My husband has made use of USOs in airports several times in his travels, but I hadn’t had the opportunity until this past summer. I don’t know if I’ve just never taken the time to look for one, or maybe I was never in an airport that had one conveniently located.
At any rate, I was flying with our two kids, ages 7 and 2, from the East Coast where we’d been stationed, to Texas. We were smack in the middle of an OCONUS PCS, taking 30 days leave to visit family in Texas before we headed overseas. My husband drove our car to Texas, stopping to visit some of his family on the way. We decided that my flying with the kids would ultimately be cheaper than driving 1800 miles with them. He could make the trip in two ridiculously long stretches on either side of spending time with his family, whereas we’d have multiple hotel stays with the kids. Flying on Southwest is cheap, financially and emotionally, when compared to a multi-day cross-country trip with two young kids.
When I booked the flight, as I do with all of the other flights I book, I spent most of my time looking at the “total travel time” information, searching for the fastest route. The flight I ultimately ended up booking, apparently in one of my least lucid moments, had a total travel time of four hours and twenty minutes, from Philadelphia, routing through Houston, to Austin.
Ask me how long the layover/plane change was.
I had given myself 25 minutes to get three people, three carry-ons, a car seat, a stroller, and a partridge in a pear tree off one plane and onto the next. At lunch time, no less. So make that three hungry people and all their.…
After I realized what I’d done to myself, about a week before the flight, I spent untold minutes – hours, even – trying to determine the best way to climb this particular mountain I’d created. Knowing that I’d done it to myself just made it worse.
Ultimately, Southwest airlines came through for me, and we landed about 30 minutes early. I dragged us all off the plane, casting frantic looks in every direction to find someplace to eat and rest for a spell. I’d resigned myself to McDonald’s – along with what seemed like half of everyone else in the airport - what to my wondering eyes should appear??
I heaved a sigh of relief and carted us to the door, praying it would be as nice as Knight had experienced, and reasoning that, if nothing else, I wouldn’t be jockeying for position in a fast food line with a thousand other hungry, cranky travelers.
I stepped inside to discover leather chairs, a huge TV, kitchen stocked with all sorts of food (real food, even, not just airport snacks, and all free of charge), a kids’ play room, and some of the nicest folks I’ve ever met. After signing in, the gentleman who met me at the door helped juggle the kids into the playroom and offered me a drink. (No, not a drink, but at that point I was happy for the ice cold Diet Coke he handed me.)
Three other families shared the area, and my kids played with theirs for a few minutes. They had plenty of room to burn some energy, and I didn’t have to worry about my two-year-old darting off into the airport crowd.
After sitting and breathing for just ten minutes in the calm, cool oasis of the USO, I was ready to tackle the dash to the next plane and the last leg of our flight before finally reaching the haven of my parents’ home.
Have you ever visited a USO? How was your experience?