So when BestestHusband suggested that we fly on non-rev standby tickets to see family over 4th of July, I was a bit skeptical. We weren't guaranteed seats, but got whatever was leftover. IF there was anything leftover. Yet the price was right, saving over $200 per ticket.
It was the only way we could see extended family on our budget. So I acquiesced.
The trip out to MN was smooth. We got tickets close together, two in one row, two immediately behind. Life was good.
The trip home was different. For starters, BestestHusband wasn't traveling with us. He had business matters to attend to, and flew out Sunday, planning to join us at home late Monday night. So I was flying home alone with the girls.
My in laws checked the list the night before we were scheduled to fly out. The lists looked good, with lots of open seats. We chose afternoon flights. There were plenty of good options.
Things looked different the next morning. Seats had filled overnight. We discussed various contingencies. Ultimately, we headed to the airport with our fingers crossed and my FIL in tow in case we had to split the family and come on different flights. We had jammies and toothbrushes packed in my carry on in case our suitcases went to Boston and we had to spend another evening in MN. We hoped for the best.
We were at the very bottom of the standby list. Things looked grim. Everyone else boarded the plane. We were the last people sitting in the boarding area. Then they called our names. They had 3 seats. We were getting on the flight. My FIL could go home.
We were assigned middle seats in three consecutive rows. Neighbors were kind enough to move so we could sit together. I felt incredibly lucky. It had all worked out as planned.
Takeoff was as exciting as usual for the girls. MeToo sat by the window and thoroughly enjoyed the show. It's hard not to get excited when you sit near her. Takeoff was quick, but a bit noisier than usual. We found out why 10 minutes later, and got the announcement that something was amiss with the hydraulics system. We were headed back to Minneapolis. We circled around long enough to dump fuel, and were greeted by fire trucks as we landed. We were fine. But we weren't headed to Boston anytime soon. Our luck had turned.
Our 1:10 flight was rescheduled for 6:45pm. How do you entertain 2 preschoolers in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport for 4+ hours and then 2+ hours of flying?
- Well, first you buy $18 worth of yogurt and cookies to keep everyone well fed. Yes, that's 3 yogurts and 3 cookies for $18.
- Then you go to the play space. It's across from gate C12. You let them climb and run and pretend to use the coin operated rides. Giving quarters for the rides is unnecessary. But giving them all of your pennies for the coin vortex is well worth the money. When they start whining and complaining about tiny bumps and owies, it's time for a change of scenery.
- So you can ride the tram. It's free. It goes back and forth on the same track. But different people get off and on. It can really eat up some time.
- Then you can play with the interactive screens near the mall area. Your shadow makes the little umbrellas scatter like leaves. It's mesmerizing. And another good time-waster.
- Then you can look for the quiet seating area near the Conference Center, overlooking the entrance to Concourse F. There are comfy chairs and a couch there. Unfortunately for us, the couch was taken. We all could have used a nap at that point.
- Then you find the toy store downstairs from there. Look at all of the toys. Play with the interactive game screen. Buy a small toy for future appeasement.
- Soon, it's time to find dinner. Find a $10 grilled cheese sandwich for the girls, and a $6 fruit cup. Realize that it's not enough to feed you, but you've already swiped your credit card, and just move on.
- Deal with a belligerent 4 year old. Threaten to leave her behind in the food court. Get to the gate. Buy another sandwich for another $10. (The threatening might be optional. Feel free to substitute another technique born of frustration if you'd like.)
- Find out you're at the end of the list for standbys again, but hear from the gate agent that your chances are good to get on the flight, anyway. Talk to Daddy on the phone for a while until it causes conflict between two tired preschoolers who can create conflict out of anything. Find out that both flights will be arriving within a half-hour of each other in Boston. Watch all of the people get on the plane. Eat your own sandwich. Have 2 girls insist they're not hungry. Have 2 girls insist they don't need to use the bathroom.
- Move closer to the gate in anticipation of boarding. Have a 3 year old tell you she needs to potty "despewately" and can't wait. Get the nod from the gate agent. Tell the girls it's time to run to the bathroom. Have the 4 year old whine that she can't run. Grab her arm and demonstrate otherwise. Try not to sound like a crazy lady while running to the bathroom and hissing to the 4 year old that her belligerence could keep you from getting on a plane to go home. Help the 3 year old pee quickly. Ignore the sulking 4 year old who insists she won't need to pee ALL NIGHT. Run them back to the gate.
- Have the gate agent wave you onto the plane, with boarding passes for the last 3 open seats on the plane. Gather your bags. Realize that your 3 year old left her backpack in the bathroom. Try not to cry. Get the go-ahead from the gate agent to run and get it. Leave the girls and bags with a total stranger and run. Find the backpack on the bathroom floor. Run back to the gate. Usher everyone onto the plane, and head towards the very last row. Realize along the way that you pulled an important muscle, probably a groin muscle. Consider that sprinting while almost 8 months pregnant isn't a wise move. Get to row 39 and discover that there is no window. Watch your 4 year old completely lose it. Suppress the urge to cry along with her.
- Buckle everyone in. Distribute the $10 grilled cheese sandwich and water bottles. Gladly accept the Twizzlers from the mom of 4 sitting a row ahead. Give a prayer of thanksgiving for angels like her. Watch the Twizzlers stop the flow of tears. Pray that this plane actually makes it to Boston. Daddy is sorely missed. As is bedtime. Then hear the 4 year old insist that she had to go to the bathroom "desperately". Sigh audibly.
Well, we did make it to Boston. MeToo slept most of the way, and HeyMama was happy with an iPod and 1:1 attention. And the toy I bought at the toy store. I limped and waddled with the girls to BestestHusband's gate, and we were waiting for him when he got off the plane. MeToo greeted him with an enthusiastic "DAAADDDYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!" and ran to him for a hug. BestestHusband helped with the bags, and we shared a cab ride home. It was after midnight when we finally arrived. But we got home. Together. Somewhat in one piece. With all of our luggage.
So I guess our luck held out in the end. I felt bad for the young woman who started in LA, but had mechanical problems turn her plane around and keep her in LA an extra night. She finally made it to Minneapolis to connect to Boston. She was booked on the 3:15 flight, but got on as a standby onto the 1:10 flight. That was our flight. Her SECOND flight to get turned around for mechanical issues. She had already given up her 3:15 seat. She was booked on the 6:45 with us. Her luck was definitely lacking.
And the passengers on the Korean flight into San Francisco definitely had worse luck. Ultimately, our luck was not lacking at all. Everything else was just inconvenience.