I didn’t get on an airplane until I was 31 years old. I flew to Atlanta for a work conference. I felt so awkward and stupid—asking flight attendants if I was on the right plane a million times, wandering around the airport looking for the baggage claim. It was a humiliating experience and I wasn’t going to let this happen to my kids. I wanted them to be savvy travelers and see the world.
I came home from work on Tuesday and announced, “We’re going to Disney World! We leave on Thursday.” I found the deal of a life time, $150 for me and both my kids. A last minute charter deal. Off site motel and rental car included. We were all set!
The boys jumped up and down and shout, “We’re going to Disney World!” But after a few minutes of revelry, Sam stops cold. “Wait, how are we going to get there?”
“We’re flying,” I say.
“What airline are we taking?”
His face disintegrates and he wails, “Those pilots take drugs! Can’t we take a train or drive?”
At 13, Sam watches way too much news. Flash floods, starving children in Ethiopia, and drug testing for pilots are of great concern to him.
Ben, who is 9, is mostly worried about what we’ll eat. I explain that they will serve food on the plane and that their will be plenty of McDonald’s in Florida.
Tuesday arrives. As we board the plane, Sam takes a long pause to look into the cabin at the pilot. After we’re served lunch, Ben stuffs our uneaten saltine crackers and packets of jelly into his pockets so that we’ll have something to eat later.
The pilot lands the plane safely. We follow our fellow passengers to the baggage claim. But then, I have no clue where we’re supposed to go to get the rental car. I had no idea there were so many choices. So, again, I follow my fellow passengers. We board a van which takes us to Enterprise.
I leave the boys in line and head to the bathroom because I have that feeling. That crampy “oh crap, I have my period feeling.” I have a stain on my khaki shorts which I try to hide by holding my purse in front of my crotch.
It’s finally our turn. The clerk asks me for the voucher. “What voucher?” I ask. He tells me that I can’t get a car without a voucher from the charter group and turns me away.
Sam, Ben, and I sit on our two suitcases in the now almost empty parking lot in front of Enterprise, and I cry. I don’t have any idea what we’re supposed to do now. Sam squeezes onto the suitcase with me and puts his hand on mine. Ben stands with his arm around my shoulder.
Apparently it’s bad for business to have a sobbing woman with blood stained shorts and two waifs in front of your building. The rental car guy comes out and tells me there’s a car left that I can have and we’ll straighten everything out later with the travel agent. He gives me a map and detailed instructions for how to get to our motel.
Our motel as it turns out, is right next to a pawn shop and a Quick Mart. The kids are excited because it has a pool but the empty beer cans strewn around it make me nervous. The motel clerk asks for my voucher, which of course I don’t have again. I promise to straighten it out with the travel agent and we’re given a room. It’s pleasant enough. Air conditioned with two double beds.
Stressed out Sam heads straight to the bathroom. When he eventually comes out, the toilet is running and water is pouring on the floor. I call the motel office and someone comes to fix it. But now I’m crying again. I call my boyfriend of just a few weeks. He’s sympathetic and offers to call the travel agent on my behalf.
Ben’s eating the crackers and jelly he squirreled away from the flight. But we’re all hungry so we go to the 7/11 for foot-long hot dogs and antacids for Sam. We finish the night with a swim in the pool until a gang of creepy teenagers show up.
The next day, with a death grip on the steering wheel, we make it to Disney and buy three day passes. We head for the big roller coaster first but Sam’s not feeling well. I leave him on a bench with his Tums.
Day 2 at Disney: We lose Ben for almost an hour.
Day 3 at Disney: I’m so lonely for adult company that I chat up the waitress for an awkwardly long time.
Day 4: We take a break and head to the NASA Space Museum and Cocoa Beach, at least I think it’s Cocoa Beach.
Day 5: Epcot Center
Day 6: Cypress gardens where my cousin is on the water ski team.
Day 7: Head home. I cry when the plane lands.
What do my adult children remember about this trip? Chasing seagulls at Cocoa Beach.
But here’s what I know more than 25 years after this trip. Sam never balked at flying again and has traveled all over the world. He makes friends everywhere he goes. Ben has done his share of traveling too but never without a snack for the road and a meal plan. We all take a vacation together every year.
Me and that hero boyfriend of mine who is now my husband, took the grandkids to Legoland this summer! I can’t wait to hear what they remember about it in 15 or so years.