My husband, two daughters, two granddaughters and I recently flew to San Diego to attend the wedding of my youngest son, Kit.
For a 5- and 2-year-old, traveling cross-country is not the ideal way to spend a day. It can also be downright miserable for the adults, too, whose job it is to keep the girls fed and entertained.
There's nothing easy about traveling with two young children, even if they're the most well-behaved children on Earth.
When you travel with young children, you have to pack their clothing, toys, food, car seats and, in our case, a stroller. And though you check the car seats and majority of your suitcases at the ticket counter, you have to keep with you enough food and toys to keep them occupied and fed and, with any luck, fairly quiet while in flight.
We first flew from Chattanooga to Atlanta, which I highly recommend. The Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport is incredibly convenient. You unload your car just feet away from the ticket counter, and every person we encountered was friendly and helpful. That was not the case in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where few employees smiled or offered greetings or help.
I took my iPhone, iPad and iPod (each with about 40 children's apps) fully charged to help occupy the girls for the nine hours of travel and waiting in airports. My daughter added her Kindle Fire to the mix.
Our first layover in Atlanta was about two hours. The electronics helped, but not for long. The sandwiches helped, but not for long. Crawling under the seats, lying on the filthy airport carpet and looking out the windows helped, but not for long.
Later, the oldest granddaughter, Tilleigh, was somewhat anxious as the plane taxied down the runway. I held my arm around her explaining what was going on and what was about to happen.
Meanwhile, Evie started playing Barbie dolls with her grandfather in the row across from us. I have to admit, I enjoyed listening to my husband taking on the talking roll as a Mermaid Barbie. He was very entertaining.
Once we arrived in San Diego, getting the luggage, car seats and everything else we had in tow was a huge headache, but the next five days were great (except when my daughter Karah was stung by a stingray).
The headaches began when we returned a rental car and once again loaded ourselves and all our stuff onto a shuttle, then from the shuttle to the ticket counter. It was exhausting.
Again, the long cross-country flight was uneventful, until we arrived in Atlanta. A severe storm had closed the airport. We were ordered to maintain a holding pattern for more than an hour.
We were concerned about missing our flight to Chattanooga, but it was delayed three hours because of the storm. After waiting at our gate for more than an hour, a gate change was announced. Because it was impossible to hear the announcement, I approached the Delta representative at the gate to ask her about the change. She was on the computer, so I didn't interrupt her. After literally six minutes, she made eye contact with me but didn't speak.
I asked, very nicely, "There is a gate change for Chattanooga. Can you tell me where it is?" We had set up camp in a corner, and we needed to find out where to move. It was not yet posted on the electronic boards.
She answered, "I don't have time to help you."
I replied, somewhat in shock, "Seriously? You don't have time to help me? We paid nearly $3,000 to fly Delta and you don't have time to help me?"
About 20 minutes later, still not knowing what gate to go to and if the departure time had changed, it was finally posted. We made it to our new gate with about 20 minutes to spare. It was 11 p.m. The girls were still awake and starting to get fussy. I was still mad at the rude Delta representative, so I was fussy, too.
Traveling is exhausting. Traveling with kids is extra exhausting. But, thankfully, we made it safely, and we made wonderful fine memories along the way.
But it's good to be home.
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...