How Not to Travel With Kids

Note: This post is a slight departure from my typical ramblings about career progression, meetings, and communication documents. To any men out there who get squeamish at the mention of feminine hygiene products, you might want to skip this one.

Oh yeah and...I'd like to apologize in advance to the hardworking regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA.) I'm really an avid rule-follower.


 Linc demo'ing Dunkin's new hands-free donut.

Linc demo'ing Dunkin's new hands-free donut.

After launching the ebook last week, I headed out on vacation with Brian (my husband) and three kids.  I wanted to share the scoop on the trip while it's still fresh—or raw, really.

Kidding. The trip (decidedly not vacation-y) was great—great like all endurance races are great.  It seemed like a good idea when we signed up and now that it's done and we survived, I'm glad we did it. The middle part though was mostly me just sweating and cussing under my breath while trying to remember whose fucking idea this was anyway.

 The girls share a little spontaneous sisterly support.

The girls share a little spontaneous sisterly support.

Backing up, I was stressed before we left and this was more than my normal compulsive list-making stress. As things always go, client work exploded and I was so busy tying up loose ends that I started budgeting time in 15-minute increments. Getting actual, client-paying work done didn't leave nearly as much time as I would have liked for meandering around Target and trying on cheap sunglasses.  But things fell into place, the client work got done and I was able to find two pairs of new sunglasses.

 These people really needed to listen to the seat belt tutorial.

These people really needed to listen to the seat belt tutorial.

Client reports and sunglasses aside, my real fret-du-jour was that we didn't have a plane ticket for my youngest child, Linc. In planning the trip, Brian did all the research and made the travel arrangements. This is one of the key divisions of labor that works in our relationship and is really important since the 2014 New Jersey beach house debacle.  When buying the tickets, he figured that 2 years + 6 days was close enough to the 2-year-old cut-off for a lap child so he didn't buy our youngest a seat for this trip.

 The safety video is riveting.

The safety video is riveting.

I'll spare you the totally weird conversations we had about this and just sum it up to say that if you know my husband, you know that he doesn't worry about anything. ANYTHING. He certainly wasn't planning to start worrying days before our trip about a tiny thing like FAA regulations and birth certificates.  I was still anxious and envisioning a scene at the airport. So, I did what I could which amounted to searching on the web to find a blog written in 2006 by a woman from Arkansas that said American Airlines never asks for documentation.  I relayed this ray of hope to my husband and his response was, "great, we're good to go."

Yep, that’s exactly what I was thinking.

 We snapped this photo to distract some of these people from the misery of waiting the 5 minutes until our tour started.

We snapped this photo to distract some of these people from the misery of waiting the 5 minutes until our tour started.

Then, the afternoon before, I consciously decided to stop worrying about something that was out of my control and start worrying about something else that was out of my control. This new worry was whether or not I was going to get my period while we were away. In retrospect, it’s odd that I was less worried about the arrival of an unplanned 4th baby than I was about forgetting my Costco-sized bottle of Advil and miscalculating the number of tampons I’d need to pack.  Another pregnancy somehow seemed easier than math.*

 Proof to my future self that we were all clean and ketchup-free for about 10 minutes.

Proof to my future self that we were all clean and ketchup-free for about 10 minutes.

On Friday morning, we all woke up early to head to the airport. We breezed through check-in, slid through security, and proceeded to have a completely uneventful flight to Miami. We made it to the ship without inconvenience or a single person asking for any official paperwork or any documentation at all.  Of course, it all worked out. Damn it. More “I told you so” ammo for my darling husband.

The cruise itself was exactly as you’d imagine. There were a lot more people eating and dancing in their bathing suits than is typically recommended for either. The sheer force and volume of 24/7 digestion taking place on a large vessel should be studied by someone—though I don’t know if it’s more of a biology thing or a physics thing. Once the scientists figure that part out, I’m sure we’ll hear more.

The time flew by and before we knew it, it was time to pack up and head home—which proved to be not quite as easy. Leaving our room, we had two coffin-sized suitcases, two overstuffed carry-ons, one tiny pink polka-dot backpack, one helpful child, one decidedly unhelpful child in a stroller because her legs only reliably propel her towards popsicles, and a 34-pound “baby” in the Bjorn loudly singing Hatty Bird-day to himself. We made it down the elevator to the gangway and then had to navigate around a very large and emotional family from Mumbai.

Under normal circumstances, the transition wouldn’t have been easy but we were running late (not my fault.) After waiting to get off the ship, waiting in line for customs, getting a cab that could take all 5 of us, Mr. Cool-io Brian was about to lose his shit-io by the time we got to the airport.

We were directed to wait in another long line to check in (despite doing everything online in advance.) Out of desperation, my husband wasn’t taking ‘no’ for an answer and worked every single gate agent. We finally got our boarding passes (again no documentation requested) with 34 minutes to spare until take-off and still needed to get through security and to our gate—with all three kids in tow.

I knew he was determined not to stay in Miami for one minute longer with us than he had to when he asked an entire group of hungover baseball players to cut in front of them at security. They said yes! He then left me (with my enthusiastic blessing) to race to the gate and hold the plane. I, on the other hand, had to stand there and wait for my bag to be swabbed because I’d forgotten a can of hairspray I’d bought while meandering through Target.

After surrendering my hairspray, I followed with the kiddos who were troopers and made it up two escalators by themselves. As we waited for the Skytrain, my phone rang. It was Brian.  All was good—the damn plane was 15 minutes delayed. With all of that, we made it with time to spare. So, we bought some Cheez-Its because that’s what you do when you're facing two hours in a confined space with toddlers.

There were tons of sweet and memorable moments throughout the trip and I even learned things about my kids. 

  • My oldest is a total joiner. She wanted a front row seat at the poolside belly flop contest so she could vote. Despite a plateful of chicken fingers, she couldn’t miss an up-close view of the waiters singing O Sole Mio. After dinner, she was itching to get to the show then to the gallery to check out the day’s photos before heading back to the main lounge to watch the flags in the parade of nations.
  • Our little middle continues to be charmingly concerned about the weather and where our luggage is at any given moment in time. She keeps saying that she wants to live in Miami, which I’m interpreting as her way of saying she had a good time.
  • Our baby is one easy going traveler who loves “beep-bop" which is Linc-speak for both ketchup and robot.  Most of the time, you can figure out what he wants in context.

Anyway, I’m still not sure if we’re “cruise people” but I could definitely see us doing this again.

*And, no, I’m not pregnant. Phew!