Winter Trip 2022: Part 1, London

Wishing I Hadn’t Gotten a Bargain…

Our group of five enjoys sitting at the front of the plane, but that comes at a high price. To compensate, I’m always on the hunt for ways to maximize airline points. This time, that quest led me to split our group up, putting my parents on British Airways and Josephine, Jamil, and me on United. These British Airways tickets were reward tickets, so I just couldn’t turn them down. Now, I’m wishing I had.

For our departure, the flights were delayed due to a winter storm. Our flight was supposed to leave at 8:05PM, but it wound up taking off at 9:30PM. I talked to my parents right before we took off, and they were waiting in the BA lounge, preparing to board their modestly delayed 9:35PM flight.

I was concerned because I knew my mom was exhausted, my dad was recovering from a sinus infection, and we’d all been on antibiotics. All of us felt like this trip was a bit ambitious, given how sick everyone has been and how stressful work and bar prep have been for me. As my eyelids grew heavy around 11:15PM, I texted my mom, and their plane had yet to board. Thinking they were practically on their way, I fell fast asleep. But at 3AM, I woke up and checked the status of their flight. It took off at 2:47AM!!! My parents were sitting in an airport lounge until almost 3 in the morning.

As I sit here writing this, I am trying desperately to figure out how to do something to make their arrival somewhat palatable. Airport concierge services are all full… I’m not really sure how they’re going to make it through the airport, and I certainly don’t want them to pick up any bags at baggage claim when they’re too exhausted to think. My plan for now is to get to the hotel and ask for a driver to meet them. They have fast track service through immigration. That should help. We’ll try to get them a bigger, better room at our hotel, and they can just stay in tonight and order room service if they think that opportunity to rest and relax will make a difference. It’s just a mess.

I know it’ll be okay, but one of the real challenges with multigenerational travel is making sure everyone is safe and looked after. This trip begins with a bit more texture than I would have preferred, but I’m doing all I can to smooth out the rough spots.

** Update

Ultimately, the solution I landed on to help my parents was first to hire a VIP service. Because it was so last-minute – I was trying to book it as we were ALL in the air, flying – I had to contact a few companies. (Thank God for in-flight Wi-Fi.) Almost every company said they had no availability, but VIP Assist came through for us. A very nice man met my parents at their plane and escorted them through the airport.

I cringed to think of my parents standing in the interminable immigration line, and my weary dad would definitely have strained his back if he’d tried to lift their gargantuan bags. The gentleman from VIP Assist made sure they walked straight through passport control, and he collected all of their bags for them. Then, he called the driver I’d arranged and got them directly to the car. (If you ever need car service on the double, Blacklane never lets us down.)

When we saw them at the hotel, they were in amazingly good spirits. Although the experience in the airport forced them to sit in contorted positions and stay up insanely late, they slept well on the plane, and, unsurprisingly, they made friends with all the other passengers and the crew. They had, on balance, a positive experience. Unbelievable.

On another note, we also managed to have a great day, despite stressing about my parents’ predicament. After checking into our hotel, we took a brisk walk through the winter weather to visit the science museum, which is open until 6PM. Josephine ran around through recreations of James Watt’s lab and looked at antique prosthetic collections — nothing quite as scintillating, really. She also saw her first replica of the Apollo 11. She now thinks the Brits landed first on the moon. I guess a trip to NASA is in order when we get home. On the walk home, we stopped into Harrods and gawked per usual at the luxury. We never really get enough.

That night, back at the hotel, seeing Josephine’s fatigued little face, we decided to give her an evening to remember. We ordered a pile of room service and left her at the hotel with my dad, sitting literally right in front of the television with The Addams Family 2 in full effect. Jamil and I then took my mom to the restaurant Bluebird Chelsea, such a cute place. We went there before the pandemic in January 2020 and loved the vibe, so we always wanted to return. Fortunately, they survived COVID-19 and emerged just as energetic as before. This time, along with great cocktails and wonderful food, the festive ambience reinspired our Christmasy vibe and set us up to enjoy our very few days in London.

Just another abrasion, I guess.

Author: Jessica Givens.