Hurricane Harvey and My Return to Austin

Hurricane Harvey and My Return to Austin

The hurricane known as Harvey made landfall on the Southeastern Coast of Texas just before I was due to fly back from my cruise, so it certainly made for some last-minute travel headaches. Thankfully I’ve made it safely back to my home in Austin, but even as I’m writing this the storm is still wreaking its havoc on the border of Texas and Louisiana. Having lived through hurricane Sandy a few years back, I would never want to wish anything like this on anyone, so my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the storm’s former and current path.

Since I was flying on United, my return trip from Orlando was going to connect in Houston. I like flying United; they’ve done fine by me despite the bad press they’ve received over the year. My only complaint is their lack of a direct flight between Austin and Orlando, but since I don’t fly that itinerary regularly, making the connection in Houston isn’t that big of a deal…unless there’s a hurricane in my way.  I was first notified of the storm on Friday, and some of the news sites were setting expectations for the worst. I hadn’t heard from United as of yet, but that changed on Saturday morning when I woke to find an e-mail showing my flight had been canceled.

I called United and was then rerouted to a later flight, also connecting through Houston. A few hours later, this flight was also canceled, prompting me to call back again. I was then given the option to reroute through Chicago O’Hare or Washington-Dulles, since I’d learned that Houston airports were closed until further notice. I chose to fly to Washington DC, and closely monitored the situation since getting those plans set up.

It’s reasons like this that I strongly recommend having the internet package (if only on one device, at least) while on a cruise. If I’d found out about all of this after returning to land, I may have been delayed further if I couldn’t take action as quickly as I had. Since I was delayed, I booked a room at the Hyatt within Orlando Airport, contacted my manager at work to notify her of my plans, changed my ground transportation in Austin to reflect my new pickup date, and even requested Monday off from work so I wouldn’t have to call out and use a sick day. Getting the internet package is great for posting quick selfies on vacation, but it also can really come in handy to prevent further travel headaches when plans change at the last minute.

Certain members of my family were understandably concerned about my plans to fly directly into the path of a hurricane, and adamantly insisted I fly back to NJ with them to spend a few days up there before returning to Texas. While I understand and appreciate the concern, I did not want to fly any farther out of my way than I had to, and I wanted to minimize the additional time off that I may have to take from work in order to get back within a timely manner. I also put my full faith in the airlines knowing that they will get me back to Austin safely, even if it means reroutes and potential delays. If they were offering a flight that went near the hurricane but not over it or through it, they are doing so because they have the knowledge and experience to know it can be done safely. I’m not a meteorologist, so I’m not going to pretend to know more than the professionals do in this scenario.

Using FlightView Elite  I was monitoring Airport Delays for both Washington-Dulles and Austin, and both were showing on-time performance throughout the day on Sunday. I also used United’s app to keep an eye on my flight, which remained On Time and On Schedule throughout.

Sunday was an uneventful day, which mainly consisted of me relaxing in my hotel room at the Hyatt, sampling the fabulous food-court cuisines of Orlando Airport, and getting a drink with a friend who lives in Orlando and was kind enough to drop by the airport for a few hours to catch up. My flights went off without a hitch on Monday, and I made it back to Austin by around 4pm CST on Monday.

The big takeaways from this whole experience:

  • Wherever you’re traveling, whether it’s on a cruise or traveling abroad, stay connected. If you’re on a cruise, make sure you have access to the internet; even if it’s not on your own device (someone in your room with you, etc.) – If you’re traveling to another country, speak with your phone provider to have some type of international plan added to your account. You never know when that can save you!
  • Have a core set of Travel Apps on your smart phone, and know how to use them. Use apps to monitor Airport arrivals/delays, have your airline(s) apps on your phone, and know how to access your reservations or the customer service phone number for your airline.
  • Have enough room on an “emergency” credit card to cover unforseen expenses; If given the choice of being stranded somewhere with no food/shelter/means to get home, or getting home safely after having a safe place to stay and a meal but having some extra debt, I’ll take option B hands-down. Sure, it cost me a few hundred dollars to have to stay overnight in Orlando, but I was able to mitigate most of that with credit card points so it didn’t severely affect my bottom line.

 

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