There she is- an overpacked lady speed walking through the airport with a jogging stroller, a kid’s backpack hooked onto the handle, the lady wearing an adult backpack, pulling a carry-on roller board with a car seat attached to the handle by the tether strap. I kind of looked like Burt from Mary Poppins when he was wearing all the band instruments, but wasn’t I efficient?!
In the last 10 years, I’ve done a lot of solo parenting in airports, traveling across the country with my daughter(s) on 50+ plane rides. We learned a lot of things and the airport has felt like my second home, sometimes. After putting in my airport time, here are 3 things I’ve learned:
- Be nice.
This should be automatic, but let’s be honest, we are all tired, burned-out parents and the airport does not often show the best part of our personalities. I’m always surprised about how many people are terrible to gate agents, cashiers at Sbarro, and TSA agents. I’m not saying you have to smile while getting a pat-down on Mother’s Day (thanks guys, that was terrible), but remembering that basic manners also apply in the magical world of travel can go a long way. They say don’t bite the hand that feeds, so in this scenario, don’t be a jerk to the person that can upgrade your seat or give you an extra pastry for your hungry child.
2. Find the USO.
The USO has been our saving grace when we’ve been stuck in the airport all day. It’s an incredible organization and is so good to military families! Whether it’s been extra time due to bad weather, a delayed plane, or a quick recharge for our personal batteries, as well as our cell phones, the USO has been a comfort for this tired, traveling mama. The volunteers are kind and welcoming and it’s amazing how much better you feel after not hearing “In the interest of aviation security. . . “ five times an hour. My daughter loves to visit, play in the toy room, and sit in the leather recliners in the Denver and Houston locations. At the end of a long trip, we had a few hours in the USO late at night. A volunteer chatted with us for a while and as we left, gave my daughter a red teddy bear which she named Barley Bear. It absolutely made her night. And it made my late-night flight with a very tired child bearable.
3. Try to see the fun in the airport for children.
My daughter loves to ride the Airtrain when we transfer terminals. Somehow she thinks it’s fun to use the automatic water bottle filling stations. When I explained how the X-ray machines see what’s in our suitcases- it blew her mind! She thinks that’s the coolest part of security and doesn’t even mind waiting in line for it.
It’s easy for me to get caught up in the long lines, delays, and total complete unpleasantness of the airport, but for kids, it’s an exciting, bustling world of moving sidewalks, shouts of “ ‘Scuse the cart!” and hearing those exciting words, “Now boarding Group 3.“