We Didn't Make it to Rome (Part 1)

We Didn’t Make It To Rome This Weekend… (Part 1)

Remember this line from my Dry Run to Rome post?

I’m a firm believer that the best way to get good at something is to do it and fail at it.

Well, I failed at my trip to Rome.

It was doomed from the beginning. Washington DC had seen it’s heaviest snowfall since 2011. 14,000 flights were cancelled. It was long odds that we were even going to make it out of our homes.

But we did it. We made it. Julie and I arrived at DCA early to see that despite the noon and 12:10pm to Atlanta being delayed, our 12:59pm flight to Hartsfield-Jackson was still on track. We boarded the plane and settled in for the first leg on our trip to Rome.

It turned out to be the only leg.

As we were boarding the Atlanta-Rome flight, the gate agent called Julie aside to look at her passport. It expires on April 6, 2014. In 51 days. Italy requires at least 90 days of validity left on your passport to enter the country.

We reasoned. We pleaded. But it was of no use. We sat at the gate and watched the agent call out for anyone else to board and then shut the door tight. We were dumbfounded.

Five minutes before we were going to Rome.

Now we were stuck in Atlanta.

You just can’t foresee all the problems that may arise when you travel. The best you can do is try to have a good understanding of how all the systems work and minimize consequences. We had four areas that we needed to quickly deal with: the flight, the hotel, the booked tours, and expectations.

The Flight

We were lucky that upon seeing that we weren’t going to board this flight that the gate agent called another agent to help deal specifically with our problem. He immediately wanted to rebook us for Monday’s flight, but with both of our work schedules (and the exorbitant amount of money to expedite the renewal of Julie’s passport) we quickly decided against it. Luckily for us, Delta assumed some blame in this: they should have never let us leave DC in the first place. Because of that, they promised to reissue us the tickets for whenever we wanted to go and booked us on a flight back to DC for that evening.

The Hotel

Both the flight and the hotel were booked with Citi ThankYou points, which means we had two potential avenues (Citibank and the hotel itself) for canceling the reservation. I immediately called the hotel in Italy, but it was already after midnight and the reservations agent had gone home. I then called Citi and after some explanation and goading, got the agent to say he would take care of the cancellation (if it was possible).

The Booked Tours

We’d pre-booked tours to the Vatican and the Colosseum/Forum. I tried to call the number on the hotel, but it was after midnight in Rome and no one answered. I located an email address, explained the situation and asked if we could be rebooked for a tour at another time. If that wasn’t possible, I asked if we could get a refund.


Managing expectations may have been the toughest thing about this. Julie and I first had to come to terms with the fact that we were going to be spending the weekend doing a House of Cards marathon and not sipping wine in an Italian bistro. We’re pretty flexible travelers, but the complete cancellation of a trip before it ever really gets started, is a tough pill to swallow. To further compound that fact, while it wasn’t immediately pressing to tell anyone that we hadn’t made it to Rome, we felt like there were certain people who should know. We each called our families to inform them. We then sent emails to work saying that we were going to be in the office the next week. The act of doing these things isn’t difficult, but sometimes it can be a gut-punch of a reminder when all you’re trying to do is think about something else.

We didn’t make it to Rome this weekend. We will make it to Rome another weekend. That’s what we have to keep telling ourselves. We’re still waiting for how all of this gets resolved, but it will get resolved. We will make it Rome soon.

Jordon Wadlington @jordon