Navigating the Airport With Your Spouse

Photo by  Matthew Smith  on  Unsplash

Photo by Matthew Smith on Unsplash

By Maggie Reimherr

There are two types of people in the world. The first like to roll up to their flight gate at the last possible second, avoiding unnecessary airport time. The second like to arrive to the airport 2 hours early, snacks and magazines, and have a drink or 3.

The odds are good that you will marry your opposite.

I’ll admit it. Anything that has to do with schedules or being on time sends me into an anal-retentive tailspin. Once I book a flight, you know I’ve thought through all contingencies standing between me and my vacation. I will get to the airport early, and I will be on that plane with my seat buckled before Zone 2 is even called to board.

I’m sure you can guess Derek is the exact opposite. He likes to saunter to the gate, even when he knows the boarding process is well underway. I’ve tried to teach him to at least power walk. No dice.

In an attempt to be less of a high-anxiety person, I’ve tried to adjust to Derek’s airport ways.

Last spring, we went on a trip to Mexico and our travel plan ended up being very convoluted. We booked the trip when we lived in Boston but then moved to Atlanta. We realized changing our international tickets would be more expensive than buying new tickets to Boston and taking our original flights.

On the Atlanta leg of the journey, I took our local transit system to the airport (that’s pretty much all it's good for). Derek beat me there, and I remained cool as a cucumber, breezing in to check our bags and head to the terminal.

Then I got the grand idea we should go to the Priority Pass lounge to grab complimentary dinner and drinks. Thanks for the perks, Chase Sapphire credit card. Our flight was out of Terminal C. The lounge is in Terminal F. But we had some time to kill, so it was going to be totally fine.

My ideal airport setup - chilling with a beverage, passport easily accessible, not rushing. 

My ideal airport setup - chilling with a beverage, passport easily accessible, not rushing. 

I was almost finished with my second beer when I got a notification saying our flight was boarding. My heart started beating faster.

“Derek, we have to go. NOW.”

He rolled his eyes and collected his belongings. Derek then decided to make a pit stop into the restroom before we left the lounge.

This filled me with pure, blind rage.


In a huff, I took off, and Derek followed… still rolling his eyes.

Because we’d never taken the ATL “plane train” from Terminal F, we got turned around trying to find it. Somehow, we ended up in the back hallways of the airport, walking between terminals.

This is fine, I assured myself. We’ll walk fast.

Apparently, Derek didn’t get the memo that the situation necessitated speed walking. He kept telling me, “Hey, slow down. It’s going to be fine. We’ll make it.”

“No, I’d prefer to walk fast. Do you not understand that if we don’t make this flight, our entire trip to Mexico is TOTALLY SCREWED?!?!”

“Maggie, calm down. Breathe.”

...Oh no, he did NOT just tell me to calm down.

I decided, by force of sheer will, the best course of action was, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

So instead I passive-aggressively huffed and puffed all the way to our gate.

At this point Derek was pissed because he was sweating like crazy, I was being rude, and he knew in his heart that he was right and that we were making this flight.

But DO NOT tell an uptight traveler it’s going to be fine. In our minds, it’s already doomsday. We’ve missed the flight, there’s no way we’ll make it on another, and we’re destined for a staycation at Six Flags instead of 7 days of sun and fruity drinks and tacos in Mexico.

We finally got to our gate. It was almost cleared out by then, but they were still boarding. Blessings and praises.

Here’s a fun thing about me: once I see that the danger has passed and everything is going to be fine, my mood changes. I can flip a switch and pretend I wasn’t acting like a speed-walking lunatic 2 minutes ago.

Derek is always baffled by my sudden change in behavior, and it usually makes him mad.

We settled into our seats on the plane, and I acted like nothing was wrong. I began snuggling against him and telling him how excited I was for the trip.

He stared at me in bewilderment and said, “Hey, please don’t act like the world is ending if we’re not at the gate when boarding starts. Ever again.”

My only suggestion? “Maybe let’s get to the airport at different times and make our way to the gate separately from now on. It’s better that way.”

And with that, we settled into our free Wifi journey on Jetblue. We didn’t speak to each other again until we were about halfway to Boston.

Here’s the big picture: in a year and a half of marriage, we’re still figuring it out and adjusting to each other’s quirks. In many ways, Derek and I are incredibly similar. This is what makes us compatible and what makes our marriage so good. In other ways, we couldn’t be more different. Learning to adapt, and sometimes take one for the team by doing things your spouse’s way, is good. But sometimes, you just need to arrive at the airport separately and do your own thing.

We haven’t done that yet, but if anything like this happens again, it’s worth trying. For now, I’m trying to change my ways and freakin’ relax. Derek is giving me more wiggle room so we can actually take our time at the airport. This is one of those cases in which marriage takes some compromise. And every bad airport experience is a learning experience.

Also my ideal travel situation. Apologies to the man in the background.

Also my ideal travel situation. Apologies to the man in the background.