The Sometimes (Un)Glamorous Side of Travel

Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.

As you may have seen, we just wrapped up a trip with extended family to the mountains in North Carolina. It was overall a great trip, and emphasized for me the importance of getting the next generation together to play! While the parents drink wine, of course….

Anyway, our flight home was on US Airways out of Charlotte. We used the $99 companion passes that come with the US Airways credit card (the tickets did earn United miles), and overall we felt like we got a solid deal on our tickets. Thanks to having Global Entry, we qualified for Pre-Check going through the airport (which means liquids, computers, and shoes stay put) so security was a breeze, and we then headed straight to the US Airways Club (thanks to our United Club credit card). Okay, all of that was nice and not necessarily “the norm” for family travelers. I know that our travel experience is sometimes a bit “pampered” due to elite status and credit card benefits.  We travel so frequently that I am so thankful when parts of it are easy – otherwise I’m sure we would not be able to leave the house without serious negotiations!


However, once we got to the gate our experience certainly couldn’t be described as pampered in any way.  It was the very normal peak summer travel experience that makes some think that flying is a bit of a pain in the rear.  The gate was over-stuffed with people thanks to a delayed flight ahead of ours that had not had the aircraft show up, but had also not yet experienced a gate change. Though thankfully there was room to sit on the floor and balance an orange on our nose as entertainment.


Once we boarded our very full flight it was obvious that the distance between us and the seat in front of us on this 737-400 was far less than on our outbound A320 US Airways aircraft, and certainly much less than the United E+ seats we have gotten spoiled with used to. Thankfully, I knew better than to bring the car seat on-board in those seats as C’s legs would have been jammed against the seat in front of hers, but there was nothing I could do about the jamming that happened to my 6’3″ husband’s legs.  Clearly he would survive, but in no world was it going to be fun or comfortable.


The cramped space alone was enough to make the flight “fun”, but the real fun started when the lady across the aisle decided it was a good time to give herself a pedicure, or at least pick at her feet. I think she started hating life a few minutes into the flight since seated all around her was a family flying with what appeared to be four children under the age of four. It wasn’t exactly a quiet flight…though the parents certainly seemed to do their best!


So, cramped seats, hot and old plane, absolutely no in-flight entertainment or WIFI, exposed dirty feet next to you, multiple crying children, and your own vacation-weary child. To make it more fun, the bag of food we bought in the airport had broken while boarding, so I got covered in what was left of our dinner.  Glamorous? I’m going with no.  In fact, it was really not fun at all.  It was a bit of a mind game to keep calm in a hot, noisy, confined space while keeping a smile on your face for your own child.

However, the plane landed safely, on-time, and the view from the wing was, as usual, outstanding.  So with a few yoga moves and a good night’s sleep (and maybe a shower?) the rest is just a distant memory and all a part of the sometimes “glamorous” travel process.


I wanted to share this very ordinary flight experience because contrary to what you may think if you spend enough time reading miles and points blogs, not all trips are filled with lie-flat seats, personalized service, and warm nuts served with hot towels.  In fact, most are very much the opposite.  For most people, on most trips, airplanes are just the “Greyhounds of the skies” that serve to get you from Point A to Point B in less than ideal conditions, albeit with great speed and a good view.

What type of trips do you most frequently encounter?  Five star service in the sky, or a somewhat uncomfortable, yet efficient way to get from Point A to Point B?

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. Worst was the Greyhound, as you mentioned, from Philadelphia to Nashville. This is going back a couple of years..

    Got to a place where the bathroom door was burnt off. But that was ok, because that day was the 1st day that the bus could not keep bags onboard on a layover longer than ?30 minutes. So, I used my bags to load up in the doorway for some privacy. It was either that or try to pick someone in the waiting area I felt was safe to leave them with. And I preferred the privacy 🙂

    The other fun thing was that must have been the travelling drug dealer… He certainly wore more gold chains than Mr T !!! Everywhere we stopped, he had folk meeting him. Just around the corner! He seemed to rule the bus all day. Even the driver quit his speech about not snppng gum onboard …

    This is all why I FLY nowadays :). Even though when there is not a lounge I can use & I still need to take my bags to the bathroom with me, now they do not form the privacy screen … And I have never seen a bathroom door that has been burnt off in an airport!

  2. My experiences have been a mix of first/business class and economy. Since my son was born 5 years ago it’s been all economy because I can’t get enough miles for all 3 of us to have posh seats. And for domestic travel, I don’t worry about it. Domestic first class isn’t all that much better than economy.

    We are going to Thailand next March on miles….in economy. I know it’s going to be uncomfortable, but I feel fortunate enough to even be GOING, let alone for “free”, that I won’t complain. Plus we are staying in nice hotels once there (again all free, on points) so we can relax and be pampered when we arrive.

  3. Thanks for keeping it real, MP! While I love business/first/5 star as much as anyone, I tend to think that I’d rather take 2 (or even 3 trips) in economy, than 1 in first.

  4. Great points!

    Curious how your daughter got to experience pre-check as they always turn me away when traveling “with someone who does not have pre-check/global entry”

  5. Thanks for the article. So many we read are pointless filler or ranting whiners… I had a good laugh at yours though. I laugh because we’ve all been where you were. But what I appreciated most about your article was the perspective it gave (or pushed us to recall ourselves). We as a traveling public are spoiled. We expect more than what’s reasonable (sometimes!). Your thoughts were refreshing… Keep up the good work.

  6. Try an 18-hr trans-oceanic longhaul in Y with 2 kids under the age of 2 – of which one is the newborn sleeping in the onboard bassinet – starting with parked on the tarmac before take-off for 5 hrs and after that with a refuel layover of a short hour – all the while without enuf diapers on board to make it halfway thru the flight.
    Repeat every few months to return to “civilization”.
    Pure Mommy hardship – but I survived and so did the kids 🙂

  7. My flights to 129 countries have pretty much run the board for experiences. My last flight ended with an emergency evacuation on the airfield with smoke in the cabin. Pretty much an Asiana experience as far as the passengers taking luggage off during the evacuation and taking pictures with cellphones before they were out of harm’s way. I will take babies, barefeet, cramped seats and spilled food over passengers who block evacuations because they feel their luggage is worth more than the lives of the passengers behind them.

  8. MJ, weird! I’m seeing it a lot right now since it is summer. It think half of my recent United Cancun – Houston flight was shoeless at some point since they all had on flip flops, but picking at the feet I hadn’t seen in a while.
    Storyteller, now that sounds like “fun”. 😉
    LMR, amen. We are all so lucky just to be going…
    kris, I’m with you. I like premium cabins, but if I can’t swing that then coach gets me there in the same amount of time. 😉
    Michael, 12 and under can piggyback with a parent.
    Scott, glad this didn’t come across as a rant because it certainly isn’t one. It’s just an ordinary tale of a non-glamorous ordinary flight. Trying to keep balance of all the tales of first class (which I like to visit from time to time myself).
    nomad, that does not sound like fun!
    Lynn, indeed. He could get global entry though and problem solved. Worth it if you travel enough.
    ADK, totally agree. This was actually a day or two after the Asiana incident, and it very much helped us all keep perspective. Can’t believe folks and their carry-on luggage!

  9. My worst was Flight on Delta from SLC to Columbia, SC seats at the back of the plane near very dirty and stinky bathrooms with every user opening and closing those we got a whiff of aroma,did not fly Delta since then and it has been 11 years. I think plane trips in the US just a way of getting from point A to Point B and airlines make themselves to glorified entities. Do not care for this travel just make it as best as you can. Do care for long haul flight, however. Make sure intl flights we getting are comfortable and easy to take.

  10. Its nice to know that the “pros” travel coach as well. i used to work for AA and i got used to first/biz but now I’ve got a new job and young children so it will be a while before we’re up front again. We have a 3-1/2 year old and a 9 month old and we’ve always had good travel experiences since my 3-1/2 yo daughter can get glued to the iPad/iPhone for hours at a time and my son is very mild tempered. Even our 18 hr trips to and from Tokyo in April went well. But we haven’t had any long delays or cancellations with the kids yet. I must say, though, that sitting next to a 3 year old that’s glued to an iPad makes coach a bit more comfortable.

  11. We had unglamorous ourselves last month! My youngest daughter’s backpack was stolen at the baggage carousel in Lima. Any other bag would have been fine, but hers contained her beloved and irreplaceable teddy bear.

    The entire family was traumatized by the loss.

    We staggered around half-crying the whole time until our 11pm flight. We’d upgraded the entire family to lie-flat first on our redeye from LIM-IAH and we hoped that would cheer everyone a bit.

    Luckily, we’d decided to surprise the kids…because our flight was canceled and we ended up in AA “first” which was most definitely NOT worth the miles and money I spent on the upgrade. We also departed at about 4am instead of 11pm.

    My youngest daughter fell asleep in the lounge in LIM waiting to board and as I tried to carry her to the boarding gate, she PEED ON ME in her sleep.

    It was horrible.

    It took about a month for us to remember that the first 8 days of the trip were great…

  12. Flew on both AA and US Airways last week, cramped in coach. One leg I was on the aisle sitting next two larger people. I’m a bit of a germ-phobe so not thrilled about the guy taking over the armrest and touching my arm with his arm more than once. It creeps me out. But, the good news is we took off on time, one leg even a bit early. Very nice FAs. Able to purchase Wifi. Went about as good as could be expected. Leaving for Hawaii this week on HA, much prefer the 2x3x2 and sitting next to my own daughter. Don’t mind touching arms with her! We wouldn’t be going if it wasn’t for all of your help and guidance, so THANK YOU so much again!!

  13. I hear Carrie on the germ thing. But its kind of hard to avoid others or germs in that flying tube. Plenty of both to go around. I echo all the similar sentiments on “unglamorous travel”. I once had my kid barf all over my shirt on takeoff for our 6 hr flight to Hawai’i. Whata start to the trip, right ??

  14. Somewhat recently I discovered that your bribery tactic also works on cranky adults who don’t travel well. Hey, don’t we all wish someone would hand us a favorite treat when our flight is delayed or are near a travel induced meltdown?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *