Surviving the Friendly Skies

ProfilepicBy Kate Romero

Hi kids! Remember when I couldn’t stop talking about the ants that have colonized the copy machine in my office? And then I was bragging about my awesomeness in getting rid of them on my own?  You would think that would be the end of the story, but of course you would be wrong. They are back and stronger than ever. I’ve decided to peacefully coexist with them, at least until someone comes to take them away, which should be soon. Just today I got this message in my inbox:

Distributed Work Order request is Pending: Ants have colonized the CLO copy machine.

Pending is good, right? Anway, I’ll keep you guys posted. I know you are on the edge of your seats. Meanwhile, I am busy planning a Home Leave that Uncle Sam is forcing us to take for a month. Related: school is for losers. There will be a lot of plane rides involved in getting home and then on to Belgium. Everybody seems to have strong feelings about flying. Just the other day I overheard my girls and their friends in the back seat of the car discussing which airline was better. Delta won based on the spice cookies they give out. It’s the little things.

At parties, I have found the perfect icebreaker for meeting new people. I always ask what their worst flying experience was. Everyone has one, and in this transient lifestyle, most people have several. I love the horror stories. Vomit, crying babies, families being split up, luggage being lost, the list is endless.


I have a hard time trying to come up with my very worst flying experience. I think it would have to be our night flight to our first post here in Brasilia. Our whole family was split up because airlines don’t really care if your six year-old daughter is sitting alone next to Charles Manson, fresh out on parole. After a lot of haggling and begging, the airline (I don’t want to incriminate them by saying their name, but it rhymes with “Smelt-ya”) put each girl with a parent. The boys were on their own, but that’s how they like it. My seat was the very last seat on the plane. It was broken and didn’t recline, but I took my sleeping pill vitamin like a trouper and settled in for a nice snooze. There were about forty teenagers on our flight, fresh from Disneyworld. Apparently some of them had contracted food poisoning. Because of course they did. Did I mention my seat was directly across from the bathroom? It was a very long night with kids throwing up on top of each other. At one point, there was actual vomit rolling down the aisle from the bathroom. Then, when we finally arrived in Brasilia, they couldn’t find our dog. Hours later, they found him on a shelf out on the tarmac. Alive, thankfully.

This article from Travel and Leisure, How to Fly Coach in Comfortseemed like a joke title to me, but there are actually some great tips in there. I may be a newbie, but I did not know you could check in for your flight more than 24 hours in advance, which could ensure your family gets to sit together, or at the very least, put you in an early boarding group on an open seating flight.200806042

This list from TSA of prohibited items will come in handy if you are unsure of current regulations. Now I know why they took away my ice axe at the gate last time. Also, don’t forget to check your cattle prods and brass knuckles, people. Hand grenades are not allowed in carry-on or checked bags, but throwing stars may be checked! The last time I flew, the lady at the baggage check admired my $50 eye cream. She told me I couldn’t bring it, even though it was a tiny bottle. Maybe she thought the pilot would be blinded by my young, fresh eyes and crash the plane? She DID let me carry on my swiss army knife, so that was a relief. Also, I’m pretty sure she now has much more youthful-looking eyes.

The actual TSA list of prohibited eye creams items  says that my eye cream should have stayed in my carry-on bag, and now instead of looking like a dewy 26 year-old young woman, I look like beef jerky. Thanks, TSA lady. TSA basically says to memorize their 3-1-1 rule when it comes to liquids: 

Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less per container; must be in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin.

The size regulations for  carry-on bags are continually getting smaller. Currently, you may carry on a bag about this big:


This only a slight exaggeration. I’m not bitter because we have six relatively new carry-on bags that are about an inch too big or anything. USA Today recently published a helpful article about the new regulations on certain airlines.

Once you board the airplane, you’re going to want to invest in some items to make your flight more comfortable/interesting/hilarious.


You blow it up and sleep on it! Okay, I’m not going to lie. I wouldn’t kick one of these off the plane, but I sleep with four pillows every night..


This is called the Ostrich Pillow. You can apparently put your arms in the arm holes for more comfort? It’s $100USD. I think the price tag might be worth it just to mortify my children, but since we are never seated together…


Who needs those little donut pillows when you can own one of these babies? Also, wearing one of these may qualify you for gate transport in a wheelchair.


Privacy at last.

What if your flight was delayed so long you missed your connecting flight? This happened to me once. I got a voucher for a free non-alcoholic beverage, so it was totally worth it. You actually do have some rights when bad things happen.  But how do you get what is owed to you? Lifehacker has some great tips. I am personally terrible with follow through, as evidenced by my giant pile of new items that don’t fit me in my closet, waiting for a return to a store that will never happen. Now, if you aren’t like me and are great at follow through, don’t forget that whole flies and honey thing. In other words, don’t be a jerk.

If you’ve just had  one of the worst flight of your life, log on to Flights from Hell and read through some of the posts. I promise you will feel better. Just remember: always check your throwing stars.


You know you want one.


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