As much as it pains me to watch my children grow so quickly, I must admit that traveling with them has become infinitely easier.
See those suitcases packed with ridiculous crap? Who cares! I’m not the one hauling them through the airport anymore!
As if that doesn’t make me giddy enough, Humpy’s now has a branch in the airport. (Humpy’s = Very Cool Anchorage Bar With My Favorite Beers on Tap.) The departure gate for our latest excursion was right next to Airport Humpy’s, with plenty of open window seating for the kids to watch planes. How serendipitous was that?
It was only 10 PM, broad daylight, and the kids were wide awake. Our flight was running late, but who cared when our feet were blissfully dangling from tall stools? We had a miserable night of cramped legroom ahead, so we enjoyed the moment.
When we left Humpy’s, I saw a young mother pushing a ginormous double stroller with a baby and toddler. It was laden with a diaper bag, car seats, and she was also carrying an overly stuffed pack on her back. I winced at the thought of her getting through security with all that… not to mention boarding the plane itself.
I remember the days when it was me stripping shoes from 6 little feet (is it selfish to count my own?) and struggling to fold a stroller so it would fit on the security conveyor belt. One of our lowlights was when I was trying to get us all between gates in Minneapolis, with two giant convertible car seats and a stroller. I thought I was so brilliant when I decided to strap Maggie into one of the car seats and set it on top of the stroller, while strapping the other car seat to my back and letting Sam trot alongside us. Imagine my horror when the stroller gave way and sent Maggie toppling – helplessly strapped into her car seat – face first onto the concrete airport floor.
Poor Maggie. She is also a puker. She was ten months old before we realized she suffered from motion sickness. We were nine hours into a six hour flight to Maui before she started vomiting all over me and taught us that valuable lesson.
I can also remember many flights trying to nurse a lapchild mid flight, with the seat in front of me reclined within inches of my nose, and trying to hide myself from the burly dude next to us. Where were all the nice old grandmas I prayed to sit next to?
I used to start planning my carry on luggage weeks in advance. Pacifiers, snacks, sippy cups, diapers, wipes, changes of clothes, activities… I am exhausted just recalling it all, let along living it.
This trip I didn’t even pack the kids’ carry on bags. It wasn’t until we were in the airport that I saw what they had brought: books, a stuffed animal, a journal, paper and crayons, gum, and their Leapsters. No liquids or blades. Perfect!
I admit that overnight flights will never be easy. Even after we were in the air, I stressed until the kids finally fell asleep. At first it was peaceful, with Maggie’s head on my lap and Sam nestled into the crook of my left arm. But then Sam started the head bop thing and kept flailing appendages into the aisle. I spent most of the night protecting him from the beverage cart. Maggie spun circles in her seat faster than the hands of a clock, waking and whining and making us all miserable. She kept sliding up here window shade and then melodramatically collapsing back into the seat exclaiming, “We’re still way up in the air!”
The worst part of overnight flights is the layover. We always arrive in Denver or Minneapolis or St. Lake City or some other stylish community, and of course we have skipped a few time zones so it’s a reasonable 7 or 8 AM for all the locals. They are all bright eyed and exhilarated with the excitement of their upcoming excursion. Or business travelers with no patience for children.
And then there’s us. We crawl off the plane, and I just pray my children will wake from their whopping 4 hours of sleep to walk themselves. Because honestly, if they won’t, I’m not sure what I will do. We look disheveled. We have horrid breath. We are wrinkled, weary, and wretched.
We are also almost always overdressed. This time it was 49 degrees when we left Anchorage, and in the 80’s when we arrived in the Midwest.
Luckily (?) during this trip I was liberated from my layover phobia. We were late. We finally landed in Denver at 6 AM, and our connecting flight departed at 6:30 AM. It took nearly 19 minutes to deplane, and then we ran. We only had to go 12 gates, and we had 11 minutes to do it. Bring it on!
We made it!
Miraculously, so did most of our luggage. In Nebraska, we stood at the baggage carousel, and the kids’ booster seats were among the first items out. They were closely followed by our big black suitcase, the one that held my bridesmaid dress. Phew. But from there we stood, waiting for the final bag that contained the salmon. The carousel stopped, and the bag was still missing.
The bridesmaid dress was here, but the salmon was not. I’m not sure how I felt about that.
The story does have a happy ending. The salmon arrived 12 hours later, and it was still frozen. As for us, we had landed safely and were happily thawing in the heat of the Midwest.