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‘Home Alone’ is getting a reboot. We catalogued all the travel plot points that wouldn’t hold up today.


(Washington Post illustration; Twentieth Century Fox; iStock)

The 1990 movie “Home Alone” tapped into that nagging sense we all feel when traveling: What did I forget? (KEVIN!). But when we learned Disney would remake the classic for its new streaming service, we realized that much in the original would be unfamiliar and unrealistic for today’s hyper-connected travelers. Macaulay Culkin, who played Kevin McCallister in the original, drove that point home when he tweeted a photo of himself on the couch with his laptop and takeout food, with the caption: “This is what an updated Home Alone would actually look like.”

So By The Way reporters Hannah Sampson and Natalie Compton sat down to revisit the film that launched a million memes and catalogue the travel plot points that seem merely quaint, truly ridiculous or downright impossible in modern times. Will the new movie take place in a world where smartphones are ubiquitous? Will the Transportation Security Administration exist? If so, the filmmakers will have a lot to revisit.

Here’s everything they’ll need to work around for the reboot.

Losing your printed ticket in the trash may be a risk in 2019, but odds are low that you’re still printing tickets before a flight. In the age of the smartphone, travelers opt for keeping boarding passes on mobile devices.

Hannah: It is real chaos at the McCallister abode. Can I suggest the visiting family might stay at an Airbnb in the 2019 version of this story? Dinner, of course, is another mess, and THERE GOES THE MILK, all over the passports.

Natalie: Spilled milk on passports! Ticket goes into the trash! Chaos! I can’t remember the last time I had a printed boarding pass ready to go at my house before a flight. My parents still print out their boarding passes at home, but I’m a digital boarding-pass person 100 percent of the time. That means I’m not going to leave my kid at home because I spilled milk all over his ticket the night before.

Missing your flight wake-up call because of a power outage is an archaic travel problem. Having a household full of smartphone-carrying teens and adults means multiple people are setting alarms for the big trip. Leaving for the airport 45 minutes before the flight takes off is still possible in 2019, although overcoming that disaster is unlikely with modern-day TSA.

N: The power going out wouldn’t affect their alarms today. We all have alarms on our phones!

H: So the only way this would still happen is if everyone in the house had cellphones with dead batteries because they couldn’t charge overnight. But, like, one person with a cellphone alarm set, and this movie doesn’t happen. How do you write around that plot device?!

N: Maybe there’s some glitch in a software update that shuts off everyone’s smartphones for, like, six hours to download, alarms don’t go off, family can’t call an Uber, no one remembers a phone number to call an old-school cab, and their boarding passes can’t be downloaded like they thought.

H: That’s some “Twilight Zone” stuff.

N: What’s even more wild is that they think they can make their flight when it’s leaving in 45 minutes. Are you kidding me?

H: Under normal circumstances, given the number of dads in this group, I’d wager they would be on TeamVeryEarly to the airport.

H: Google Maps says the drive time from the actual “Home Alone” house in Winnetka, Ill., outside Chicago, to O’Hare (specifically on a weekday before Christmas at 8:30 a.m.) would be 24 to 45 minutes. So even if they got there at the fast end of that … there is just no way. Possibly the least plausible thing about this movie.

N: Plus, they have to check bags! And get through security! I wish the movie showed them going through pre-TSA security. Was there just a metal detector? They wouldn’t have to take off their shoes, and they wouldn’t have electronics to take out of their bag (unless someone had a Walkman).

H: Today’s youth has no concept of what that was like. I traveled before then, and I barely remember. So, a valiant run later and they think they can just yell “Hold the flight!” and hop on that plane. (I mean, they can in the movie version of this scenario.) But dudes, if you’re trying to do it now, the door is CLOSED. That ship has sailed.

Flying to Paris with the entire extended family: What could go wrong? (Just about everything, except for the free champagne.)

H: “Champagne, please, if free.” Hmm, would that be reasonable today? Maybe on Delta! Ah, they’re in first class, there you go.

N: Every first- or business-class flight I’ve encountered offers free champagne; it’s nice that that touch has survived the decline of hospitality onboard.

N: Kevin can’t text his mom and say “where r u :(“ when he wakes up and his family’s gone.

H: If he did text his mom in the modern-day reboot, she … probably would have seen it, if she were in airplane mode on the WiFi. Her “KEVIN!!!!” scream would be much less dramatic if it happened via text.

N: In 2019, if you realized you left a kid at home, is that enough of an emergency to ground a plane?

H: It kind of happened this year! But the baby (!!) was left at the airport (!!!).

N: Meanwhile, back at home, Kevin is having a ball shopping by himself out in the world.

H: Oh my God, Kevin is couponing, I love this kid. Everyone uses cash in this movie.

Mrs. McCallister’s struggle to find a last-minute flight home during the holidays would actually hold up today, but she’d be a lot less at the mercy of gate agents. Within minutes she would have the Google Flights app downloaded, nearby airports researched and a 10-tweet thread lighting up the airline posted online.

H: We don’t see the customs-and-immigration check in Paris, but I have to assume they’d be stuck for a while. Boo to this movie for not accurately depicting the most annoying parts of air travel!

H: Wow, they are standing in line for a pay phone. Here’s some change, go make phone calls! Mind-blowing. Though if they had cellphones and didn’t have international plans, they’d be in a very pricey pickle.

N: Right. Calling collect would be so expensive back then. Plus, there are no landline problems to tackle. Now, for no money at all, you could connect to airport WiFi, text message, Instagram DM, email, tweet and WhatsApp every person in your life until someone could go check in on Kevin.


Kevin's mother, Kate (Catherine O'Hara), who will continue to look like this through her family crisis. (Allstar Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo)

H: Their fruitless attempts to book another flight seem right on. Especially now, when airlines try not to fly with any empty seats. “I can’t believe you can’t bump somebody,” indeed. All the flights are sold out. It’s Christmas. Standby makes sense. But also, today, you’d be online, searching for flights constantly, or routes out of other airports. So Kevin’s mom has to rough it at the airport and now the rest of the fam gets to actually be in Paris.

N: Whoa, baller Parisian apartment.

H: Seriously, what does this uncle do for a living? He can see the Eiffel Tower from his living room and he paid for a bunch of relatives to fly over for Christmas, some in first class?

How to get off standby, onto a packed flight and (finally) home? The solution in the world of ‘Home Alone’: Bribes, questionable security practices and pre-Uber ride-sharing are the order of the day.

H: Kate McCallister coming on strong with the bribes for this nice couple. But she’s trying to exchange her own tickets for theirs, and that just would not work.

N: Or could it happen? If you’re flying standby, they might let you ask other people to switch. Not sure if there’s a rule against offering watches and cash. Airlines offer you financial incentives in voucher form to take a later flight if yours is oversold ⁠ — maybe a person has that same right?

H: Now? Right at the gate? Okay, I’m coming around to your way of thinking. She’s essentially bribing them to not fly, so she can take their spot. I guess that part could happen. But she offered them her later first-class tickets. Those can’t be transferrable; they’re in the McCallisters’ names, right? Airlines just don’t play that way.

N: Honestly, no idea. But it worked in this case.

H: Oh, God, poor Kate. All that work, and she ended up in Scranton. And now she has to hitch with a polka band?!

N: In 2019, you’d never have to resort to getting into a van with a group of strange men.

H: Jesus take the wheel.

N: Doesn’t even seem like a great idea back then, considering she could probably rent a car for the 11-hour drive from Scranton to Chicago herself.

H: Can you imagine the Uber price if 2019 Kate tried that option?

Instead of flying random stretches and ending up in a stranger’s van to get home to your son (who’s plenty busy lighting burglars’ heads on fire), it seems holding out for a direct flight a few hours later would be more realistic today. In the meantime, we’d like to figure out how Kevin’s mom, played by Catherine O’Hara, manages to look so good after 70-plus hours of international schlepping.

N: In 2019, he’d be making these plans to stop the Wet Bandits on an iPad, not on real paper with crayons. Also, I feel like I never see BB guns anymore. Maybe Nerf guns? Either way, this scene is bizarre and violent.

H: Good lord, this is a real house of horrors. I always forget how much pain is inflicted in this movie. I want to watch this movie with a doctor who can tell me when the Wet Bandits would have succumbed to their injuries.

N: You know, a Nest camera would have stopped these guys. The second a person or a cat or even a bug flies by those surveillance systems, you get a notification sent to your phone. Good luck sneaking two guys and a crowbar into a house these days.

N: MOM’S HOME! She looks so good after traveling, like, 80 hours. I look like hot garbage after a five-hour flight.

H: Okay you’re right, this might be the least realistic thing.

N: What’s her secret, dry shampoo?

H: Did the whole family really need to come home, honestly? They’re all so rested, compared to poor Mom, who just hustled every step of the way.

N: Total life lesson: Sometimes it’s better to wait for the morning flight. Don’t waste your energy trying to panic and get home with a weird itinerary.

H: But you might miss out on some festive polka.

Read more:

The completely correct guide to reclining on an airplane

Download these 9 apps before your next trip abroad

Checking a bag vs. carrying on is the great debate of airline travel

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