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I’ve traveled many times before over Thanksgiving, during the Christmas break, and on busy summer travel weekends. Heck, I’ve even written plenty of travel tips for families traveling during the busy holiday seasons, but somehow yesterday I still nearly blanked on a big challenge unique to flying during the busy holiday season and as a result nearly ruined our trip. Here’s how I almost blew my husband’s surprise trip before we ever left the ground.
Knowing the holiday travel season can be a bit unpredictable, we allowed extra time at the airport, flew through security with Pre-Check, had assigned seats together, followed all the baggage and carry-on rules, didn’t pack a large snow globe in our carry-on, left all of our jams and jellies at home, tracked our flight and knew it was on-time, but we missed planning for one key holiday travel challenge.
We did everything right inside the airport, but we failed to calculate just how full the airport parking lots would be on December 27th. December 27th is not one of the busiest holiday travel days in terms of passengers going through the airport, but it has to be one of the peak occupancy dates for the airport parking lots since virtually everyone who is going to be gone for the holidays is still gone. To make matters worse, we had an early morning departure which meant that not only were the parking spots full, but folks weren’t really even landing yet to pick up their cars that morning.
Normally we have my parents drop us off at the airport both to save money on parking and to make the travel experience easier. We often do the same for them on their trips. However, since we had an early morning departure, were just going to be gone one night, and they were watching our daughter, we didn’t add to their to-do list with an airport drop-off and pick-up. We also live too far into suburbia for any kind of public transportation or Uber to be a realistic option.
Since it was just a one-night trip we headed to the parking garage for our terminal and while the signs said “full”, an attendant was letting people in while keeping count on a clipboard. We thought spots would be scarce, but available. However after 20+ minutes of driving in circle with tons of other cars in the garage like bees circling a hive, it became clear there were literally zero available spots. Any hope of snagging a returning passengers’ spot were dashed when we didn’t see a single returning passenger during our search.
At this point I had pulled up the Houston Airport Parking website (which I clearly should have done before heading to the airport) and saw that there was indeed an airport-wide parking problem with lots showing full almost across the board.
I had to start thinking creatively pretty fast if we were going to make our flight, so even though it was the most expensive option, I called valet parking to see if they had any available spots and was told they did have a couple at the terminal we were at. After haggling to get out of the parking garage we were in that had no available spots, we made it to the valet parking entrance only to be told that it was now shut down (as was the entire parking garage at this point). We begged the attendant to let us in since we had just called 3 minutes prior to ask about a spot, and we were ultimately reluctantly let in with a warning that it was probably full.
Thankfully, while the valet lot was over-stuffed with cars being left sort of everywhere, they took our car. We gave a tip and big thanks and made a dash for the terminal. Since later flights that day were full, missing our flight would have been a very big problem for our 24 hour trip, and ultimately would have probably made it a pointless endeavor.
A little last minute creative thinking and luck were on our side to make the trip possible, but I’m pretty sure I will never forget to factor in airport parking lot space again when traveling over the holidays!
Has a holiday travel basic ever almost flubbed your plans?