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How I Saved My Vacation From Going Off the Rails

Thursday, June 17, 2021

By Jessica Hayes

We’ve all been hearing stories of recent travel nightmares. I have a close friend who is a flight attendant; her stories are rather horrifying (albeit entertaining). Policies and procedures have certainly changed, and traveler anxiety is at an all-time high.

I am still scarred from a family trip to St. Kitts that we tried and failed to take in April.

The full story can be read here, but the short version is that my parents, my husband, our four kids, and I made it to St. Kitts, but only my parents got to stay.

The rest of us were sent back to the United States immediately upon arrival, due to a paperwork snafu. On the best of days, traveling with four kids is not easy, and traveling with them for eighteen hours when things are not going smoothly was nightmarish! Even my calm and cool husband was flummoxed by these events.

That being said, this past year has taught me not only to pivot but to pirouette, and I am grateful for the tools that helped me reimagine our family vacation.

I’ve never loved the phrase, “Things happen for a reason.” As we were herded back onto our American Airlines flight and I was consoling three teary kids and a teenage son who was looking for a fight, I couldn’t fathom what the silver lining would be.

I spent hours online researching other destinations. We’d already spent a lot of money on the plane tickets and were not sure if we’d be reimbursed for any of it, so the mission was to find a low-budget alternative. I scoured the internet, but each search resulted in expensive options or more Covid hurdles, and I couldn’t stomach either. As a hospitality professional and optimist, I truly believed this trip could be salvaged. And then it hit me! Why not reach out to my own network? At the very least, I could share my frustration and ask for support.

I started with the travel community that I was building with Zibby Owens called, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Travel”. The website is a work in progress, but it is super quick and easy to post a question, get advice from like-minded people, and read about the travel experiences of others. I quickly typed, “My vacation to St. Kitts just got derailed and we are flying back to Charlotte. I need a Plan B within driving distance that will be fun for an exhausted mom, dad, and their kids (ages 9, 13, 15, and 18).

My new friend, Samantha, immediately replied, “Kiawah Island is a family favorite.”

We spent the next five days sitting by the pool, biking on the beach, boating, and enjoying all of Kiawah Island’s southern charm. The only downside was that we had to experience it without the company of my parents. My mom texted frequently, and I could tell that they were not having much fun without us. They wanted to be with us, but they were trapped on the island.

She softened the blow by telling me that St. Kitts would not have been much fun for our kids because everything was still pretty locked down, and there was way too much seaweed for the ocean to be enjoyable.

As we were herded back onto our American Airlines flight and I was consoling three teary kids and a teenage son who was looking for a fight, I couldn’t fathom what the silver lining would be.

Based on this trip and a couple of others that I’ve done since restrictions have been lifted, here are some lessons I’ve learned that may help when things don’t go as planned:

  • Sometimes the detour is the best part of a traveling experience.

  • Kids bounce back much more quickly than adults.

  • The most important part of any trip is that you have already chosen your traveling companions.

  • Be patient. Have empathy. Ask for help.

  • You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a vacation.

  • An online community can be as valuable as the ones that exist in real life.

The best thing you can do is to stay calm and try to roll with the punches as they come. If you have faced unexpected travel barriers, please share your experience with us. And if you need travel advice or have journeys you recommend, please join this online community.

I think we’ve all evolved as travelers and have different priorities, so let’s come together to offer new perspectives and make these new experiences better than before.

Jessica Hayes has worked in the hospitality industry for more than 25 years. She serves as the President of her consultancy, Hayespitality, and is the President of the Boston Chapter of HSMAI (Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International).

Jess is thrilled to have partnered with Zibby Owens to help build a division of her brand, Moms Don’t Have Time to Travel. Because they both have four kids, they understand the value of building a community that connects books and traveling with smart women who are short on time.

Jess holds a B.A. in French from Mount Holyoke College and has traveled extensively. Some of her favorite places include Montpellier, France, Ethiopia, Tahiti, and her Uncles’ farm in Nebraska. Her favorite author is Willa Cather.