Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Hazards of Budget Travel

I am all for freedom of expression, but I think anyone would agree with me that if there were a non-medical, safe way to get a tired, cranky two-year old with a dirty cast on her leg to not express herself during a transcontinental flight, that would be something worth buying. Every summer our family books a flight and heads out west to bond with family, and every year I swear I’m never doing it again. Not because of the family bonding thing; that always goes well enough. The problem is the return flight. Without fail it is excruciating.

I realize that in many ways I am the architect of my own misery, not to mention the misery of those unlucky enough to sit near us on those long flights home. The problem is I’m drawn (possibly magnetically) to deals, and since it’s always cheaper to fly to Vegas than that it is to Salt Lake, we fly into Vegas. Besides, what’s a six hour ride up to Utah Valley in a Suburban packed with luggage and kids? Nothing. Well, at least not compared to the six hour ride back to Vegas to fly out.

Another aspect of deal chasing that gets me in trouble is the length of the trip. If we’re dropping a wad to fly out, I want to get my money’s worth. That means my husband usually has to fly back before us, which in year’s past I succeeded in telling myself was no big deal. I could handle being sole parent for the remainder of the trip, not to mention sole parent for the journey home. But after what happened this summer, if I ever agree to extending our summer trip, it will be a sign that I am certifiably crazy. Here’s why.

Having an early morning flight out of Vegoid didn’t seem like a big deal when we pressed "buy now." That, however,was before the air went out on my father-in-law’s Suburban–the Suburban that we piled into after landing on a scorching hot Vegas afternoon. The fix was going to be massively expensive and so the game plan was to grin and bear it, which we did. Slowly, however, I started to visualize myself driving back down to Vegas without air and since the pictures in my head all involved my children in old westerns, dressed in rags and stumbling into town begging for water, I figured I had to make the trek back to Vegas when it was the coolest, and that meant at night.

So we left Alpine at ten, got to the airport at three, hung out until we boarded at six, then flew to Denver. Surprisingly, this part of trip wasn’t bad. The unraveling of it all--my sanity and my little kids’ patience--occurred on the last leg of our journey, the flight from Denver to Tampa. It was nothing but chaos and evil looks, evil looks and chaos. My four-year old couldn’t stop kicking the chair in front of her and my two-year old couldn’t stop screaming. No amount of cajolling, distracting, bribing was doing the trick, and my only salvation was the thought of landing, or not. Whichever one came first.

As you may have guessed we landed, and as soon as we did, the guy in front of me who was justifiably bugged said, "That was horrible."

Something inside of me snapped. "What more could I have done?" I asked him. "What more could I have done!" I might have also thrown in something about what an impatient crappy father he was going to be one day, but that’s not really the point. The point is, I have learned my lesson. There are some deals in life you just have to pass on, because in the end it’s going to cost you.

1 comment:

Marsha Ward said...

Lisa, the last paragraph is laugh-out-loud-guffawing-snorting-liquids-out-the-nose funny. Thanks for letting us in on your horrible experience. I hope you never have to do it again.