Party of Five Takes On United’s Basic Economy Fare*

I love to travel. But I hate to spend the majority of my travel budget on airfare. We try to use points and miles as much as we can, but sticking with just one airline has not worked for us since we left California. Before #3 was born, and especially before #2, we spent most, if not all, of our travel time visiting family. After #3, we decided to buy a second home on the North Carolina coast, and, in turn, stop traveling elsewhere as much. Indeed, until we moved to Portland, we spent pretty much every holiday, three day weekend, and every spare moment of our summers at the beach.

But now we are back on the move. During our first year in Oregon, we took the kids to Disneyland and the big island of Hawaii. We have gone to North Carolina several times. I am always trying to maximize our stays and of course pay as little for airfare as possible.

So, when I came across fares for $270 around Thanksgiving, I jumped on them. Yes, the kids would miss a little school. But it is No School November anyway (a ridiculous Oregon phenomenon during which children have only one full week of school during the whole month). And it was in the sweet spot for our family calendar – after gymnastics competition season and before club volleyball season. The catch – no carry-on bags and families are not guaranteed to sit together. That last made me extremely hesitant but husband said go for it. **We may be desensitized, or maybe just presumptuous, but our ticketed seats have been apart before. Last winter, when we went to Hawaii, we were all in middle seats in different rows. My youngest was only 5?! But other passengers were understanding and gladly accommodated.

Flash forward three months. Our time to check in for the basic economy flights fell during #2’s state gymnastics meet. The day before, I received an email from United reminding me of all of the restrictions on my fare. I grew more nervous and contemplated upgrading two tickets to ensure my 6 year old was next to one of us. We prepared the children that we may not sit next to each other. By the time my calendar reminder dinged to check in, she had finished her session with an all-around PR and first place! As we ordered brunch at a nearby vegan diner, I checked in . . . And . . . Jackpot! We were all in the same row on the first flight and close to each other on the second. I was overjoyed! (Did I mention I also scored Hamilton tickets at FACE VALUE for #1 and I earlier in the week?!!!) I was winning at this parenting gig. If I had a home T-shirt press and I would have printed a shirt that said #bestmomeva! But much to my children’s relief, I do not have said T-shirt press. Thank god. The onesies I would have printed for my kids when they were babies!?

And you know what? Everything with the BASIC ECONOMY FARE . . . was FINE. Sure, we got on the plane last. But, we didn’t have anything to put in the overhead compartment (per our restrictions and printed in bold and highlighted in orange on our boarding passes). We were in the last row, but how many jerks are reclining in coach these days anyway? There was a lovely mom with a sweet lap baby sitting on the aisle in between our 3 and 2. The flights went fine. We would have checked baggage anyway. It gave me an excuse to make each kid carry their own snack bag. AND, on the second flight, there was one seat nowhere near the others. That was MINE. And I ordered wine:)

*Results not necessarily representative

Thoughts? Comments?