Travel Don'ts

Here’s how NOT to fly cross-country with your two young children. Consider this a parental Public Service Announcement.

1. Take a flight scheduled at the end of the day, at the end of a weekend of 100-degree temps in New York City.

2. Before the flight, go to an expensive restaurant for brunch. Buy your children blueberry pancakes, which they refuse to eat (a first), though they nearly fight to the death over the side of bacon (giving you a perverse sense of pride). Watch as they have concurrent meltdowns over a small sticker, in front of your friends from London whom you see once every five years, and whose children are not only perfectly mannered, but also have British accents (which makes them seem MORE polite).

3. At the end of said over-priced, un-eaten meal, discover that the restaurant is cash only. Watch your two devils and your friends’ two angels as she runs to an ATM machine. Set down the insufficient cash you have and promise your friends you’ll “get them next time” (i.e. in five years).

4. Take taxi back to other friend’s apartment and discover it’s the one cabbie in New York City who doesn’t take credit cards. Drive with him to ATM where you’re so jangled you withdraw only the cash you need to pay him. Thrust the money his way, and drag your whining children—who are exhausted and grumpy, as well as ravenous—inside.

5. Realize that the worst possible thing you could do right now would be to take a 6-hour plane ride. Check!

6. Frantically finish packing and call car service. Ask kids to try to pee. Have urination standoff. Give up. Drag luggage halfway down hall to elevator and have three-year-old announce, “I have to tinkle. Really bad!” Head back to friend’s apartment, at which point (you later learn) the car you’ve called gives up on you and leaves.

7. Schlep:

  • 1 immense roller bag (containing 3-weeks worth of clothing, toiletries, and 2 bottles of marina sauce made by your hometown priest)
  • 1 carry-on small duffle bag
  • 2 car seats
  • 1 double stroller
  • 1 laptop bag housing a computer and DVD player
  • 2 empty-bladdered children

Call for another car to come while schvitzing on 100-degree sidewalk (See: earlier-referenced NYC heat wave). Realize you have to pee. Ah, irony.

8. Watch your three-year-old doze off on the short ride to the airport, and realize your chances of getting her to sleep on the flight have been officially shot to shit.

9.  Arrive at airport 45 minutes later then planned. Hand driver credit card, which he swipes several times without luck. Watch as he takes his card-swiper-thingy outside, holding it up to the sky like a carrier pigeon he’s about to set free, in an attempt “to try to get a better signal.” Time ticks on. Your three-year-old wakes up from her car seat and bellows wild-eyed, “I need Baba [her stuffed animal lamb who's is wedged God-knows-where in some bag piled on the curb]!!!” Driver gives up on getting a signal for his credit card machine and/or making contact with alien life forms. Tick tock, 40 minutes until flight departure. Driver asks you to call into his office with your credit card. You call twice and get busy signal. You age five years—maybe even nine—and nearly bust an artery in your neck.

10. Struggle into airport and realize you were dropped off near Virgin Atlantic terminal when you need Virgin America. Ask someone if they are next to each other… of course they aren’t. Haul aforementioned bags, car seats, strollers and children with weakened, rapidly-aging body.

11. Check in. Oddly, without incident.

12. Wait in security line. Ten minutes later realize it’s just a line impersonating the security line and set out to find actual security line.

13. Ascertain that Security is downstairs. (You still have your big-ass stroller, though other bags were checked.) One elevator broken. Wait as working elevator is crammed like a clown car with a sizeable Indian family. Door will not close since Grandma’s wheelchair repeatedly blocks elevator’s invisible eye. Tick tock. Check cell phone: 4:00PM. Reference boarding passes to see that it’s boarding time. Stop to reflect on all the fun you’re having. Have thoughts interrupted by three-year-old’s ear-piercing scream, “I. WANT. BABAAAAA!!!!”

14. At front of security line TSA agent asks you, “Why do you have only two boarding passes here?” Have full-bore flop sweat and begin to whimper and paw through purse when he looks down and says with a chuckle, “Oh, HERE it is…” then winks at you. Determine you hate all men. Except your husband who you can’t wait to thrust the children at when (if?) you eventually arrive in San Francisco.

15. Experience public act of deeply-mortifying mothering when, in the security line with 10 minutes ’til take-off, your five-year-old refuses to enter scanning machine. Scream head off, drag her in. She wriggles free and flees like a feral cat. Compassionate TSA agent ushers kids through. Maybe all men not so bad after all.

16. Sprint like madwoman to Gate B25 with children stacked on top of each other on one seat of stroller and laptop loosely jostling in the other. Arrive to hear “final boarding call” announcement and, panting, hand boarding passes to ticket-taker lady. Three-year-old proffers high-decibel request for stuffed lamby, with glaring omission of word “please,” and without British accent.

17. Ticketing agent writes you up stroller tag and says, “I’m sorry ma’am, but I’ll have to take that carry-on. Our overhead bins are totally full.” At which point you burst into tears. You blubber like a baby howling, “No! You CANNOT take this bag!” (Which contains books, crayons, coloring books, snacks, wipes, and extra clothes. Oh, and Baba. At that point a wild boar could not force you to hand over Baba.) Ticketing Agent Woman fears you and your tears—especially after they trigger both your children to start sobbing in an if-mom’s-losing-it-we-probably-should-be-too moment of solidarity. She sends a male underling down the ramp with you, where you learn there’s plenty o’ room in the overhead bins. (Clearly that other chick just had it out for you. You decide you hate all women.) The carry-on bag with Mommy’s Flight Survival Contents gloriously remains with you, and you settle into your seats.

18. All is well with the world.

19. Flight delayed 30 minutes due to storm/air traffic control/your shitty luck.

20. Flight delayed an additional 25 minutes. God making sure you know He’s still watching. Clearly somewhere, somehow you’ve been a very very bad person.

21. Lift-off. Joy!

22. Discover the plane has wifi. Battery dying on laptop, but looky here—there’s a power socket! Children ensconced in small back-of-headrest TV screens. Losing brain cells rapidly, but also not bugging you.

23. You start documenting your day. You chuckle to yourself as you type. See? You haven’t lost your sense of humor! In fact, you feel a bit smug. Victorious even. Why, you’ve survived evil airport employees, demanding ill-tempered children, and non-functional credit card machines. You made your way through that security line, girlfriend—even if it did mean getting publicly clawed at by your child. You even resolved to always carry more cash. Oh, see how far you’ve come!

23. From your peripheral vision you notice your three-year-old makes an odd wiggling motion with her upper body. Then suddenly a warm pinkish liquid gushes forth from her mouth covering your arm, her lap, her legs, and nearly filling the cavernous void between her seat and yours. Why, of course.

24. And now your day has gone perfectly wrong. Giving you statistical hope that something this miserable is likely to never happen to you again.

25. Mop everything up with the help of an amazingly-kind flight attendant. Decide to un-hate women. And marvel at the fact that Baba has remailed virtually un-touched by puke. What excellent luck.

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