Being Trapped In Florida Ain’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

In 20 years, will we be asking each other, “Where were you when the polar vortex hit?” My answer will be, “I was stuck in Florida.” I imagine people rolling their eyes and giving me sarcastic, oh-you-poor-baby looks. But for some families, I imagine being stuck in Florida was a hardship they weren’t prepared for.

After 10 perfect days in Florida (including a much-needed rainy day to reset), my entire family was ready to get home. We had packed every minute with biking, beaching, exploring, swimming, mini golfing and just playing tourist. Whew! Why do we run ourselves ragged on vacations so that when we return, we need to recoup? But run ragged we did, and had a wonderful visit to sunny Southwest Florida and my folks.

We watched with anticipation the forecast for our beloved Chicagoland. There was going to be a wind chill factor of -45! No. That had to be a typo! Much to the chagrin of our friends at home I’m sure, it wasn’t.

By Monday, more than 5,000 flights had been cancelled. What about our Tuesday flight home, my boys asked. We went about our day and packed as if nothing was going on, but I wasn’t surprised when the airline’s computer called that night to tell us our next-day flight had been cancelled. Oof. I immediately called the airline, and the computer voice told me there was a 2.5 hour waiting line until I could talk to an agent. Double oof.

As I put in my phone number for a call back, I couldn’t help but think of the other thousands of families whose travel plans were going to be cancelled. We were fortunate enough to be staying with my folks, so I didn’t have to worry about where we would stay. No matter what, we would be comfortable and taken care of while we weathered the storm… in Florida, no less. Trust me, the irony isn’t lost on me.

The first flight we could get on wasn’t until Friday! Three days from when we were supposed to travel home. This delay was a serious inconvenience for us at the most. My husband’s job allowed him to work remotely. My son was going to miss a couple of days of school but nothing he couldn’t make up. I could always blog when I got home (even though I was itching to get back to the computer keyboard). Again, I thought of other families.

How many families were not as fortunate as us? How many families scraped together their money all year long to come down to Florida for the holiday? Perhaps they had come down for a special trip to Disney World or to cast some sun on their faces while visiting the beach. Undoubtedly, many of them do not have jobs that allow them to work from anywhere. Many of them probably don’t have the expendable cash to drop on extra hotel nights and eating out for an entire family. How many hundreds, even thousands, of dollars would these extra days cost them?

And yet, while the country was glued to the television, watching as the polar vortex affect the country, I didn’t see one single news story about the families whose vacation turned into a potential money hardship. And so, when people ask me where I was when the polar vortex hit, I’ll say I was thinking of the families trapped inside their homes and those trapped away from their homes as well.

On a side note: It was a frigid 50 degrees and rainy in Florida for the extra days we were there. And while 50 degrees wouldn’t normally get me off-kilter, having homesick kids, staring at gray skies and not packing for really poor weather when on vacation sucks. Thinking of others certainly did put things into perspective quickly, however. And while my parents love us all, I’m sure it was a bittersweet relief for them as we pulled out of the driveway to head to the airport. 

Where were you when the polar vortex hit?

Chicago Landscape: Photo Credit



  1. Amen for the that. That is a story that was missed.

    I was in one of the few places that the Polar Vortex did not hit-The San Francisco Bay Area. We were lucky.

    The funny thing about the news here during the Polar Vortex was all the talk about a drought and having no rain for six weeks.

    1. That is strange. The whole country is having extreme temperatures and your news is talking about a drought. Then again, you guys have the craziest weather in the summer 🙂

      1. The best weather here is in October. They are putting some counties on water rationing and we are supposed to be about 70 this week. Even crazier is Santa Cruz-Home of the Beach Boardwalk. It is supposed to be 80 on Wednesday there. It never hits 80 there.

  2. I could imagine how horrible it must have been with kids wanting to go home.

    1. At one point, my son said his heart hurt because he needed to go home so badly. So I just tried to fill the time as much as possible and accept that they were even clingier than usual 🙂

  3. Yeah, surprised there was no mention of vacations gone sour. We were here in CA during the vortex. It was warmer here than FL, where my dad is. So odd.

    1. It seemed the news was trying to get every angle of this store which made it seem that much more strange that no one was talking about the families stranded away from home. Well, you never know what they’re going to latch on to for a story!

  4. So true! I know there were many affected and were stranded on “vacation.” I was here, in the cold. We just hibernated, but our heat didn’t get above 62 with it running continually. Upstairs was warmer, and we felt okay as we at least had our sweaters. I’m not looking forward to our heat bill though!

    1. It didn’t even occur to me that people wouldn’t be able to get their houses heated up to a decent temperature! Glad you guys managed through.

  5. Living in Florida and watching the rest of the country go through the Polar Vortex, I was a bit thankful of where I live – BUT the 50 degree rainy weather, as a visitor here is a bummer 🙁

    I am sure you are glad to be home!

  6. This same thing happened to my husband in early December. I live in TX and we usually don’t get hit with snow or ice until the end of Jan/early Feb, if we are lucky. Well on Thursday the weather started looking horrible and it started raining, then turned to freezing weather. My husband was out of town working and was supposed to return on Friday evening. We ended up getting a couple of inches of thick ice/sleet combo. Needless to say my husband didn’t get to return home until Monday. He had to spend a few extra days in a hotel. Thankfully, his company paid for it because he was traveling on business.

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