Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

As a professional speaker my biggest fear is a travel snafu that does not allow me to reach the conference destination where I am scheduled to speak.  I always allow plenty of time to ensure an early arrival in a city.  I take the first flight out the day before the event to make sure if something does go wrong with weather or a mechanical issue, that I have several travel options.

But sometimes there is a perfect storm of "stuff" that happens and everything unravels.  I came very close recently to seeing my fear become a reality.

I was scheduled to be "The Conference Catalyst" and first speaker at the ASAE Great Ideas Conference in Colorado Springs, CO.  The event was at the beautiful and historic Broadmoor Hotel and it lined up with my children's Spring Break.  Thus we decided to mix business with pleasure and enjoy a family vacation.

It all seemed great. We would fly out on Saturday morning, giving plenty of time for me to be there to get situated before the conference began on Sunday afternoon.

The problem began Friday at 4 PM when I got the dreaded text from Southwest Airlines that our Saturday flight was canceled.  There had been a weather issue on the East Coast, and the plane for the 7 AM flight the following morning was never going to arrive in Austin. 

Colorado was also buckling down for a late winter blizzard that was due to hit on Saturday morning.  The combination of both storms were causing all flights to Denver the next day to be in question.  Add to that that Saturday was the first day of Spring Break, so all flights out of Austin were full.  There was no way to get four seats to Denver on Southwest until Monday night.  Even if I went alone there was nothing that the airline could do to get me there in time for my speech kicking off the conference.

I had to get out of Austin, and get closer to Colorado immediately.  There were no available flights to Denver or Colorado Springs for that evening, but I had to head west and get to a city with more flight options that Austin and where the locals were not starting their Spring Break.  I packed a suitcase in record time and headed to the airport to catch the last flight of the day to Las Vegas.

Next I went online and purchased two tickets for Saturday from Las Vegas to Denver on different airlines.  Because of weather, Denver was expecting many canceled flights the next day, and I was nervous that I might miss my event.  I even figured out several other options:  Fly from Vegas to Albuquerque, as that would be a five hour drive....rent a car and drive 11 hours (if the roads were clear)... or get my pilot friend who lives in Las Vegas to fly me in his plane early Sunday (He does not know he was Plan "D", as it never lead to that!) 

On Saturday I successfully got out of Denver on the first United Airlines flight, although the other flight I had purchased for later that day ended up also canceling.

Once in Denver I still had to get to Colorado Springs.  I had reserved a rental car for the family, but did not need one if I was solo. I was fortunate to get one of the last seats in a shuttle van and we headed out in the blizzard over the mountain.  I was glad not to be driving in these weather conditions, but I was still scared the local authorities may  close the road near the summit.

I have never been so happy to arrive anywhere.  When the shuttle rounded the corner into the driveway of the Broadmoor Hotel I had a huge sense of relief.  In the end my travel nightmare had a happy ending.  Two canceled flights, an added day with an overnight in Vegas, a crazy van ride, and the battle with the elements did not stop me from reaching the event.  But it was a little too close.  It took 23 hours from receiving the text of the canceled flight, but I got to my destination.

Like the old movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, ..... it was a comedy of errors.  While travel, and the occasional hassles that come with it, are part of the job of being a professional speaker, I had never had an experience where I really feared I would disappoint a client.

In the end, my family did make it to Colorado Springs three days later.  They extended their stay, but had to enjoy Spring Break without dad, as I had to get to my next conference speech across the country.  I was sad not to be part of their vacation, but was happy they would still have their Spring Break trip and experience the amazing Broadmoor Hotel and all the fun things to do in the area.

The conference itself was a lot of fun.  In addition to speaking, I attended several breakout sessions and had the opportunity to meet many amazing people.  I think the adventure in the journey to arrive made me appreciate how fortunate I was to be part of this conference.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

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