Once upon a time I was a working girl ... I know given my current lack of brain cells it is hard to believe. However, I assure you it was true! My status as a working girl required me to travel A LOT, and I am painfully familiar with the trials and tribulations of navigating airline travel. Over the course of my traveling career, I have been bumped, canceled, weather delayed, rerouted, diverted, stranded without luggage, forced to spend the night at the airport, and inconvenienced in every possible way by the airlines. I am well aware that my seat belt should be buckled low and tight across my lap, that the nearest exit may be behind me, and that in the unlikely event of a water landing my seat cushion may be used as a flotation device. Additionally, in the old days of travel there were no Ipods or portable DVD players instead we read books and paid $4 to watch the inflight movie on tiny 5 inch screens that dropped from the ceiling 5 rows in front of you.
Having said all of that, nothing prepared me for the prospect of airline travel with small kids. Traveling with kids, especially small ones is not for the faint of heart, but rather should be done only after careful consideration and a trip to the airport bar. The first obstacle of course is the 750 lbs. of carry-on bags that are necessary to keep 2 small kids busy for 3 hours. For me, this also includes a full size car seat which I inconveniently carry like a back pack on my back. The car seat is absolutely a safety precaution, however it is also a necessity for the rest of the traveling public because I assure you having an unrestrained Mr. 2-year old on an aircraft is a recipe for disaster. If you had told me 5 years ago when I was traveling for work that I would some day trade in my laptop in order to trek through an airport pushing a stroller with bags hanging off every possible handle, wrangling 2 kids, and wearing of all things a 20 lb. car seat on my back I would have laughed until I peed my pants.
When Mr. Husband has been forced to carry the very fashion forward backpack/car seat he spends the entire time muttering under his breath about how he can't believe this is necessary and how he feels like an enormous jack ass. I hate to break the news to him that not only does he feel like a jack ass, in actuality when you get right down to it he really looks like one too. Getting through security with all of that stuff is no picnic, and once the other travelers in line spot the car seat and stroller they will try to avoid you as if you had the Bubonic Plague. Who can blame them? Usually by the time we have removed shoes, collapsed strollers, emptied pockets, taken off jackets, hoisted enormous bags on to the security belt and negotiated our way through the metal detector I have broken into a sweat and lost my temper at least once - only to repeat the whole process in reverse on the other side.
Schlepping through the airport like a pack mule can only be topped by the actual plane ride itself. As soon as you lumber on to the aircraft with your massive carry-ons and undoubtedly by this time, a screaming kid or two in tow you will notice the "LOOK". The "LOOK" I am referring to can be found on the face of every passenger you approach on your way to your seat. The look is a combination of terror and silent pleading, "please don't sit next to me, please don't sit next to me". I recognize the look because I have had it many times when I traveled before kids. They are generally so relieved once you pass their aisle that they do not even seem to notice when you inadvertently hit them in the head with the car seat on your way down the aisle.
We have been on several trips with our kids and had the entire spectrum of experiences, from slept the entire way to screamed and cried to such a degree that I thought maybe a head was going to spin completely around. In fact I think two of the longest hours of my entire life occurred while I was trapped on a plane with the then Mr. almost 2-year old. An unfortunate serious of events (all of which were Mr. Husbands fault) left Mr. almost 2-year old without his car seat and sitting on my lap. I honestly think wrestling an alligator for 2 hours would have been less exhausting. Even Mr. 5-year old put on his headphones and asked me to turn up his DVD player in an attempt to drown out the noise. I think the entire cabin breathed a collective sigh of relief when Mr. almost 2-year old FINALLY fell asleep - too bad it was about 4 minutes before we landed. I then got to carry a completely comatose child in addition to my 750 lbs. of carry-on luggage. While we were standing in the crowd of passengers waiting to retrieve our luggage someone who was not on the plane commented about what a cute boy I had ... a man standing next to her who was on the plane actually laughed out loud. Oh well, we probably had that coming!