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Going Home for Christmas

Patricia Nagle

Jan 19, 2023

Learning Lessons & Fun

I just got back from Christmas vacation and thought I’d share my experience travelling out of Northwestern Ontario.

Planning Before

I decided to fly back home for Christmas as it’s an 18-hour drive and driving in the winter can be challenging in Northwestern Ontario. I purchased my tickets through a third-party booking site about two months in advance. I picked a flight in the afternoon so I wouldn’t have to book a hotel room the night before to avoid waking up early. However, I was later told it is better to book directly through the airline as it is cheaper and easier to manage if flights get cancelled, you need a refund or to reschedule. I was informed its best to use the third-party booking site in the early stages to find flights, but use the airline website to book. 

Now that I had my tickets, I needed to figure out how to get to the airport. I live in a remote area and the nearest airport is two and half hours away (in Thunder Bay). I asked locals what I should do and there were four recommendations:

1)    Drive myself to the airport that has long-term parking

2)    Have someone from town drive me to and from the airport, so I can leave my car at home

3)    Use a taxi service

4)    Park at a hotel that will let me leave my car there if I stay for one night

In the end I chose the first option as it was the cheapest. Parking at the Thunder Bay Airport costs $117.25 per week, while most people in Atikokan charge about $200 for a ride one-way, and a taxi ride would be approximately $600 one-way.

Flying Home

The day before my flight was chaotic! There was a big snowstorm going across Canada. To avoid driving through the storm the morning of my flight I decided to stay at a hotel the night before.

However, this proved to be pointless as my flight ended up being cancelled and I drove back before the storm hit. I tried to reach out to the airline after my flight was cancelled, but they told me to speak with the third-party booking site. There was no phone number for the booking site, so I had to use an online chat that was difficult to navigate. This is where booking through the airline would have been helpful. I couldn’t get a hold of an online agent, but the airline re-scheduled my flight three days later.

The day of the new flight also proved to be problematic. There was no long-term parking because of the snowstorm, so I had to park in short-term which is double the price.

I emailed the airport after my flight, explained the situation and got a refund when I got home.

Then my flight was delayed by an hour and a half. When I got to Toronto Pearson Airport, the gate was frozen and I had to sit on the tarmac for an hour waiting for them to fix it. Despite the challenges of the day, it turned out to be good because I got home to see my family who waited for me to open presents.

At Home

When I got home, it was also a little chaotic because my sister lost her dog. I spent most of my time at home outside looking for him. We did spot him, but had yet to catch him before I had to go back to Atikokan. I did, however, get to try on bridesmaid dresses for my sister’s wedding, enjoy a Christmas dinner with family, and spend New Year’s Eve with my sisters.

Flight Back

Contrary to the flight home, the flight back to Thunder Bay went smoothly. No cancellations, no delays, and we arrived at the airport earlier than expected. After I landed, paid for parking, and cleaned off my car, I headed straight back to Atikokan.

I originally planned to stay in a hotel to avoid driving at night. Driving in the dark can be dangerous this time of year in Northwestern Ontario because of the moose. I decided to do it anyways as I would only be in the dark for about an hour. I made it home and only saw three moose about 30km from Atikokan. 

Overall, although the trip was full of obstacles, I’m glad I got to go home for Christmas vacation.

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