How Not To Travel

Ryan on the plane
Safely aboard the flight — but it wasn’t easy.

We went away to visit Veronica’s family not too long ago. It’s a trip we have made many times before, and it always comes with a healthy amount of anxiety, as it involves a plane flight, followed by a long drive, followed by a stay in a packed house where Ryan is always the first to bed and the first to rise.

It is also a wonderful time with family. There are plenty of cousins in Ryan’s age range and a huge yard to explore. It is well worth the effort, but it makes for a long day of travel.

There are limited direct flight options to our destination, so for this trip we ended up on a 6:35 a.m. departure. We need to park, catch the shuttle to the terminal and check bags. Plus, Veronica and I are both “get to the airport early” types. As a result, the alarm was set for 4:15 a.m. Ryan does well on planes, but the combination of the flight plus the long car ride had him on edge the night before. We decided not to tell him exactly what time we had to get up because we knew if we did he would never get to sleep.

Guess what? He didn’t get to sleep anyway. That child truly has a sixth sense. He came out of his room at 9, and 9:30, at 10, at 10:45. I went to bed shortly after 11 and he may still have been awake. I tossed and turned for an hour or so before drifting off.

The next thing I knew, Veronica startled me awake. She was in a panic. It was 5:15. We slept through my phone’s alarm.

I uttered a string of curse words as I jumped out of bed to get dressed. I was doing the math in my head. Fifteen minutes to get out of the house, 20-minute drive to the airport, find a parking space, wait for the shuttle to the terminal, get through bag check and security. It was going to be tight. Way too close for comfort.

Veronica roused the kids. Ryan was of course fast asleep because, why not? It’s not like he’s normally awake at that hour — oh, that’s right, he is. He was full of questions as Veronica hurried him through getting dressed while I ran the bags out to the car.

We did a cursory check that we had everything, and were off. From wakeup to pulling out of the driveway in under 10 minutes.

Ryan was very worried about missing the flight.

“But what happens if we don’t get there in time?”

He must have asked that a dozen times on the drive to the airport. We tried to reassure him that they would put us on another flight but in my head I was running the scenarios. At minimum, it would be a three-hour wait, probably just to fly standby. We were on frequent-flyer tickets, too, so it’s not like we had a ton of priority in getting re-booked. In other words, if we missed our flight, we were screwed. Ryan and waiting are a combustible mix. Throw in the uncertainty that we’d even get on the next flight and it was sure to be a disaster.

I tried to put all of that out of my mind as I drove as fast as I could safely get us to the airport. We pulled into the parking lot under an hour from departure. This was where we would need some luck. Finding a parking spot in the long-term lots can take some time, plus we had to lug our bags to the shuttle stop and wait for a ride to the terminal.

Luck was smiling on us. We immediately found a spot close by the shuttle stop. We ran over and were picked up in just a couple of minutes. For the first time since waking up, I thought we had a good shot to make it.

One hurdle cleared, we arrived at the terminal to find no lines at the baggage drop. Hurdle number two down. There was one more obstacle in our path — security. Though I’m far from a road warrior, I’ve been through enough airports post-9/11 to know that there is no rhyme or reason to long security lines. Sometimes you show up at rush hour and sail right through. Sometimes you fly off hours and wait forever in line.

We rode down the escalator from the bag drop to find only a handful of people waiting in security. Fate was in our corner, but not without one last dose of anxiety, as Veronica was pulled out for extra screening. She would tell you it was because we left in such a rush that she didn’t have time to put on any makeup.

Veronica cleared of any terrorism suspicion, we made it. We were at the gate about 10 minutes before boarding. We even had time to get a cup of coffee. We didn’t have to beg mercy to cut the line or play the “A card” with gate agents trying to rebook us.

We made it this time, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

We’ll be setting two alarm clocks for our next early-morning trip.

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