I’ve always found flying standby to Seattle, Washington to be quite a challenge. The flights to Sea-Tac International Airport always seem to be full all year round and getting out is just as difficult as getting in. Since the Captain is a native of Washington State and his parents reside in the area we try to visit a couple of times a year -particularly during the Holidays when air travel seems the most stressful. Usually, during my favorite time of year I try my best to buy a plane ticket instead of using my travel benefits, but there are times when I scoff at the ridiculously expensive cost and end up attempting to fly standby instead. What can I say? I dislike spending a lot of money on airfare since I have the advantage to do so for free. But it comes with a cost because each time I do this, the Captain and I find ourselves in unpleasant and vexing situations where not only do we have to think on our toes, but be creative as well.
In December of 2010, the Captain and I ended up flying to Atlanta from Chicago to get to Seattle because we couldn’t get on any of the other flights. Yes, we are aware that Atlanta is on the opposite side of the country but desperate times call for desperate measures and this was one of them. We didn’t sit together and each got the dreaded center seat on a six hour flight that was as cramped as could be. To make matters worse the Captain, still jet lagged from his week of flying around, ended up with a seat that would not recline. We arrived late, and the time change from Central to Pacific time only made it worse!
For several months I considered this the most challenging commute to Seattle via standby that we had ever encountered, but I was clearly mistaken because our trip to Seattle in October 2011 was on a whole new level.
The Captain had a few days off and since we hadn’t visited his parents for a while we decided to fly to his hometown. October is usually a great time to use travel benefits because passenger loads aren’t so bad during this time of year. Especially on a weekday like Tuesday, but for a popular destination like Seattle loads are either a hit or a miss. Of course on the day we planned on visiting all the flights to Sea-Tac were full so we had to look at other alternatives. Our only other option was to hop a flight to Vancouver, Canada and from there take the Amtrak to Seattle. Easy breezy, right? Well not really. The Captain and I first had to go to Minneapolis and from there wait a few hours until we could board the flight to Vancouver. Upon arrival to Canada we would still have several hours to kill before we could take the train to his hometown. Getting to our destination would take us approximately 20 hours and I was over four months pregnant at the time!
“It will be at least 20 hours till we get to the house. Are you sure you can travel for that long?” my husband asked looking at my growing belly.
“I’ll be fine.” I replied. When I first found out that I was with child, I cogitated on how air travel could affect my pregnancy. Traveling is a large part of my life and I wanted to know whether or not I should stop for the sake of my unborn baby. So naturally I asked my doctor during my first prenatal visit. Prior to finding out I was pregnant, the Captain and I had already made plans to travel abroad during his one week vacation at the end of August. We’ve always been fascinated with Africa and were considering going to Kampala, Uganda. I already knew before consulting with my doctor that we wouldn’t be able to go because I would need to get immunized with vaccines that contain live viruses such as yellow fever. After explaining the situation to my doctor she told me the same thing about live vaccines and how I should avoid going to countries that required them. She also got into the specifics of how my first trimester pregnancy symptoms could make long flights uncomfortable and what I could do to manage. While my doctor gave me the go ahead with travel it might be different for other pregnant women, so I suggest they consult with their doctors or healthcare providers first.
The husband and I awoke at 4am central time to catch our flight to Minneapolis and picked up a few things from Duty Free and a book store once we landed. We also had a bite to eat at the food court before boarding the flight to Vancouver. The long flight went by smoothly and I enjoyed the view from the window as we got closer to our destination.
After clearing customs we headed to the food court to discuss what we should do for the four and a half hours we had until our train left. It was decided that we would go site seeing and take pictures of the city. Lugging our heavy rollaboards we walked outside toward the train station. One of the things I’ve always loved about the Pacific Northwest besides its natural beauty is the fresh air! You’ll notice this almost immediately once you leave the airport.
Downtown Vancouver is gorgeous and I enjoyed traipsing around the busy streets even with my rollaboard. I’m a big city girl and being in that environment always gives me energy. We walked toward the waterfront and were blown away by the view. Ocean met sky in a myriad of blue. Ferries moved like fluid flecks of black against a tapestry of azure waves. It rains a lot in this corner of the globe (the umbrella vending machine in the airport was a clue), but that day the weather could not have been more perfect. Afterward we stopped by a coffee shop to rest before getting on a ferry where we would take more photographs of Vancouver’s spectacular skyline.
Time flies when you’re having fun and after eating dinner at an English Pub we finally headed to the Amtrak station. By this time we had been traveling for over 15 hours and were exhausted. Around 10pm pacific time we arrived at our destination happily greeted by the Captain’s parents. Our long journey finally came to an end and what an adventure it was!