The first thing I learned about air travel as a military spouse was this: don't fly through any airport that does not have a USO lounge. And this is why ...
Air travel is probably part of your military life whether you like it or not. Unless you never want to see your family again (or get lucky enough to be stationed near them), you’re going to have to get their somehow ... and flying is probably your best option.
The very idea of flying with my children does a number on my blood pressure. Racing to the airport at zero-dark-thirty. Going through security with a stroller, car seat, computer, baby food and, oh yeah, babies. Transforming into the Hulk as I somehow, all by myself, move a 3-year-old, an infant, my computer bag, an over-stuffed diaper bag and a car seat down the center aisle of an airplane. Deplaning at the layover. Getting my baggage without losing my children. Renting a car.
But there is one – ONE – bright spot in the midst of all this.
The USO lounge.
Available at many airports nationwide, USO lounges come in all shapes and sizes. Some are located before the security checkpoint. Some are located after it in the terminal. Some are spacious, recently remodeled and luxurious. Some are small and homey.
But all are run by helpful volunteers who want to set you up with a much needed Diet Coke, feed you snacks, help you secure your stuff in a locker and then set you up with their wifi, children’s area, ridiculously comfortable lounge chairs, movie room or, really, whatever you need.
Simply put: I LOVE the USO. I love the snacks. I love the helper people. I love the chance to walk around for 30 minutes without hauling bags or children. I love the relief.
I find it so valuable that I now ONLY book flights that connect through airports with a USO lounge. Even if my layover isn't long enough to visit, the security of having a place to crash with my kids at the off-chance that our flight is very delayed or canceled is well worth it.
Back when I had extra time on my hands and did a lot of traveling (read: before I had kids), this USO ignorance so bothered me and my friend that we created a BlogSpot based site so that we could review all the lounges we visited. The project never got off the ground, but the question remained:
Why do so few military spouses know about this great benefit?!
The best in-terminal USO lounges that I've visited are in Philadelphia, Denver and Houston -- and the best I've seen located per-security are in Baltimore, Phoenix and Atlanta.
But I also tend to travel through the same airports over and over again. If you have USO experience tell us -- where is your favorite lounge?