Traveling Gay Dads: Day 1 – A Date With Helena (Montana)

The Montana state Capitol in Helena. Quite beautiful inside.
The Montana state Capitol in Helena. Quite beautiful inside.

By Paul J. Heney

Our first day of our first gay family trip went well. We’d decided to save some money and use frequent flier miles, so we were somewhat restricted by the airline’s (United’s) whims. We flew from CLE-IAH-DEN-HLN. A three hour layover in Houston was actually a nice gift; the kids spotted a Chili’s and begged to have lunch there. We were fine with that, because it wasn’t McDonalds. We also took a tour of about every gift shop in the B and C terminals … but I convinced the boys to save their money, as they would probably see some really cool stuff in Montana.

Our only stress point came in Denver; we were about 15 minutes late, giving us 40 minutes to grab dinner (yes, McDonalds won out this time) and walk very briskly from gate B25 to B95(!). DEN is a really extensive airport, for sure, but when you’re pulling along a 6-yr old, it seems endless, let me tell you.

I pulled out some longtime dad traveling secrets. A shopping trip the other day allowed me to pack in ziplock bags: Protein bars, M&Ms (dark chocolate mint, highly recommended!), Doritos, Sour Patch Kids, some new trading cards and two new Browns jerseys as surprises for the boys. A fully charged iPad with a flight simulator app loaded allowed the boys to play pilot while they talked about the various 737s and regional jets we were riding in (and seeing out the  window).

Helena, Montana is one of the smallest airports I’ve been to, but that isn’t a big deal. I love tiny airports. Helena boasts four gates, one baggage claim, beautiful new facilities and about a 20 step walk from baggage to the car rental counter. Then the walk to our car took us across the street and down a flight of stairs. That took a whole minute, even with kids carrying luggage.

Our first night was at the adorable Elkhorn Mountain Inn, a small motel a few miles south of Helena. The kids at first kept saying “this place is weird” (yeah, I’ve turned them into hotel snobs), but after seeing the rustic decor including the huge stuffed animals on the wall, they turned their opinions around. Now they’re loving it.  Rooms are typical size for a motel but surprisingly updated. A free continental breakfast made this an amazing deal;’it can be frustrating to pay big money for breakfast every day when the kids sometime pick at their food.

Now, it’s off to Glacier National Park for us today! More adventures await … well, after a stop for some supplies that all parents will understand: Bread, peanut butter and jelly.

Published by edsalvato

Educator, marketing, communications and travel safety expert; LGBTQ Pavilion at the New York Times Travel Show; public speaker; expert panel organizer and moderator

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