Vacation Turned Delay-cation Turned Stay-cation

Last Tuesday we were supposed to fly out to the Denver area for a combined ski trip and also to visit my sister in law, her husband and my nephews.  Even three days out from our departure date we knew that this trip wouldn’t go quite as planned.  There was a blizzard on the horizon set to arrive on Tuesday, the day of our departure.  We got a notification on Saturday that one of our flights might be a problem as we were scheduled to go through New York right in the heart of the storm.  With this advance notice we were given the option of changing our flight without incurring any change fees.  We changed our first flight to go through Detroit instead of NY and as we were set to leave at 5:45 am we figured we would be able to fly out before the storm hit.

Sleeping the night before an early morning flight never goes well but even after tossing and turning for well over an hour, we got a notification that our flight was cancelled around 11 pm.  Bummer…but at least we knew the night before so we didn’t have to make it all the way to the airport in the wee hours of the morning before finding out.  We slept in a little bit (does 7:15 count?), had breakfast, and then decided it would actually be easier to drive over to the airport and figure out our options instead of waiting on hold for hours with the airline (the hold time on Saturday was 2 hours).  This turned out to be a great decision as the airport was a ghost town.  We didn’t see a single passenger, despite there not be a flake of snow in the sky, and only a few airport employees around.  Even all the shops were closed.  Apparently only 2 flights made it out that morning before things closed down which meant we had the full attention of the counter agent.  We decided since the forecast was estimating a couple of feet of snow it would be silly to head out west to ski/ride on Wednesday, plus the likelihood of actually getting out on a flight Wednesday was not likely as the storm was set to continue well into the day.  So with our flight rescheduled to Thursday we headed home to rest after a horrible night of sleep.

Wednesday, the start of our “delay-cation” as we called it, we woke up to over a foot and a half of snow at our house which meant the snowfall at the mountain would be even better!  (They were reporting 44″ of new snow.)  We planned extra time to get to the mountain and got there for lift open, ready to ski/ride all that fresh fluffy powder.  And OMG, was it an amazing day!  Neither of us have ever skied in so much deep snow!  The trails themselves only had about a foot of snow since some of the snow had fallen during opened hours on Tuesday but there was insanely deep snow in the woods.  The snow was actually deep enough that it was hard to find places with enough pitch to give us enough speed.  It was truly an amazing day and I will admit we were actually glad our flight was cancelled.  When we rebooked on Saturday we had the option of going through either Atlanta or Detroit and if we had chosen Atlanta we would have missed this amazing day at the mountain as it was one of the only 2 flights that left that morning.  Our “delay-cation” was going so well!

Wednesday evening we prepared for the next morning’s 5:45 am flight, getting everything set again when I got a notification that our first flight was delayed.  I checked our itinerary and this delay would mean we would miss our connection.  I didn’t want to get stranded in Detroit so decided to call the airline and make sure we would be able to catch the next flight out.  After giving the agent all of our info she told me our flight was actually cancelled, not delayed.  I questioned her as the flight was still only showing as delayed online but she seemed confident it was actually cancelled.  I had her check other flights to see what our options would be for rebooking.  It turns out that the best option would get us there after 9 pm on Friday.  So instead of arriving Tuesday mid-day we would be arriving a full 3.5 days later.  As we were scheduled to depart on the following Tuesday this would mean we would only have 3 days out there.  Considering the distance traveled and the time it takes to get back and forth, this just wasn’t worth it.  I asked for a full refund.  I know the storm was not the airline’s fault  but it was at this point just getting ridiculous.  Without hesitating she said she could do that.  To be honest I was a little surprised as I thought we would only get credits but I guess they make exceptions in extenuating circumstances.  Our delay-cation was now officially a stay-cation.  (Later we found out our flight was only delayed, she had given us incorrect information.)

By Thursday morning almost another foot of snow had fallen at the mountains.  At this point the mountain was reporting over 52″ of snow since the start of the storm.  Out west there may be storms that drop this much snow all of the time but where we live this is a true rarity.  So early Thursday morning we headed up to the mountain again.  And since everyone had skipped work/school on Wednesday, there were less people at the mountain fighting for fresh tracks.  And honestly, Thursday was almost better than Wednesday, not that Wednesday was bad by any stretch of the imagination.  Some of the early snow had consolidated but the fresh powder on top of that made an amazing combination.  At one point in the woods I was literally waist deep in snow.  Now being on a snowboard this actually isn’t a good thing as I was at a dead stop and completely stuck but really, how can I complain?  Overall the day was just so incredible.  We even stopped a few times to take some photos.

I am not sure of the total snow fall (maybe 52″) but Mr. SFF said our little home mountain had reported the most snowfall out of the whole US for the week.  In town we hit #2 for the most snowfall out of one storm.

By Friday the skies had cleared and Saturday and Sunday were both beautiful blue bird days at the mountain, also kinda rare where we live.  We really had hit the jackpot.  Now I will openly admit that I was actually excited that our flights got cancelled since we were able to ski/ride so much powder but we did miss out on visiting family.  As far as how much we lost financially we were actually pretty lucky.  We got a full refund on our flights, we got the hosting part of the AirBNB refunded (our host was pretty awesome about this), but lost some money on the car rental.  Lesson learned, don’t prepay for a car rental.  The total was less than $200 which all things considered isn’t all that bad.  Especially when one single day ticket to Vail would have cost $140 and we had way better snow conditions here.

Another thing we wanted to do in CO was meet up with others on the journey to FIRE.  Since the population near us is pretty small there is really no one nearby but I knew that there were many in the Denver area.  I had reached out on the Mr Money Mustache forums and found that Mr. 1500 Days was willing to meet up.  I have been wanting to meet other people on the journey to FIRE in person as it can feel lonely not having anyone other my Mr. SFF to discuss are crazy plans.  I guess I will have to plan another time to meet up with others.

We also still want to visit my sister in law and her family but we are just not sure when we can make this happen.  Mr. SFF, being self-employed, doesn’t get paid time off and this was my last vacation with coverage at work.  I was able to talk management into hiring my old boss to cover for a few hours a day Wednesday through Friday but I will likely never have this chance again.  This unfortunately means I will never have a vacation fully away from work as I will always have to be checking in.  I did return to work on Monday this week instead of Wednesday as planned which turned out to be a good thing as there was so much my co-worker hadn’t gotten to while I was out.  Ugh, back to the daily grind…

One of the things this vacation showed us is how much we hate air travel.  You always feel like you are getting screwed, you are at the mercy of weather and any other airline delays, you often have to get up at insane hours in the morning, and it in general is just such as hassle.  If time wasn’t a factor then driving out looks like a better option in many ways.  Of course when you work full time that just isn’t an option.

This past week was a nice reminder of why we want to hit our FI goal.  We want the freedom to make it to the mountain anytime we get fresh snow and the time to visit family when we want.  Let’s hope we can make it happen in the next few years.

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