On Monday, September 7th, I was wasting time between flights at work one day and decided to take a peek at what I would be facing for my commute to work the next weekend.
My next assignment was to begin Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m., so obviously I needed to fly up the day before.
The only flight available on Saturday left at 8:00 a.m.
I groaned. No WAY was I going to go twiddle my thumbs in Chicago for almost a full day before starting work! I knew I’d have to either take another airline or drive to an alternate airport for my commute on Saturday, and I dreaded either option.
Suddenly, I had an epiphany! Why not go up early for work? In fact, why not go up WAY early for work?
Why not fly the whole family up on FRIDAY, do something awesomely fun in Chicago on Saturday, and on Sunday escort the family to their gate, kiss them good-bye, and each of us fly off in opposite directions?
My heart with pitter-patter with excitement at the thought.
We have never been on a vacation as a whole family.
Darrel and I have only managed time alone a handful of times over the last 5 years, and most of those were simply sending the kids to my parents for the night and getting some time to watch TV alone – at home.
Not only could we manage to go somewhere for fun as a whole family, but I had it in my head to go to the Field Museum. The kids are HUGE into dinosaurs; what better opportunity to give them than to go to the Field Museum, which has a gigantic dinosaur collection?
This could be a homeschooling trip, too!
But…could we do it? Could we afford it? Could I make the food situation manageable?
I immediately called Darrel with my idea. It was full-on sales pitch time, folks!
“Well, here’s the deal. (Explain the situation and my idea.) I already have to get a hotel room for Saturday night, so it would really only cost us one extra hotel room night, plus museum admission. And as an (airline) employee, I get in free, so really it would only cost to get the three of you inside. And we can take the train straight downtown from the airport, so that’s really cheap, too. What do you think?”
After a few minutes of offering up arguments, Darrel suddenly stopped mid-sentence and said “You know what? Let’s do it. We’ve never gone anywhere fun, and this could be a good test run for us. Sure, honey. Book the room!”
My mind instantly started running at full throttle.
For starters, food. What were we going to eat? How were we going to eat it? How would I carry enough food for my entire family for two full days, plus the food I would need for work for two more days after that?
Then, water. Oh, I hate water. Zac is incredibly sensitive to corn derivatives in water. We have a safe brand of bottled water we drink at home, but I know from experience it is VERY hard to find in airports and hotels. In fact, it’s impossible to find outside a few select stores. How would we get water?
Third, homeschool. I’ve been going through some transitions with my perspective on homeschooling the last few weeks. I’ll go into more of this in another post, but knowing we were heading off into DINOSAUR LAND made me really want to attempt a Unit Study before we left. One problem: I was supposed to be home from work that very night, and we would only have three days of official homeschool before heading off for the airport. Could I pull together a homemade Dinosaur Unit Study so quickly? Would it be any good?
I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow of the solutions I found, but I DID find solutions! It involved lots of late nights, lots of cooking and freezing, and lots of anxiety, but I managed to pull all the pieces together to allow us to go!
Traveling with kids is always…interesting…but it’s more interesting when you travel stand by. That means we fly space available; we only get a seat if there are unsold seats on the flight or paying passengers don’t show up for some reason.
The only way we could get to and from Chicago as a family was to drive to Springfield and fly out of there. Halfway through the 2.5 hour drive, I checked the flight and discovered it had filled completely up with passengers. No way would we get on the plane now!
The next flight was over 6 hours later. Sitting around the airport, unable to cook any food or feed the kids for 6 hours did not sound like fun. So we turned around and went home for a couple of hours before heading back to the airport. Oy. Such fun.
Back at the airport for the evening flight, the kids were overjoyed with excitement.
In the parking lot, they tried to find shade while we unloaded the car. (Thanks, Sensory Processing Disorder!)
It was dinner time, and I was prepared! We sat at tables outside of security and scarfed down our food. It occurs to me that this is one of the very few times Zac has ever eaten a meal in public; the other times were at family reunions held at our church. So sad.
Once we got to the gate, they immediately set about making friends with the people in the waiting area.
Traveling that day was a group of graphic design students from a local college, heading to a conference in Chicago. They loved the boys! Long conversations ensued, much laughter occurred, and I just stood back with Mama pride watching my boys engage so easily with complete strangers.
Zac eventually decided he was tired of talking, and decided to run in circles and play. He didn’t realize he was providing such great entertainment for everyone, but there were lots of smiles and laughs from the boarding area as he fell, spun, tripped, ran, and giggled through it all!
Just before boarding the plane, one of the graphic design students (who hadn’t even been talking to the kids) came over and handed me this:
I. LOVE. THIS.
It was a very inspiring start to our trip.
Our aircraft arrived, and the boys ditched everyone to watch the plane taxi and park at our gate. Strange as it is to say, these children of a Flight Attendant have never really spent any time around airplanes, so they were thrilled!
The boys loved the airplane ride, of course.
I’d prepared by bringing potato chips and activity books, but when we first got on the plane, Jed wanted none of that. He got out the inflight magazine and proceeded to “read” it to Zac! Honestly, I couldn’t hear most of what he was saying, but I know he was telling very creative stories about whatever photos he saw.
I worried about the beverage cart. I knew Darrel would get a drink, and Jed could have the water on the cart, but poor Zac would be able to have nothing off the cart. I lucked out at the store, though, and found a paint with water book!
Zac got to have a glass of water served to him, just like everyone else.
He only got to paint with it, instead of drinking it, but he didn’t care. God bless paint with water books!
As all flights do, ours eventually landed. As we headed to the shuttle van to take us to the hotel, all I could think about was how excited the boys would be to ride the airport train!
Soon, though, I realized we had quite a way to go before arriving at the train…and my children have never encountered escalators or moving walkways before! (Well, Jed has used escalators, but rarely and it’s been a LONG time since he’s seen one.)
It made for some harrowing moments getting on and off at first, but the boys caught on quickly. Whew!
And yes, they did love the airport train.
We arrived at the hotel around 10:30 p.m.; far, FAR later than we’d hoped to be there. We were all exhausted, so we simply unpacked as much as we could, threw our food in the freezer and fridge, and tucked ourselves in to bed.
The kids have never stayed in a hotel that they remember, so they were a little scared of sleeping there at first. After we showed them where we would be sleeping and how the room would look when we turned on the bathroom light, though, they relaxed and were able to rest. Whew!
For such a short flight, that was a very long day.
I’ll finish up our trip in the next post, and then I’ll share the awesome Unit Study I threw together for the kids!
What’s your best traveling with kids story?