Traveling with kids, highs and lows

The interesting thing about my latest vacation — with children– is that I found myself modeling a perky positive attitude rather than freaking out just to help them cope with all the uncertainties. Not even counting the delights and dramas of actually being on a multi-generational family vacation 2500 miles from home, here are 10 unexpected moments of our journey:

  1. The toddler is seated 20 rows back. Or is he? A new penny-pinching policy with our air carrier (and probably many others) only allowed me to select seats for 2 of the 4 legs of our journey unless I wanted to pay an additonal $30/seat/leg (That’s an extra $300 people, no thanks!!). When we checked in, the gate agent shuffled the tickets such that I thought Sawyer was sitting 20 rows away from the rest of us on each flight. Silent Panic Attack #1. Travel drama: the toddler sits on his own
  2. It turns out you can’t gate-check a jogging stroller. Apparently, this rule has been on the books for two years but I just learned the hard way that you can’t check your larger stroller at the door. We were asked to disassemble it and claim it at our final destination rather than the layover.Uh oh, can't gate check this stroller
  3. Flight delays upon flight delays. The weather-related flight delays caused us to land within 8 minutes of our next flight. The boys were happy to be allowed to run in the airport but very nervous in the moments leading up to it

    “What happens if we miss our plane, Mommy?”
    “We won’t, sweetie”
    “But what if we do?”
    “Oh, they’ll just put us on another one.”

    For better and worse, we ran like heck (Sawyer hated the part where I carried him and ran, BTW) only to find that the second flight was delayed too.

  4. The airline lost our luggage. I guess the bags decided not to run for the second airplane and stayed behind for an evening in Texas. The jogging stroller was more athletic and did make the flight. Sometime after midnight, when Alec and the boys were discovering this fact, Sawyer and I were using the airport bathroom to get into jammies — and he pooped in the potty!! I returned to the family feeling very proud of my little guy only to discover three sad older ones.

    “Why are you so happy, Mommy?”
    “I’m proud of Sawyer and I don’t want him to be scared.”
    “What do we do now?”
    “Our bags will come on the next flight, and if they don’t, we’ll buy new swimsuits at Target.”

    The airline gave us a loaner booster seat and we headed to pick up our vehicle.And then they lost our luggage

  5. Super sweet car shows up at valet parking. Just when I thought I couldn’t handle any more waiting and discomfort with a smile on my face, the valet showed us to our pristine Nissan Pathfinder loaner vehicle right outside baggage claim. We oohed and ahhed at how nice it seemed after a weary day of transit, and laughed at how little we were loading inside. It easily fit our backpacks and stroller.Nissan Pathfinder 2013
  6. The happy accommodation of my friends’ basement and neighborhood. A high school friend lives in Richmond, VA with his wife and two little boys. He had already agreed to open up his home to us as a soft landing before the next leg of our trip (a half-day roadtrip). Though we were too bleary-eyed to explore before falling asleep, the kids loved tearing it up the next morning. We also sweated our butts off (in our same travel clothes) before returning to the airport and reclaiming our bags. All lost luggage was recovered, so we didn’t make a Target run after all. Before picking up lost luggage, we ran around this park
  7. Roadtrip joys of the in-car entertainment system. Between the in-headrest screens tied to the DVD player and our own kidified iPad, the boys barely looked out the window. Nice for us since traffic was a killer. Sawyer napped both ways; bless him. Happy times on the roadtrip
  8. The hotel gave us two suites rather than one. I had booked our hotel room for the return leg using kayak/travelocity asking for a double double bed. When I called the day of the overnight to confirm our reservation and request a crib, the hotel said that they were oversold (OH NO!!) but that to accommodate us, they would give us two king suites instead (OH YES?). Because the rooms were not adjoining, we mostly used the spare room as a bathroom that would not wake our sleeping kids. The older boys packed into the king-size bed like puppies and we slept in the fold-out in the living area.A precursor to having kids share a room at home
  9. Running through the airport again. For our final layover, we had plenty of time and I ordered us a huge lunch. We had lots of space to really spread out, a little too much space. With minutes to spare, I suggested that we should double-check the gate. And — wouldn’t you know it? — the gate had been changed to another terminal. We were back to sprinting (luckily this time, the jogger made it!) and were the last people to board the plane. During the short airtrain ride, I got to put on my brave face again. Reprise the dialog up in #3.
  10. A dog on our parking shuttle bus. One of my sons is extremely phobic of dogs so this was a crappy way to end our adventure.

It was a crazy fun exhausting trip that included two flight days, two driving days, one hotel stay, and hours of entertainment… not even counting the great time we had at our destination!
Disclosure: The nice folks at Nissan provided me with a 2013 Pathfinder with 3rd row (which we never used) and cool multi-directional backup camera that we loved. Our 3 sons fit comfortably in the 2nd back seat, and it was Holden’s first time not using a booster.