Last week I spent the night at the Tampa Airport. I got stuck there due to a connecting flight cancellation that occurred too late in the evening for me to find an alternative flight home – or anywhere else. After trying my best to find other flight options, I remained smug and unperturbed because I could afford to stay overnight in a hotel. Also, the Marriott is located in the airport and I, being a platinum elite Marriott cardholder, was certain they would welcome me with a smile and a room for the night.
I proceeded to the Tampa Airport Marriott and informed the desk attendant, in a sort of nice way, that I was one of their valued elite members and needed a room. She informed me back, in a sort of nice way, that there were absolutely no rooms available. At first I thought she didn’t hear how important I was to Marriott with my platinum status so I repeated it – though this time a bit more desperately. She said again, with no sound of angst in her voice, that there were NO ROOMS. Also, she told me that there were no rooms at any decent hotels within 49 miles. The desk attendant told me she had previously checked room availability in the area for others inquiring who were also stuck. This was confirmed by my husband, who was at home was making all kinds of calls to try and find me a room. He finally told me that to get one, I would have to drive to Sarasota.
In the meantime, my daughter and son-in-law were online trying to find me other flight options. (If only there had been a flight to Vegas, I would have gone there!) I had a sophisticated search team and an elite card, yet still ended up with no flight or room that evening. However, I managed to get a flight out the next morning to Atlanta at 5:15 AM. That was reassuring actually.
What to do what to do??? As I am not a survivalist or a camper type, my first impulse was not to get sustenance or a comfortable place to nest for the night; it was to post my dilemma on Facebook. Actually, that helped. So many friends responded with nice words of OH NO and STAY SAFE. It made me feel that I wasn’t alone. Unfortunately, none of those wonderful people live in Tampa.
Next, realistic survival popped into my head. To that end, I went to the Marriott bar restaurant, ordered a glass of sparkling wine, something to eat and made friends with the waiter. The friendship part was big, as the waiter watched my suitcase and plugged in devices while I used the restroom, as can happen when one drinks sparkly. The bar closed at 1:00 AM and the Marriott lobby was pretty utilitarian with uncomfortable furniture. Plus a woman had taken up residence on the only couch and was sprawled out and sleeping. (It would have been nice if the Marriott had opened up space in one of its meeting rooms to accommodate Marriott members for the night, during inclement weather when flights were cancelled and people stranded). I moved on back to the airport itself to find a place to rest and plug in devices.
I managed to find myself a comfortable chair in the center of the terminal area. There were lots of others in the same predicament hanging out and resting, so I wasn’t alone. While I couldn’t sleep, I was able to read and think about what I would do differently should this type of situation ever happen again and, pooh, pooh, pooh, may it never ever! (Jewish people sometimes say pooh, pooh, pooh with a bit of spit to remove the jinx of something reoccurring).
Here are some tips to prepare and manage should you get stuck overnight in an airport:
Charge up: Make certain all of your electronic devices are charged up before you leave home. No doubt, if you have to use your devices to access flight and hotel information to reschedule and search, you will be glad you have enough power if there aren’t plugs available nearby.
Know your passwords: I was low on data space on my iPad and had to buy more. However, I couldn’t remember my AT&T password to purchase additional data space. Fortunately, via my iPhone, I was able to reset the password on my iPad and continue my searching and entertainment viewing. It was frustrating, as I was trying to act fast. To add to the annoyance, my iPhone was not the latest version and continued to need to be rebooted. UGH!!
Carry nutritional bars or other snacks: Most airport shops close at night and you may get stuck without food or water. It is nice to have something to eat at night and not have to go traipsing around searching for a store or vending machine. I was fortunate that the nice waiter at the Marriott offered me a large glass of water in a take-out cup. It lasted me through the night.
Use the bathroom before settling in your space for the night: Like I have told my grandkids before getting into the car to drive where there isn’t easy access to bathrooms: TRY to go, as you don’t know when we will be able to find a place to stop. Same thing holds true when spending the night at the airport. It is annoying to have to go potty once you found your space. Then it is pack up and leave with the hopes that your well-placed spot will be available when you return. (For the ladies: If you pack product like Always Discreet in your carry-on, it will help keep you feeling fresher for the night when you don’t have a change of unders available – you get my drift.)
Dress comfortably: That idea is never more apparent then when you are wearing the same clothing and shoes for 24 hours. Glad I did – in a mid-life stylish kind of way. Also, if you have room in your carry on, include a fleece top in the winter or sweater in the summer. It can get chilly in the airport at night. I was happy I had my down coat, as it made a great blanket.
Carry antibac: I always do and was glad I had enough to cleanse the chair where I settled for the night. Yes, I tend to be somewhat of a germaphobe and doing that made me more comfortable. By the way, the Tampa Airport is quite tidy and their cleaning crew was very active during the night scrubbing bathrooms and washing floors and windows. Thank you Tampa Airport for being so hygienic!
Don’t sleep on the floor: Yes, I saw several people sleeping on the floor with their bare cheeks on the carpet. I wanted to antibac their faces when they awoke. What were they thinking??
Include disposable toothbrushes in your carry-on: I do when traveling internationally, but not in the U.S. Wish I had some in my bag and will next time.
Anyone else ever get stuck have additional suggestions or stories?