Family Friendly Travel

The one thing children wear out faster than shoes, is parents.
John J. Plomp

Richard and his Papap flying the friendly skies.

I awoke yesterday to find, that while sleeping, somebody had removed my arms and replaced them with dead weights. Further investigation revealed that I no longer had free range of motion in my neck. A cup of coffee and three Tylenol later, and I was able to conclude that I hadn't been stricken with some debilitating form of arthritis. The pain I was experiencing, was just my body's way of responding to the beaten it had encountered the day before, while traveling with my grandchildren.

Granted, its been twenty years or so, but I'm no stranger to traveling with children, so when the idea was raised that Rick and I accompany our daughter and her two children on a plane trip across the country, I thought, piece of cake! Plans were confirmed and tickets purchased. As travel time approached, Brittany became increasingly nervous about flying with two diaper-clad children, but I confidently reassured her that the trip would be relatively stress-free, and I believed it.

Our journey began at five in the morning, when Brittany and the minivan stopped to pick us up. I hate feeling rushed, which I did that morning, but I could do little about it, as we had an appointment with an airplane in two hours. Like everything else in western Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh International Airport is conveniently hidden so that only those in the know, can find it. No problem there, as we knew exactly where we were going - until we found ouirselves dead-ended at a detour. Fearing the detour might lead us further off the beaten track, we chose a longer but more direct route, and did finally arrive at the terminal with time to spare. No stress there.

Rick dropped my daughter and I, the two kids, four pieces of checked luggage, carry-ons, diaper bag and two car seats at the curb, and was ready to leave for the car park, when it occured to me that the skycap was about to hand me all of our boarding passes, including Rick's. I ran after him and expressed my concern, but he assured me that he had his electronic boarding pass. No worries.

After what seemed an inordinately long time, the skycap finally returned with our paperwork, and we shuffled ourselves, the children and our belongings, into the terminal building, where Brittany tossed the bottled water she'd brought for the children, into the trash receptical. A TSA agent approached and informed us that adults traveling with children, were in fact allowed, to carry individule serving size containers of fluids, through security. Funny, it never mentioned that on the airline's page on traveling with children, but we'd remember for next time. She also gave us some helpful tips on passing through security with an infant. We thanked her and shuffled further along toward our immediate destination - the escalator.

After a quick stop at the arrivals and departures board, we prepared to descend to the security level. As I stood there, looking down the flight of moving stairs, with my carry-on and purse hitched up over my shoulder, my laptop and camera bag looped over my wrist, holding my grandson's hand, I froze. My daughter stood behind me, with baby in carrier, diaper bag in hand, urging me forward, but I just couldn't take that necessary first step. The look of horror on my grandson's face, indicated that there was a very good chance we weren't going to make it down in one piece.

I began to panic and slowly backed away from the escalator, leaving Brittany standing there with a look of dismay on her face. Still holding my grandson's hand, carry-on sliding down my arm, I saw it - the elevator - right there next to the escalator. The elevator - we need to take the elevator! And we did, arriving safely on the security level where another TSA agent waved us forward toward the family-friendly queue.

Being the seasoned traveler that I was, I had previously reminded my daughter to keep her driver's license handy for the TSA agent at the security check. We approached, and I confidently handed over our identification and the little bundle of boarding passes the skycap had given us curbside. I watched as the smiling agent (family-friendly) flipped through the paperwork. Within seconds, his smile faded and a look of concern crossed his face. Apparently, my boarding pass was missing. I frantically dug through my carry-on, my pockets, my computer bag, all the while holding the two-year old's hand.

I could feel the eyes of the people behind us, boring through the back of my head and I appealed to the TSA agent, who waved another agent over to assist me to a less congested area, where I could resume my search for the missing pass.

Ah-ha! There it is, stuck to the lining of my computer bag. How the heck did that happen? It didn't matter - I just needed to get back to the TSA agent and move along. I managed to shuffle back to where I'd left my dumbfounded daughter, waving the boarding pass as I did so. A look of relief flooded her face and we began to move closer to the screeners, when the agent called after me. He was still confused as to why I held my husband's boarding pass, and warned that Rick would be unable to make his way to the gate without it. What was I supposed to do?

Now, I reasoned, that my husband was an intellegent man with a gazillion travel miles behind him, and he'd assured me that he had what he needed to get through to the gate. So why was this man so certain that I was dooming my husband, by continuing on my way? I needed to stop and think.

At this point, Brittany was panicked. My grandson was laying on the floor, and my shoulders were beginning to ache. Three TSA agents approached and suggested I sit on a bench between two security belts. I instructed Brittany to take the baby, carrier and diaper bag, and go to the gate, while I waited for her father. She did so, reluctantly, while I wrestled the two-year-old to his feet and punched a text-message to Rick into my phone. I waited for a response. Nothing. I called his phone. No answer. A TSA agent asked if I had any idea where my husband was. Parking the car? He should have been here by now!

I might have been sitting on the bench for an hour, for all I knew, because I'd lost all track of time. Finally, my cell phone rang. My husband had passed through security (how?) and was waiting with my daughter and grandaughter, at the gate. OMG!

Once again, I collected my grandson from the floor, kicked off my shoes and peeled off my jacket, threw everything into bins and started to walk through the sreener, when I was told to go back and remove Richard's shoes and sweatshirt, which I did. Then, they flagged my laptop and told me to remove it from its case, and turn it on (why?). Finally, I was allowed to grab my belongings and proceed.

I imagined our flight had boarded; plane and passengers waiting for he hairied grandmother. I stuffed my feet into my Uggs, grabbed the carry-on, computer, camera and my grandson (minus shoes and sweatshirt) and ran toward the shuttle with tears in my eyes. I barely made it through the shuttle doors when Richard slid down my side, wailing in fear. I managed to slap his shoes on his feet, before the shuttle arrived and we stumbled off onto the dock, where we reached another impasse. Richard refused to walk and I couldn't carry him another step.

Somehow we managed our way to the two-story escalator (going up, this time). After his removing his fingers from a danger-zone, I looked up and spotted my husband, waiting at the top of the stairs. He looked too relaxed, so I assumed that we hadn't missed the plane. He was casually sipping coffee, so I further concluded that we had some time to spare. I took a breath.

When we reached the gate where Brittany and the baby were anxiously waiting, I slipped my carry-on, computer and camera bag into the chair beside her and shot her a look that said: traveling with children - a piece of cake!

Regan's first flight across the country

1 comment:

  1. Wow I did not realize all that went on even before you left the Pittsburgh airport!

    ps:Another hint when traveling with small children: while a red eye sounds like a good idea, it is not. It is not like traveling through the night in a car with sleeping children. I will never do it again.