my head all day.

I’m already planning my next trip for the College Football Travel Tour.  However, I can’t wait to go to Colorado – next year.

Did I make the right decision to cancel my travel plans?  How do you handle travel plans when they are changed?

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  1. Jessalyn says:

    Sometimes your instincts are adamant that something isn’t right about a trip – and I think you did the right thing in listening to them.

    I had a similar experience a few years ago: it was late fall and one of my friends was graduating from a college in the Midwest (I still had one semester to go in Washington, DC). A handful of his friends were flying in from around the country to celebrate, and I was one of them. I got to the airport in Baltimore and, while sitting at the gate, realized I’d forgotten to pack any socks. It was stupid, it was a little thing, but I never forget things like that. Fifteen minutes later, it was announced that my flight was delayed by several hours. Two hours after that, it was canceled due to weather and the airline was scrambling to get everyone on flights out the next morning. My trip was going to be less than 72 hours to begin with, and with the delay it was down to not much more than 48. A recent ex-boyfriend who happened to also be a good friend of the graduate was going to be there, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to see him yet. Plus, it was going to be COLD, and I didn’t have any socks!

    Finally, after talking to my friend on the phone a couple of times, I decided to cancel the trip and see him at Christmas instead. The airline was refunding full fares for people who decided not to reschedule their flights, so I wasn’t out anything more than what it had cost me to get to the airport and then back home. I spent the weekend alternately enjoying the unexpected free time and feeling guilty that I wasn’t cheering at my friend’s graduation. I was genuinely upset not to be there, but something about the trip just hadn’t felt right since I’d arrived at the airport and, in hindsight, I’m glad I listened to my instincts and decided not to go.

    Every now and then, a trip just isn’t meant to be. But I bet you’ll have a great time in Boulder next year!
    Jessalyn recently posted..Wandering Angkor WatMy Profile

    • Thanks Jessalyn. I wasn’t sure if I made the right decision but sometimes you have to listen to your instincts. Maybe if I had forgotten my camera or something like that it would have been easier to justify!

      Reading about your socks, weather, and ex-boyfriend situation, seems it just wasn’t meant to be. When you are in the situation, even things like that can make it hard to make that decision. When you already have the trip planned and are ready to get on the plane, it’s hard to turn back.

      I guess the final confirmation for me was getting the flight refunded. I didn’t even ask to have that done. Gate attendant for Frontier chased me down in the airport to tell me she would refund it. Even the rest of the day I had second guesses but it seems like I made the right decision in the end.

  2. Steve says:

    I’d say you probably made the right decision. Half a football game is nothing to be flying around the country for. I really enjoyed your write up on the Washington trip, and I can’t imagine you would have had much time to do anything similar for Colorado. We can wait a week.
    Besides, what a great reason to schedule College Football Travel Tour 2!
    Steve recently posted..I’m Such a GrasshopperMy Profile

    • Steve, thanks for the support. Maybe I could have made it to the game by the end of the first quarter. However, the winds played a factor in my decision and also how little time I would have overall factored in as well.

      Glad you liked the post on Washington. There will be a LOT more coming up on UW so stayed tuned. I will be writing a variety of stories and posting photos and videos as well.

  3. Jenna says:

    I think you made the right decision. This post highlights the reality that travel can be a pain in the butt. It is easy to think of the romantic, idealistic view of travel, but flying, renting a car, looking for a place to eat, etc. are tiring. And to me, those winds sound horrible. Enjoy your weekend with your kids, and remember that Boulder will always be there. :)
    Jenna recently posted..Summer Travel in California: Navigating the optionsMy Profile

    • Thanks Jenna. All day yesterday felt like I should have been somewhere else. However, so many little things said I shouldn’t go, including my gut. Wish I had something concrete to prove that I made the right decision but all the little things added up and told me it was a good decision.

      I really look forward to going to Boulder next year. Maybe I will go in the Spring with the family! :)

      • Jenna says:

        There you go– going to Boulder in the spring with your family is a great idea. Have you been there? Such a beautiful place, but not a place you can enjoy with bad weather.

        • I have never been to Colorado so that was another reason I was looking forward to the trip (would have been state #36 for me). I like the outdoors so seems like a great place to go as well. I wanted to spend time hiking when I was there but definitely couldn’t get everything I wanted done in such a short amount of time.

          As for the evidence, I think there are times when you can find evidence that it was the right decision. In this case, it was a judgment call weighing the pros and cons. I have to believe my instincts were correct and that logically, I made the right decision.

          Interestingly, I slept a LOT this weekend so maybe I just needed some rest. I know I wouldn’t have gotten that if I was there so maybe that is another positive from all of this as well.

  4. Laura says:

    Sounds like you trusted your intuition on this one. And anyway, if the whole point of the trip was pretty much to see the game it wouldn’t make sense to miss it. There will be others. I can’t believe the airline refunded your money! Wow!
    Laura recently posted..Amazing All-Inclusive Resorts in AfricaMy Profile

    • Thanks Laura. I am not always the best at trusting my instinct and watching the game yesterday was torture. However, it wasn’t just the game. Seems like the whole weekend would have been a loss as I wouldn’t have had time to do more stuff in Boulder.

      As for the refund, I was really surprised as well. The gate attendant chased me down to tell me she would refund my money. I had already left to head to my car when she came up to me! Guess it really was a good decision and maybe it proved it was the right one.

  5. Just wanted to say thanks for all the comments and support on this. The more I read people’s comments, the more I realize I made the right decision – despite my regrets and second guessing at times.

    • Jenna says:

      And keep in mind that there is never “evidence” to prove we make the right decisions. In fact, both decisions would have had plusses, so just be reassured that you did what felt right at the time, even if you second-guessed it later.

  6. Hey Jeremy,
    I’m a big believer in trusting your instincts, so I’m only going to echo here what everyone else has already said, you definitely did the right thing.
    There’s a reason you felt uneasy and decided not to go, and who knows where the path would have taken you if you’d not listened to your instinct?
    It’s so easy to regret and question ourselves, but in my experience if you listen to your gut instincts first then you really can’t go wrong. We were given these instincts for a reason, really going right back to our primal days, so we could sense danger from predators and enemies. That might seem extreme to say in today’s society but I still think it stands today.
    Ease the regret by planning a new trip to Colorado complete with an extra day or two to see things you may not have taken the time to see on this trip.
    I’m hoping the regrets fade (as they always seem to) and your days can be occupied with new plans for adventure :)
    Ree – Little Aussie Travellers recently posted..Education Choices While Travelling Australia With ChildrenMy Profile

    • Thanks Ree. It’s so nice to read everyone’s thoughts on this. Seems like it it is confirmation that I made the right choice. I remember sitting there on the airplane and going over all the options in my head. I told myself I would wait until the announcement came whether we would go or not. Even though, something didn’t feel right and I was hoping that we would be delayed even more confirming my decision. However, when it was time to make it I just didn’t think I should go. I wanted to go home. I felt like I was quitting and not giving this a chance. For some reason, the idea of getting on that flight and going to Denver just didn’t seem right.

      In the end, I made my decision and wrestled with it on Saturday. However, I accepted it today and just know that it was the right one for me. I am not one to listen to my instincts much just because I argue with myself and try to be too logical. In this case I am not sure where but I guess I can find comfort in the confirmation from others. And deep down, I think it was the right way to go as well.

  7. i hate moments like this;. Like you, I suffer from guilt and beat myself up about it for hours. You have to learn to let it go and understand everything happens for a reason.
    I think you made the right choice. If you went and missed most of the game you probably would have been kicking yourself even more for going!
    Caz Makepeace recently posted..Our Week in Review + Photos: Nov 6 – 13My Profile

    • That is indeed how I felt. I beat myself up for quite a while even torturing myself by watching the game. In the end, I followed my instincts for once. Now I can’t second guess. I can only go forward. I may never know why my instincts told me not to go. Maybe I would have made most of the game and had a good time. However, I know this didn’t feel right for me and I listened. No regrets now – just time to move forward.

      I completely understand the second guessing and the guilt. After examining things and reading everyone’s response, I feel good about my decision.

  8. I once was driving to a Notre Dame Tennessee game when I was in college. My car broke down and died in Lebanon, Indiana (three hours from South Bend). The next morning I tried to rent a car, but I was not yet 21, so they would not let me. I decided to hitch hike to the game. After five different rides I finally made the game at halftime. We were losing 24-3 and Notre Dame was lining up for a field goal to make it 27-3. Tennessee blocked the kick and returned it for a TD. We went on to come back in the second half and win 34-33. I like to think that my arrival turned the tide.

    Sometimes you have to overcome, adapt, and press on. Other times you have to throw in the towel and accept it is not going to happen. I think you made the right decision listening to your instincts.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Top 7 all inclusive holiday destinationsMy Profile

    • Ted, sounds like you made the right decision for yours. And you got to experience the rewards of it! For me, I am not sure why. Even getting up and going to the airport that morning, something didn’t feel right. I don’t know what it is. Then when all of this happened, my gut was telling me no.

      Like your experience, Colorado had a great day winning big for their first Pac 12 win ever. Unlike your experience, I wasn’t there to experience it. However, we both made the right decisions for ourselves. Thanks for sharing your story and your support.

  9. Toni says:

    Things are always better in hindsight which is one of the irritating things about life when things could have gone better for you. But, everything happens for a reason and for whatever reason, you weren’t supposed to get there that day. Maybe you had a ‘Final Destination’ moment haha.

    Try not to be too hard on yourself…I have no doubt that the opporunity (and maybe, better ones) will still be coming your way!
    Toni recently posted..Why the World Travel Market changed my opinion about bloggingMy Profile

  10. Sometimes, you just have to shrug your shoulders and say, “oh, well…” I have found that most things look funnier in the rear view mirror. Stay happy! Nancy
    50+ and on the Run recently posted..Sunday Haiku VIIMy Profile

    • Thanks Nancy. I’ve gotten over the disappointment pretty quickly. Just didn’t work out this time but hopefully better planning and better weather will be the forecast for my next trip there! :)

  11. I would have done the same in your situation. Great that you got a refund on the flight.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Buena Birra in Buenos AiresMy Profile

  12. I think that frustration and anxiety about being late would have carried over to the other events of the day. Sometimes a bad start can alter an otherwise good trip.

    You made the right decision to trust your instincts and postpone this trip until next year. And you were refunded the flight, something that would have made the decision easier to swallow for me.
    Michaela Hall recently posted..A Thanksgiving Without TurkeyMy Profile

    • I was very surprised I was refunded the flight. That really helped confirm it for me. As I told others, I stood at the gate with the staff and the captain and told them my situation and why I was leaving. The plane was taking off so it wasn’t Frontiers’ fault. I could have gone. I never even asked to get my money back. The gate attendant chased me down in the airport to tell me she would refund my money. So I walked away feeling really good about things!

      Even before the flight was delayed, I was questioning whether I would be able to get things done. This wasn’t like my trip to Washington where everything seemed to work out perfectly. So once the reason I was going in the first place (the football game) was in doubt, it didn’t make sense as the day itself would have been wasted. As much as I debated with myself over this, it just didn’t feel right at all in the end. And it’s with that, I made my decision.

      Never had to face a decision like that before when traveling. When something goes wrong or my plans get screwed up, I get mad and want to get things back on track. However, that wasn’t the case this time. Everything seemed to be telling me this was the right decision despite my disappointment.

  13. So sorry to hear about your terrible predicament but I probably would have waited it out and went anyway. I am too excited when I travel and the prospects of doing an about-face are too dismal to think about. But in your heart, you felt it was the right decision and therefore it was.
    Jeff Titelius recently posted..Guided Tour Through the Storybook Villages of Alsace, FranceMy Profile

    • Jeff, normally I would agree with you. This was hard for me. When I am all set for a trip and was anticipating this for weeks, it was a tough call to go home. All weekend I felt like I should have been somewhere else. However, this was also a project. I had to look at this from a cost benefit standpoint and not just an experience one. I had a lot of work lined up for this weekend and I am not sure I could have gotten it all done. By the time I got there on Saturday, that would have been a waste of a day. Throw the weather and wind into it and I couldn’t justify the costs.

      Sometimes you have to go with instinct. And even though I was disappointed and tried to justify this from a financial and logical perspective, in the end it just didn’t feel right. And more than anything, I just have to trust that and know that I will look forward to going next year!

  14. Terrible to hear this Jeremy. As for me, so far, it’s been all good except for a scare when the plane I got on took off and then turned back to the airport after 5 minutes due to a technical problem last month. But I waited it out while other passengers were literally scared to take that same flight which delayed 4 hours. The airline did not compensate anyone or even offer a bottle of mineral water. Sometimes Airlines in Southeast Asia do mess up too.
    David @ Malaysia Asia recently posted..Festival of People and Tribes in Bali, Indonesia (Pt 1)My Profile

    • While I didn’t end up taking this flight, they offered everyone on the flight free DirecTV on the flight since it was delayed. I think the big fines being imposed on airlines here in the US has a lot of them more focused on being customer-friendly when delays like this happen.

      You can’t always prevent delays and problems like this. However, if it means better customer service as a result, it could make these issues a little less frustrating when they happen.

  15. What a bummer :( Going with your gut was probably the right decision though…. getting to the game at half-time with high winds would have made the whole trip even more frustrating.
    Michael Figueiredo recently posted..Top 10: Things To Do in Lisbon, PortugalMy Profile

    • I have to agree with you – that’s why I didn’t go. Plus I would have had so little time to do stuff on Sunday and Monday. Logically, it didn’t make sense. More importantly, it just didn’t feel right.

  16. jenjenk says:

    Personally, I say family first. Always. You went with your gut!! that can never be a wrong answer, right??

    I’ve had so many times where I’ve missed out on days of vacation due to weather, mechanical issues, or gremlins [still not sure which] and though I’ve wanted to cry over it, I had to figure out what I was going to do about it. I think the important thing for me is that I made a choice and didn’t act like a helpless person crying over the fact that my travel plans were falling apart [even though I really, really wanted to many, many times!!!]
    jenjenk recently posted..Cappadocia, Turkey: Butterfly Balloons Hot Air Balloon FlightMy Profile

    • Well I don’t typically go on gut or instinct. I work everything out logically in my head. And if I am honest, my feelings are my guide many times as well. However, this wasn’t logic or feelings although logic did help me in this situation.

      Listening to my gut isn’t easy for me. I was already prepared in my heart and head to travel that weekend. I hate having my plans interrupted. I don’t know why my gut told me no. Sure, I was going to miss a little of the game but deep down, it was more than that. It’s what my gut told me. I just don’t know why. I just have to listen, accept, and know that I made the right decision.

  17. inka says:

    You have to go with the flow. If things don’t happen as planned, it’s always for a reason although it may not be apparent at the moment. You did the right thing.
    inka recently posted..The British Museum on the runMy Profile

    • Thanks for your comment Inka. It’s hard for me to go with my gut at times because I want to figure things out logically. No, the reasons why I had that feeling in my gut weren’t apparent – not sure they still are. However, I think it was the right decision – even if I don’t know all the reasons why.

  18. jade says:

    As long as you felt better about it, then you did the right thing. I know I have sat on a plane, worrying about taking off, the delay or even a sketchy passenger and haven’t left and wished I had. It’s hard to know whether you are doing the right thing, especially when you really want to do something and it isn’t working out perfectly. usually when something doesn’t feel right in my gut, then I know I should jump ship- or deboard the plane, in your case.
    jade recently posted..Meaningful Connections: Study Abroad for Lifelong FriendshipsMy Profile

    • It’s hard to walk away from a flight you’ve paid for and a trip you’ve been preparing to take for a while. It’s not just the frustration of dealing with these things but the disappointment of walking away from something you really wanted to do. In the end, I had to make a decision and I think in the end, it was the right one for me. I don’t go with my gut often but glad I did here.

  19. robin says:

    Very good service that you got the refund – I wouldn’t let the experience get you down :)
    robin recently posted..El AccesoMy Profile

  20. So sorry to hear about your experience! I think the decision is made based on each and every trip. The circumstances are all different. In your case, I would’ve done the same.
    Shirlene from Idelish recently posted..{USA} Malasadas, a Must Eat in Honolulu, Oahu.My Profile

  21. what a bummer! i hate it when things like this happen. i’m such a freak when planning my trips so i really get disappointed when plans doesn’t push through. the good thing about my travels is that my friends are with me, always ready to cheer me up and forces me to see the good side.

    maybe next, for such important trips, you should try to leave a day before your scheduled itinerary. i do that for my business trips so i’m covered when flights go delayed or cancelled. i have longer time to do the other options.

    happy travelling!
    Gladys | WanderingTandem.com recently posted..Our Bicol Travel VideoMy Profile

    • I am actually the same way! I like to plan things out and hate it when things go off schedule. It stresses me out and that’s not a good thing. I don’t handle things like this very well.

      However, I did pretty good this time. I think it was because something didn’t feel right and my gut was telling me to go home. Normally, I would be really upset and mad. This time, I was calm and disappointed. I guess everything worked out for the best and I made the right decision.

      As for leaving earlier, I thought I would be OK since it was just Colorado. If this was for the east coast, without a doubt. However, I learned my lesson. I will be leaving a day earlier now to make sure this doesn’t happen again (and to give myself more time at my destination beyond the football game).

  22. I’d say you made the right choice. I’ve never left the airplane – mainly because I didn’t think they’d refund my ticket. Glad it worked out for ya.
    adventureswithben recently posted..How to Create a Travel-Themed Christmas TreeMy Profile

    • Ben, I got off the plane and just assumed I didn’t get a refund. It just didn’t feel right. The ticket wasn’t that expensive so I didn’t worry too much about it. However, the lady at the gate chased me down and offered me the refund without me even asking. That is when I know I really made the right decision.

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