The Missed Flight, and other travel mishaps.
The Missed Flight
On September 11, 2015, 2 weeks after my husband died, I booked a flight to Ole Miss to visit my son who was a freshman on parents weekend.
Mike and I had flown to Mississippi at the end of August to bring our youngest to college, just as we had done with our older son. Once situated we left him to meet new friends and we spent a few days in New Orleans.
With his father suddenly gone, I felt it even more important that I be there at parent’s weekend. I was going to have to step up so I booked a flight and since all the nice hotels were sold out, took a room at the Motel 6.
Since there isn’t an airport in Mississippi, I needed to book a flight to Tennessee. Of course there was one stop in Philadelphia and a change of planes before I would even get to Memphis.
As we sat on the runway for an hour on 9/11, I wondered if I would make that connection. Most airlines do not leave you much time for that connection and I began to get nervous. As the plane landed, I realized I had about 15 minutes to get on the next plane.
I joined the 5 other passengers as we literally ran through the Philly airport. We arrived at the gate and saw the plane but was calmly told that the doors close 10 minutes before departure.
I cried. I was in a bit of an emotional state and wanted to see my son for parents weekend. It was important. I tried to explain but I just kept crying. Sometimes that doesn’t always help.
They put me on the next flight, 9 hours later. 9 hours! What’s a widow to do for 9 hours in an airport?
Well, I had lunch and a glass of wine. Then my husband gave me a sign that I needed new sunglasses 🕶 (I walked by the sunglasses hut: signs are everywhere!)
My next sign was to get a pedicure in a salon. I needed to wait an hour but they had massage chairs with chargers so I was comfy.
Eventually I landed in Tennessee, rented a car, and checked into my hotel. Solo travel wasn’t my choice, but I realized I could do it.
Lesson: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade
Travel with Babies
It’s been a while but I remember it well. I traveled alone with babies twice. And I would do it again.
When my oldest was 10 months old I took him from California to New York on a nonstop flight. I was going to be in 2 weddings that weekend so this trip was important! He was to sit quietly on my lap for 5 hours. That was the plan. Then somehow I ended up with the middle seat between an older, frownie couple.
They were going to just love my fussy baby, I thought, as baby and I settled in between the two lovelies for the long flight.
I think I may have recently stopped breast feeding so that was probably helpful. Can’t imagine how frownie man would have dealt with that.
As luck, and adorable babies would have it, the frownie couple soon started making faces at my irresistible son and with snacks and a diaper bag full of toys, we made it to New York unscathed.
Lesson: Dress baby to enhance cuteness, bathe before trip and lots of snacks and distractions.
Solo travel with baby and toddler
Feeling oh so confident as a traveler I cheerfully took my 2 kids to Florida over a winter break. One on my lap in the middle seat and small toddler by the window.
I had all the tricks: snacks, drinks, toys, stickers – this was pre iPhones and iPads (can you imagine a time?)
The just under 3 hour flight was going smoothly until the landing. Major turbulence was shaking the plane and toddler son felt sick. I pulled out one of those little white bags and held it in my left hand under his chin while holding wiggly baby with my right arm. We mommies are strong.
That’s about the time frownie old man to my right pointed out the obvious, “he’s going to be sick”. No kidding. That’s why I’m holding this bag…
Frownie man was talking about baby in my right arm. Baby let it out all over frownie man. The man jumped out of his seat as our turbulent flight made a bumpy landing. Oops.
There were lots of helpful moms nearby who gave me water bottles and napkins. That sort of helped.
Luckily I also put bathing suits in our carry on luggage so I changed both boys, wrapped up the messy clothes in a bag and left the plane just a few minutes after all the wheelchair people were assisted off.
Lesson learned: bathing suits on plane to Florida a must. Also maybe some Dramamine.
I hear about how nice these long flights are in first class but the cost to upgrade is beyond my budget. I tried last minute to upgrade with Air Canada for the 13 hour segment but they still want $1100 😢
Sometimes you can call an airline 24 hours in advance but I have not been fortunate to get one of those.
But there was that time going to Hawaii…
Back in college I went solo to visit Hawaii. At the time my brother’s friend’s dad worked for American Airlines. He must’ve had a great job because not only did I get upgraded to first class, champagne and steak, he also helped me get my first job after college working at JFK for American Airlines.
Lesson here: Let everyone know you’re traveling. Someone may know someone who can upgrade you. If not, dress comfortably, walk around during connecting flights and bring along something to help you sleep, you just may stay in economy class.
P.S. After I wrote this at the airport between flights I boarded the plane. I had asked about upgrades when I checked in but they were still very pricey. $500 for business class which was just a chair slightly larger.
The ticket agent said I’ll change your seat to a better one. Row 19 instead of 35. I thanked her and didn’t think much about it. Wasn’t I surprised when they announced the flight was ready for departure and I had ALL 3 seats to myself! Sure doesn’t hurt to ask.
Don’t be afraid to ask
I am sitting at a bar looking at my plane that will in one hour somehow get up in the sky, fly over Alaska and Russia and land in a country I have never been to. Since I’ve been busy typing away, my battery is low. I asked the bartender if there was a place to charge my phone and he said right under the bar where I’m sitting. How convenient.
The funny thing is the 2 people sitting next to me pulled our their cords and immediately started to charge their phones too. They just never asked.
Acting confident and not confused is a good thing to do as a woman traveling alone. But there are times it is a good idea to be open to other travelers.
On my solo trip to Thailand I made it to Bangkok!I almost didn’t make it out of the airline terminal.
I had read the paperwork carefully and told the driver to take me to Qatar Airlines at terminal 8 JFK. I strolled in and got on line.
I was first. Even the ticket agents hadn’t shown up for work yet. (This should have been a sign)
As I was waiting, a large Middle Eastern family arrived. They got on line behind me and I tried my best to have that confident, solo female traveler thing going.
A few minutes later a kind woman dressed in a scarf and full hijab approached me. I was a bit nervous but she asked if I was flying to Qatar? Yes. Then she informed me, in broken English, that the flight had changed terminals and they were going to terminal 7. I showed them my flight information, they nodded and adopted me. I got to the right terminal and flight thanks to the kindness of others.
Lesson: never underestimate the human heart and don’t judge a book by its cover.
My flight is boarding. It’s been fun telling travel stories.
Do you have any memorable travel stories? Do tell.
Stay tuned for my adventures from Tokyo!!
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Ah, the first flight as as widow. Mine was Newark to Vegas with a 2 year old. Flight out went fine but we were delayed coming back due to storms in the Northeast. I decided I was never flying with carseat again. Too much to carry by myself. Though now I’ve only flown to Chicago where my best friend has a car seat for us. Lol.
All your stories and travel adventure almost make me feel like I never want to leave home!!!!
Some are crazy but that’s all part of the journey. Thanks for reading!!
Yes. I forgot what a hassle the car seat is. Good to have people in both places with cars equipped with car seats so you don’t have to check them too.