Flying solo

I wrote this post on my flight from Tampa to Denver yesterday. I should have made more time for writing while I was in Florida, but as with most vacations, I was busy spending time with my loved ones instead of in front of a computer. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to write about the events of the past five days this week, but until then here’s a musing I started before my plane took off yesterday morning and finished before landing in Denver.

I saw a couple of young girls who seemed to be flying without an adult on my flight to Denver today and it made me think about the time I first flew anywhere by myself. Surprisingly, I think it was in March 2002 when I flew from Jacksonville to Los Angeles to visit Dan during the last Spring Break of my undergraduate years. And I think my last flight that preceded that was in 1997 when I returned to the United States from Europe with my high school tour group. (I thought that Amsterdam to Atlanta flight was long, not including the snail’s pace bus ride from Atlanta to Tallahassee afterwards, but it was nothing compared to the torture Dan and I endured on our Sydney to Los Angeles flight in 2007.) I can’t believe I didn’t fly at all for almost five years. My college career was extremely busy, but travel during that time was mostly confined to the highways between Gainesville and Tallahassee – just a two-hour trip in my little Neon. Even the longer trips, like the five cross-country trips between Florida and California with my Dad, were made in my Neon. So I was already an adult the first time I flew anywhere alone, which means I should have been capable of handling the difficulties that come with it, right? Wrong. You see, because of my five-year hiatus from air travel I was unfamiliar with all of the changes that took place after September 11, 2001. I had an electronic ticket so I didn’t think I had to bring any paperwork with me to the airport, but I soon learned otherwise. When one of the curbside bag checkers made fun of me for not having a copy of my itinerary, and even laughed about it with some of his friends, I felt like a prize idiot. I didn’t know the proper post-9/11 procedures, but after being used for the amusement of a few airline employees I never made the mistake of showing up at the airport without some sort of travel paperwork again. Since then I’ve done plenty of flying by myself, for work and vacation both, and I’ve gotten it down to a science. I have fond memories of a time when flying was fun, but I’ve grown quite weary of it after all of the trips I’ve made since March 2002. Fortunately there are some benefits. I’ve been able to take advantage of the thousands of frequent flyer miles I earn each year to get tickets for Dan and me to Chicago (Fourth of July 2009) and Hawaii (November 2011). This trip to Florida pushed my mileage balance above the level necessary to book tickets for another trip to Hawaii. I can’t wait to get home and solidify those plans. I think we’ll fly in and out of Maui, but I suppose that will depend on what flights are available to book with miles. Plus, I should have enough Hilton Honors points to get us a couple of free nights at the Grand Wailea Resort on Maui. I’ve heard it’s a fantastic hotel and I always appreciate not having to pay for accommodations. I was able to use some Marriott points so that my parents and I could stay at the Tampa Airport Marriott last night, which made getting to my flight this morning was extremely convenient. I’m glad to be going home today. I might have to fly to DC again the first week of May, but that means that I have more than a month before I have to travel again and that sounds good to me.