Traveling with Kids | When Disaster Strikes
Note from Jen: Eek! Okay, so today’s topic is about dealing with some of the unpleasant things that can happen when you travel with kids. Jillian was unsure about posting it and I said, “Oh we’re posting it!” Because as much as I love the romance of travel, we need to keep it real. Of course Jillian did it in her charming, hilarious way. If you have a story of a time traveling was less than romantic, please share it with us in the comments.
I really love writing these Traveling With Kids columns. It’s a great chance for me to reminisce about my past travels and to share some tips with readers out there. My previous posts about Japan, Holland, Belgium and China describe beautiful vacations in picturesque locations with happy kids and delicious food. For the most part that’s what our vacations are all about. But not always. We’ve had our fair share of mishaps, disasters and inconveniences while traveling and I think it’s important to talk about them as well.
In my opinion travel disasters are part of the whole travel experience. They happen and we have to embrace them, resolve them and move on so we can enjoy the remainder of our trips and vacations. We have to learn to NOT PANIC.
To kick off the subject I’ll tell you about our first disaster while traveling as parents. We took our 5 week old twins from Italy to Canada for their first flight and to meet the Canadian side of the family. The flight was a dream. The girls slept the entire time on our folding trays and we arrived feeling more rested than we had in weeks.
The next day we noticed one of our twins had a small lump protruding from her stomach. We would push on it, it would disappear for a few seconds then pop back out. We went to the doctor immediately who informed us she would have to have emergency surgery for a hernia. Thankfully we were in my native city where we knew the system and the doctors. In the end it turned out fine and after a few days in hospital we arrived back home ready to enjoy the rest of our holiday. But I’ll admit that it shook us up a bit.
One thing we were extremely happy about? Health insurance. If I have one piece of advice that every traveling family should know about it’s to never EVER leave home without travel health insurance. It has saved us thousands and thousands of dollars.
When the twins were two and my little guy a newborn, I decided I was ready to travel with them alone by plane from Italy to Belgium. I mean, what could go wrong on a short one hour flight? Within five minutes of take-off, I had one twin on the toilet with explosive diarrhea, the other twin was vomiting into the middle aisle, and my little son was screaming bloody murder due to ear pain. I didn’t think the situation could get any worse. That was until I got a nosebleed in the middle of it all while holding a baby in each arm. There I was at the front of the plane trying to manage the three little ones and their various ailments with blood running down my face! The entire plane was completely quiet and staring at me and not one person asked if I needed help. It’s like they were all in a state of shock and I was the infamous car wreck that none of them could look away from. But I survived. Barely.
Then there was the time one of my daughters locked herself in the toilet in an overnight ferry to Sardinia, the time my son got scarlet fever while in Barcelona, the time all three kids (and us) got a violent stomach bug while in the Canary Islands that lasted from the second we arrived until the second we left.
There was also the time we spent our first night in a B&B with one year old twins. Someone told us to give them a little anti-motion sickness medicine so they would be calm and sleep well without disturbing other guests. But what they and we didn’t know is that some kids have a reverse reaction and instead of my twins becoming sleepy they were bouncing off the walls and screeching like wild animals until 5am. We learned our lesson on that one: don’t mess with pharmaceuticals.
Once, when I arrived in Canada with my three children (alone again), I was almost jailed for cross border child trafficking. I guess arriving in a country with three children who have different last names and a different nationality makes border patrol a tad nervous. Luckily my children look like me and were calling me mama, so they let me through with a warning and some advice to have a note put into my children’s passport that I am indeed their mother.
We’ve also had many cancelled flights, snowstorms, lost reservations, cranky hotel staff who don’t like kids and the like. And through all these situations the most important thing we did, or tried to do, was to keep calm. The calmer you remain, the calmer the kids remain. And if there is a disaster happening, the last thing you want are kids that are overexcited, scared or in a panic.
In general, people try to help out as much as they can when they see a family with children (except on that famous Milan/Brussels flight). You might not be bumped up to first class when traveling with kids but you might be given an entire row of free seats at the back of the plane, which, in the end is just as good as First Class when it comes to kids who need to lay down and nap.
Although we have had our fair share of travel disasters none of them ever ruined any of our trips. And I have to admit that sometimes these little bumps in the road even make our traveling experience a tad bit richer and more memorable. As philosopher Martin Buber said, “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware”.