MUSKEGON, Mich. — Spring break is usually a time when people relax and leave stress behind. However, for many right now, it's been quite the opposite.
More than 6,000 flights have been canceled over the last two days, according to tracking service FlightAware, leaving thousands of families waiting to start their trip or to get home from it.
One West Michigan family told FOX 17 they finally got to their destination, but not without several issues along the way.
“Yeah, some traditions can die," joked Tim Parker on Monday.
Parker and his family have always gone south for spring break, doing it now for the 12th year in a row. Usually, they go to Florida, but recently they've traveled to Gulf Shores, Alabama.
That tradition is very much alive. However, driving 13 hours to get there was something he never planned on doing again. The world had other plans.
It started Saturday morning when the Parker's drove from Muskegon to Chicago to catch their flight.
“Great traffic," said Parker. "I jinxed myself the whole way down there because I said, ‘Oh, traffic? There’s no traffic.’ We got right to the airport and as we were pulling into the airport, I got a text alert that our flight had been delayed.”
That delay quickly changed to a cancellation. Their flight was instead rebooked for mid-afternoon Monday.
“My wife was pretty impressed I didn’t lose my cool at the counter," said Parker. "I didn't want to lose two days because we want to fly. It’s not as fun to drive, but we still would lose two days of vacation if we flew.”
So, they hopped in the car and made the dreaded 13-hour drive. Meanwhile, the other family in the group, who was on the same flight, decided to stick with air travel. Their path wasn't any easier, flying from Chicago to Arizona to Houston to Nashville to Atlanta to Pensacola to get there.
“We literally pulled into the driveway of the place we were renting about at the same time," said Parker.
Obviously, that's not the best start to a vacation, but compared to others, they have it easy. Some people told FOX 17 they're stuck in Florida, with their flights getting canceled or pushed back a few days. On top of that, rental cars are few and far between.
The Parker's are certainly not looking forward to making the same drive home on Saturday, but for now, they'll just enjoy the getaway (and the sun).
“Especially when I’m getting pictures and texts back from people that are back in Muskegon with the snow on the ground," said Parker. "I'm like, ‘Okay, it's 70 degrees here right now. It's beautiful out the sun's out.’”
A spokesperson with AAA Michigan said, if you plan on traveling any time soon, it would probably be a good idea to get travel insurance. Here is their full list of recommendations:
- Work with a knowledgeable travel advisor when booking your trip. They’ll serve as your advocate in case your flight is delayed or canceled, and can help with any last-minute travel plans. They may be able to help find an alternate flight to avoid disruption of your travel plans.
- Check your airline’s website or download their app to keep up-to-date on your flight status, including one last time right before you leave for the airport. Check these options before calling their customer service number, which may result in a long wait time.
- Travelers check their flight status before heading to the airport.
- Consider flight travel insurance, but read the fine print to understand what it covers.
- Know your rights as an air passenger and review your airline’s contract of carriage for information on their policies for flight delays, cancellations and rebooking. By law, travelers are entitled to a refund when an airline cancels their flight.
- Avoid booking more than one flight. Duplicate bookings will not only cost the consumer a non-refundable ticket, but also could cause both flights to cancel. Many carriers have algorithms in place to spot dupes and cancel both itineraries which could leave them with no flights at all.
- Be sure to include all medications, snacks and change of clothes in a carry-on bag in case your flight is canceled after you’ve already checked your baggage.
Here's a statement from the Gerald R. Ford International Airport:
"Our team continues to work diligently with our airline partners to ensure all flights can be en route as soon as possible. Severe weather across the country this weekend has caused multiple airlines to delay or cancel flights.
Right now, a majority of the impacted flights at our airport are those departing from or arriving to Florida destinations. We encourage our passengers to visit their airline’s website for updates on their flight status. They should contact their airline if they have any questions on potential delays or cancellations."