Weather, COVID-19 Complicate Students’ Holiday Travels

Olivia+Donellan+and+family+laying+in+the+snow++when+they+were+stuck+in+Sweden.+

Photo by Olivia Donellan

Olivia Donellan and family laying in the snow when they were stuck in Sweden.

Carly Steenstra, Staff Writer

Students and faculty finding their way back into the swing of things after a long December break has never been easy. This new year, especially, many traveling families struggled with flight cancellations and delays in addition to other obstacles in the way of making it home in time for school and work to resume.

As a result of the new COVID-19 variant, Omnicron, and severe winter weather that slammed the east coast, over 7,000 flights were canceled or delayed, according to USA TODAY news. During the end of the holiday weekend, many people spent their New Year’s stranded at airports or stuck in the 50-mile traffic jam along 1-95 in Virginia. 

Several BHS students experienced these transportation issues first-hand. Sophomore Bridget Bedenkop shared her experience getting stuck in Puerto Rico. Her family was forced to extend their visit longer than planned, as they awaited their original flight to be rescheduled.

“When we first found out our flight was canceled I wasn’t too upset; I mean I was stuck in paradise,” Bedenkop said, “But as the day went on, the airline wouldn’t rebook us and we were having trouble getting home at all.”

The next day, her family had a new flight booked, but it was continuously delayed and pushed out later and later, to the point of stress and uncertainty whether this flight would be canceled as well. Eventually, Bedenkop’s family did end up making it to the airport. 

“I remember the most eerie thing was there was no one in the airport except for our flight, which was very suspicious,” Bedenkop said, “I remember being anxious the whole time, I didn’t believe we were actually going home until we were in the air.”

Senior Olivia Donellan also experienced a troubling travel situation after testing positive for COVID-19 the night before her and her mother’s flight home from Sweden for the holidays. 

After 12 days of quarantine I tested negative with an at-home test, but when it came time for my official test to fly, I tested positive again,” Donellan said. 

Fortunately, they were able to get a doctor to sign off a certificate of recovery. However, there was still an uncertainty whether or not they would be allowed to fly home. 

Donellan said, “We took the train to Copenhagen, Denmark not knowing if the documents would be sufficient or if we had actual plane tickets, since we missed our first plane.” 

Luckily, an exception was made and Donellan and her mom were able to fly home on a completely empty layover flight out of London.

I remember being anxious the whole time, I didn’t believe we were actually going home until we were in the air,”

— Bridget Bedenkop

During the drive home from a family trip to Kissime, Florida, senior Isadora Nascimento experienced the major winter storm traffic jam that made history in Virginia.

“We left at 8 in the morning and then we stopped to eat lunch,” Nascimento said, “And there was traffic already.”

Her family continued along the east coast highway slowly that Sunday, January 2 and didn’t reach standstill traffic until crossing South Carolina’s borders. They were stuck in traffic all day and finally were able to book a hotel room off an exit at around 10 p.m. The next morning, the Nascimento family got an early start at six, thinking maybe a bit of the traffic had cleared up. But the line of cars had barely budged. 

“We couldn’t stop anywhere because there was no power,” Nascimento said. 

Fortunately, her family had fueled up with gas beforehand, and had leftovers/snacks to last them. However, this was not the case with many cars surrounding them.

“There were other cars that were abandoned because they had no gas,” Nascimento said, “We saw a person going back to their car after having to walk to a Stop and Shop.”

They started moving again the next morning after staying overnight in their car, but reached another obstacle when one of the exits closed. At one point, they were forced to get off the highway and stayed at a Virginia gas station for hours, waiting for a restaurant to open up. They stayed one more night at a hotel and ended up arriving home Wednesday, January 5, when they originally had planned to make it home two days earlier.