Because it’s the onset of Spring Break, and there was an insane flight deal to Madrid this past summer, here we are traveling internationally with our kids. Again. I know, we’re crazy. We love to travel and we want more of it. Wait. I don’t mean that. We don’t actually want more of the travel portion – the long check-in lines; the security checks – pat downs, broken x-ray machines; little to no sleep; hangriness; running through airports to catch flights because you’re connection times are minuscule only to be disappointed that the doors are closed; the sweatiness of all aforementioned things. Yeah, those things, while I’m sure they build character, I could totally do without them.
But I do want more of the travel results. I want our kids to know that the world is YUGE. The world exists beyond our little home and awesome neighborhood. And that exposure to this should both challenge us and generate gratitude. I also want to eat my way through most countries. In moderation, of course, unless it’s cheese and wine and then we’re talking a balanced meal, right? To me, food is as much about the culture as the museums. You get to know the food, you get to know the people and the country a little better. And frankly, if my kids need a trip in order to taste new food things, then so be it.
So here we are, at it again. Traveling with kids. Running through airports. Sweating. Getting hangry. Tasting new foods. Having our weaknesses exposed to hundreds of strangers. If you can’t tell, the start of this trip was a little on the unpleasant side. I’ve never seen a check-in line THAT long. Surely, there are two lines converging because hundreds of people arriving 3 hours before departure never happens for one airline. Right? Or, I’ve become an insufferable snob after having achieved any kind of mileage status on an any airline for the first time in my adult life. Or, I’ve been traveling too much lately and these kind of lines aren’t the norm. Either way, my husband and I hit full on strategy mode.
I should mention that my husband and I are both strategists to the core – traveling or otherwise. Strategy is always the name of the game. What type of trajectory should we take when running errands to waste the least amount of time backtracking. I’m not saying our strategies coincide or make sense to each other or anyone else, but nonetheless, we strategize. In this case, it was which line is moving the quickest? Which one means we miss our flight? Which one of these customers seem like they might not have it together and therefore cause a bottleneck? Do we split up in order to maximize our chances of getting through check-in? Do we employ the dramatic skills of our kids? What is the plan of attack? You probably do this too. Maybe at the grocery line or in traffic. You move to the line that gives you the highest ROI.
I would be lying if I said that strategic thinking only came into play when we arrived at the terminal. We discussed the merits of seat assignments several nights prior to travel. Do we sit in the middle with 4 seats? Or does it make more sense to sit two seats in front and two right behind? You probably do this – window or aisle, because no one really wants middle. Maybe, like me, depending on whether you will be working or sleeping on the flight determines which side of the plane you choose. Definitely the right side of the plane for working. And best if in an exit row so that when the person in front of you reclines their seat your laptop doesn’t violently get shoved into your face or sternum.
Strategic complexities arise when traveling with children. I’m not talking about right side of the plane to get some work done. Or which seat is close enough to the bathroom but still far enough away so that smells and constant foot traffic don’t bring about air rage. I’m talking about what is the best possible place to sit on an airplane according to the specific travel needs of your child that will hopefully provide some level of comfort and more importantly, sleep. That’s all I’m asking for. I’m not trying to catch up on any reading. Nor am I trying to watch all the Oscar nominated films. I am completely in survival mode and I want to know which seat is going to ensure my survival, and truthfully the survival of my children. Because I’ll let you in on a secret, I am the worst human being when I’ve had no sleep and little people need me.
We opted for two and two; right side of the plane; close enough to bathrooms but still far enough away; close to the exit because 45 minutes to get through immigration, new security checkpoints and a different terminal with two kids seemed like an impossible task. Turns out it was. Sigh. It’s not perfect, but I’ve had a plate of iberico ham and manchego cheese, a wonderfully delicious cappuccino, a nap, the kids are now asleep and now I’m sipping wine. Did I mention there is a super cute market right across the street from our airbnb? I count today as a win.
What about you? Any Spring Break Travel Plans? How do you strategize seat assignments? Do you have any travel strategies or hope for the best? Maybe you can pass on something I’ve never considered before. Not only will you gain my undying respect and love, but you might also make our return flight magical.