It was a close call.
I really don't like having "learning experiences" related in any way to air travel. And I guess that I'd rather learn the lesson we did than one involving the laws of physics. Bottom line, though? I want air travel to be boring.
We got off the ship by about 8:30 am, in way too much time for our 6:55 pm flight. But my husband wanted to hit the road early, and we were sharing a shuttle with my brother's family, who had a much earlier flight, so we found ourselves at the airport with almost 8 hours before our flight was to leave: we couldn't even check our bags for 3 hours.
So we caught a taxi and went to the movies. The theater was about 10 minutes from the airport. Watched a hour-and-a-half movie, came outside and called a cab.
At first, we were told one would show up in about 10 minutes. When we called back 20 minutes later, we got the full story. In Houston, there is no concept of "dispatching" a cab. They put a call out, and anyone in the area can opt to answer it. And nobody did.
After that second call, we started making calls to other cab companies. And limo services. And the shuttle service that got us from the ship in the first place. And even to Enterprise Rental Car, since they'll pick you up – we figured we could pay for a day's rental and not be all that much worse off.
No luck – none of them were particularly interested in our plight, and Enterprise was closed. We were starting to get panicky at the 1.5 hour point.
Thank goodness for Google Maps mobile. I downloaded it on my phone a few months ago, and played with it a little, but it saved us in this situation. A search for "hotels" put a bunch of red balloons on the map near our current location. Clicking on them produced a phone number, and I was able to call around to see if they might allow us to pay to use their shuttle. And the Baymont Inn and Suites near Houston's Hobby airport came to our rescue. They didn't have to, but I'm sure glad they did! After starting out with nearly 8 hours to kill, we got back to the airport about 20 minutes before the 2-hour window started – 4:30 pm. Shaking and nearly in tears, I might add.
So the lesson for the day? Once you arrive at the airport, DO NOT leave it. Just get in the uncomfortable seats and hang out. Because if you leave, you might not be able to get back in time for your flight.