All Spring Breaks are not created equal

Although sometimes punctuated with unexpected curveballs, there’s a certain comfortable rhythm to life as an Academy parent. I day comes, BCT happens, cadets head off to summer trainings, the school year begins, etc.

And so on the heels of Recognition, we arrive at Spring Break. With it comes the regular flood of Facebook messages – my cadet’s ride to the airport fell through, does anyone’s cadet need a ride to the airport because I have an extra seat, my cadet’s flight got delayed, my cadet’s flight got canceled, [insert airline here] was so helpful and got everything figured out, [insert airline here] didn’t do anything and really left us in a lurch. Tales as old as time, it seems.

While pretty much all the cadets are on break, they are not all created equal, a message more important for parents than for cadets.

Photo by Dids on

Some cadets don’t go very far. Whether it’s some sort of duty at USAFA or whatever, they’ll stay close to the Springs. Some will go straight home and proceed to sleep and eat, then eat and sleep, then in about a week, return to Colorado. Some will go home and go, go, go, seeing people and doing things while others will hang at home with family. Some will connect with family on an old-fashioned family vacation. Still others will go off on their own adventure.

Let’s face it, some of us get Break Envy. Our family has been really lucky to this point – this is Spring Break #6 and each has been spent at home with family. Despite the fact that I should be grateful, I’ll admit to getting jealous every so often. I’ll be perfectly content just seeing that cover sitting on a bench in the hallway, then I’ll see a family off on some fun adventure in a cool place and think, “man, I wish we could have done that.” To be clear, that never, ever includes skiing. One family ski trip to Colorado was enough for me. Never again. Never. Nev-er.

But pictures from Disney or the beach or the mountains can bring out a little of the green-eyed monster. That’s normal, I think, as long as you don’t let it get the best of you.

I’ve heard plenty of Midshipmen and Cadets talk about annual Spring Break ski trips with friends (not family) or using Winter Break to do something with friends as well, both fellow future officers and high school friends. But the one that stopped me in my tracks goes back a couple of years, when a fellow USNA mom said that her son hadn’t been home for break. Ever. During his time at the Naval Academy, he had come home for a day or so to do laundry and pack his bag but had spent all of his breaks with friends on various adventures.

I know we’re all supposed to “let go” once they take the Oath of Office. I know they’re all adults and are creating their own lives. Logically, rationally, I get all that. But the most selfish part of me would be crushed if I dropped my kid at I Day and then they didn’t spend more than a day or two back home ever again. The mom seemed OK with it, or at least she didn’t share her disappointment with me. But I mean, what else was she supposed to do?

So whatever your cadet’s Spring Break holds – airport insanity included – make the most of it and enjoy whatever form it takes. Soon enough, like so many things, they won’t happen again and the cadet will have turned officer and will be off on a whole different set of adventures.

– – –


Speaking of airports and Spring Break (or any break for that matter), here’s a little tidbit that some folks may find useful. Planes get delayed and flights get canceled for a million different reasons. I love to travel – l-o-v-e it – but to me, flying is the most utilitarian part of it. Aside from enjoying a good (overpriced) drink and on occasion a (wildly overpriced) meal, I view the whole process as the means to an end. My goal is to make it as painless as possible and eliminate as many variables as I can. For that, knowledge is power.

So I track my flight. More specifically, I track my plane. I usually use Flight Aware for that task. When you type in your flight – like DL 2121, for example (Delta flight 2121) – you’ll get the basics, things like when it’s supposed to leave, the gate, when it’s supposed to arrive, etc. But the feature I tend to use the most is the “where is my plane now?” function.

So if you’re waiting for your cadet’s flight to take off, you’ll see something that looks like this and a link to track their plane. This is really helpful because it’s not always the weather at your airport that’s the problem.

That will lead you to information on that plane’s current flight. That can often be enlightening. Check it out.

So you can see we’re already expecting the plan to arrive late into Detroit. If we follow Murphy’s Law, we can be fairly confident that the 20-minute delay here will likely increase. It’s all part of the airline snowball effect. For example, when I clicked on the “where’s my plane” link for Delta 709, here’s what I see.
Lo and behold, we’re behind an hour. Go figure.

Anyway, I’ve found this site to be really useful not just for identifying problems, but also for anticipating them. Not that it’s a big secret but I’ve often taken the calculated gamble of rebooking before a flight gets canceled or delayed way too late for my liking based on this information. Never regretted it.

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