Travel Pain Points
It's no secret that I love to travel. I mean, that's what this blog is all about. I love seeing new places, meeting new people, trying new foods, and learning about other cultures. I love the destinations I visit. But the older I get, and especially now that we're traveling with our son, I like the actual travel to the destination less and less. Don't get me wrong. We're still going to travel, and we'll make the most of every hurdle and every challenge and every tiny airplane seat and every hotel room that's laid out all wrong, but if I had the power of Jeannie to cross my arms and blink things into existence, or if I ruled the world with absolute power [insert evil laugh], there are definitely things I would change about the travel industry.
Read on to hear my travel industry pain points.
Small rooms / rooms that aren't laid out well
As a small family of three, we don't generally need a ton of space, but sometimes we arrive at a hotel room that is laid out terribly, and we have an awful time figuring out where to set up Emmett's pack-n-play where he won't be directly under the TV or right next to the air conditioner.
The best rooms we have found are "suites" that have a separate seating area, but of course the suites are generally more expensive rooms.
I imagine that for families of 5 or 6 (or more), hotel rooms are a joke. Options, especially budget-friendly options - are limited. Your best choices are to pay for two adjoining rooms, thus doubling your cost, or to find an AirBNB/VRBO with multiple rooms. Finding a hotel room with a king bed for the parents and queen beds or several twin beds for the kids is next to impossible. For larger families, hotel rooms tend to not be very accommodating.
If I could blink changes to hotel rooms, I would make the rooms larger, with a better variety of bed options, and layouts that accommodate pack-n-plays.
Strollers and Car Seats
Safety first. Yes, absolutely. I do not disagree that a child should be in a car seat both on an airplane and in a motor vehicle. What I don't love is that there is a complete lack of viable options for car seats that are TSA-approved, lightweight, and fit in those tiny airplane seats that also fit on a stroller base for once we reach our destination so we don't have to lug both a car seat and an entire stroller around with us.
When we took Emmett to New York, it was a relatively short flight and he was not yet one year old, so we held him in our laps - no car seat needed. But then we had to take public transportation everywhere, which, in theory, should be easy in New York. But when you have to leave your hotel room at 4am to catch an 8am flight so that you have ample time to get to the subway, lug everything down the stairs, catch a train (which doesn't run as frequently at 4:30am), get to JFK, find the right terminal, and go through security, it's abundantly clear that this would have been easier had we taken a taxi. To do that safely, though, would have required a car seat... which we didn't have.
For our upcoming trip to Zagreb, Croatia, however, we will need to take a car seat for the flight (and potentially for getting to and from the airport), but it would be so much easier if we didn't have to take a separate stroller and could just have a stroller base to set the car seat into.
So if I ruled the world - or at least the companies that make strollers and car seats - I would make options that were more versatile and travel-friendly.
Take your shoes off. Remove all large electronics from your bags. Empty your pockets. Remove the baby's formula and other drinks. Take the child out of the stroller. Take the stroller apart. Remove your belt. Get felt up by TSA. Put your belt and shoes back on. Repack your electronics and the baby's formula and drinks. Put the stroller back together. Put the now-screaming child back in the stroller. Hop on one foot while tapping your head with one hand and rubbing your belly with the other. Okay, I'm exaggerating a little now. But seriously. Airport security is a headache, especially when you're traveling with kids. Not to mention the health and safety hazards. I once saw a woman slice her foot open on a piece of glass that was on the floor in the security line! Yikes!
In my Jeannie universe, I could maintain security and safety without all the (unnecessary?) hassle.
Everything about bathrooms. There are never enough family restrooms. When you have kids with you and can't find a family restroom, the next best option is the handicap stall, but then there's the guilt of the using the handicap stall, because there are never enough of those either. Changing tables are always disgusting, if they are there at all.
So if I could blink them into existence, there would be family restrooms absolutely everywhere, and they would all have pristine changing tables.
Lack of Spaciousness on Airplanes
Do you ever look at pictures of airplane interiors from the 50s and think "Golly, they had it good!"? The seats were large and plush. The rows were spaced out enough to allow for plenty of legroom and to allow you to get out of the window seat without forcing everyone else in your row to get up and step aside; the person sitting in front of you could lean back without putting their head in your chest; and the aisles were wide enough to allow one person to go each direction without forcing one of you to sit on the lap of a fellow passenger or back up to the end of the plane and then squeeze past each other, and they were wide enough to allow you to carry your luggage (and a car seat) on the plane without bonking your fellow passengers on the head. I have no desire to go back to the 1950s, but if I ruled the airline industry, I would most definitely make airplanes more comfortable and spacious again.
Nickeled and Dimed by the Airlines
Can we all agree that life was better when airlines allowed your clothes and toiletries to travel with you at no additional cost and when a complimentary snack and beverage were expected? (Thank you, Southwest, for still allowing me to bring a reasonable amount of luggage with me, and thank you, JetBlue, for still providing a beverage and a snack.) It's a sad day in the travel industry when an airline can't even offer water to its passengers without an additional cost (I'm looking at you, Spirit Air!).
And don't get me started on seats. How, when you book your flights together, especially when you're traveling with kids, do airlines think it's remotely okay to seat you all in completely different rows - unless, of course, you pay them more money? It's extortion! Although, when the kids are a little older, I suppose it could be a good way to get some free child care. Mommy gets to enjoy a little peace and quiet (and maybe a little chardonnay?) while a stranger deals with all the things that Mommy needs a break from. Just kidding... kind of.
I think it would be fair, if you don't want to pay extra to choose your row, for the airline to choose the row in which your family sits, but airlines have no business splitting up families. If I ran the airline industry, families would always be able to sit together, luggage would fly free, and there would, at the very least, be a complimentary beverage.
Lack of Pet-Friendly Accommodations
This one I think is improving, as more and more people travel with their four-legged friends. We have found several mid-range hotel chains that allow pets (Drury Inn is one). Some hotels, however, claim to be pet-friendly, but actually offer only a handful of select rooms that allow pets. AirBNB is hit or miss when it comes to pet-friendly options. Some allow pets, but don't clean up after them very well, leaving pet hair (and the accompanying dander) for the next guest. And while we love animals and love bringing our furry son with us, he is hypoallergenic and does not shed. We have a hypoallergenic dog because we are allergic to pet dander. So it's always a roll of the dice when we bring him along. We may find somewhere he can stay, but at what cost to our eyes, noses, and throats?
If I were Jeannie, there would be no such thing as allergies, and pets would be allowed in every hotel, in every room.
If it sounds like I've spent this entire post complaining, it's because I basically have. That said, although there are things I would certainly change about the travel industry if I could, I still love to travel, and I have no intention of stopping. The pros of travel still completely outweigh the cons. The ability to learn other cultures, expand your worldview, try different foods, see historical buildings, learn geography, explore museums, learn to read maps and navigate train/subway systems, meet wonderful people (both locals and fellow travelers), learn to deal with stressful situations, get outside your comfort zone, learn new languages, and gain self-confidence and independence heavily outweighs the difficulties we experience while traveling.
The last thing I want to do is discourage anyone from traveling. But it does help to have the right expectations and to bring a little levity to situations that are often trying.
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