The day we lost our daughter at the airport

I got a last-minute request to appear on 9News this morning to talk about my travel tips with kids over the holidays. I compiled 10 of my favorite activities but here in the disclaimer on my travel expert street cred: We LOST Hadley at the airport last week.

Our trip to Disney World was pretty seamless until our final few hours. For this trip, we booked our flights through Kayak and had a mixed-bag of results. The good: We saved money. The bad: They often book you on different airlines with minimal connection time.

Our flight to Orlando from Denver was direct but on the way home, we connected through Atlanta with only a 45-minute layover.

In addition to that very small window, we had a few other things working against us: 1) Our flights were in different terminals. 2) Atlanta is one of the largest airports in the world and 3) Each of the kids had downed an entire McDonald’s soft drink in flight and were bursting to go to the bathroom.

But we had no time. We hightailed it out of there and 6-year-old Bode was in tears as we raced through the airport to the train (little dude has been cursed with a small bladder). A guardian angel worker took pity on our tortured family and called over to the plane to tell them we were coming.

When we arrived at the other terminal, Bode and Jamie raced up the escalator. Buoyed down with both my and Bode’s carry-on and another large bag, I couldn’t keep up so beckoned to Haddie to follow them up the escalator.

When I arrived at the top, there were no Johnsons in sight. I continued to race down to D4 (the far end, of course), stopping at a bathroom half-way down (I, too was dying). When I arrived at our gate, a horrified Jamie looked at me. “Hadley isn’t with you?”


And I then I REALLY FREAKED OUT. Just as our final boarding call was announced, he raced back through the terminal trying to track her down. I tried to hold back tears that she was wandering around this huge airport, lost and scared.

Several minutes later, he returned with her and we barely made it on the flight before the doors closed. As it turned out, she had caught up to the boys but they high-tailed it into the men’s restroom while she went to the women’s. By the time I reached the top of the escalator, they were nowhere to be seen so I sailed on by.

They waited for her but she is notoriously slow and figured I had gone in the bathroom after them and she was with me. WRONG ASSUMPTION. But she did exactly what she should have done: she didn’t try to find us and instead waited outside of the bathroom, likely cursing her rookie, scatterbrained parents the entire time.

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