travel with kids: everything nobody else will tell you.

When I was 22 years old, freshly married and kid-free, I had the moronic confidence of someone whose main job is to take care of themselves. So when my sister offered me a free plane ticket to Hawaii, a free ticket which was a carrot on the end of a long stick named “but you have to bring my 3 kids with you,”  I was like yeah, sure, bring it on! I think I may have said, and I quote,

“How hard can it be to fly with three kids?”

Laughing, laughing, laughing all around, cue my inevitable humiliation and whatever disasters awaited me. No matter WHAT happened on that trip, I would deserve it, if only  for the foolish audacity to imagine everything would be juuuust fine. And happen things did.

Everything was fine all the way to San Francisco, where I fed them lunch, the 1-year-old, 4-year-old, and 6-year-old who I was about to cart across the Pacific Ocean. We had just boarded the plane for Honolulu when the 4-year-old announced that her stomach hurt. After we settled into our seats, she leaned over and hurled that airport lunch all over herself. I cleaned her up in the spacious confines of the airplane bathroom with the wet wipes and extra outfit her mom had advised me to pack, praying it was an isolated moment of motion sickness. And then she proceeded to projectile vomit for FIVE. HOURS. STRAIGHT. I am not exaggerating. She threw up on her clothes, she threw up on her second set of clothes, she threw up on her seat, she threw up on her sister’s seat, she threw up on her brother’s seat, she threw up on my seat, she threw up on her stuffed animals, and in the very worst move of the entire stomach emptying episode from hell, she threw up on the DVD players.

I don’t even remember the middle three hours of that flight. I think I blacked out for a while, purely for self-preservation. At one point I found myself asking the annoyed flight attendants for yet another large plastic bag, which I was ripping into with my teeth to create head and arm holes, and making my embarrassed and miserable niece wear as a puke poncho. An older woman walking down the aisle patted my shoulder, then leaned in and said,

“Honey, you are a saint.”
I gripped her hand and pulled her down to face me, and with wild eyes I whispered back,
“These aren’t my kids.”

The point IS, we made it to Hawaii, where I promptly caught the same stomach bug and threw up for two days straight while my sister, in gratitude and slight amusement, tossed toast and magazines to me from her guest room doorway.

Since that adventure, I have traveled thousands and thousands and thousands of miles with my own kids, by planes, trains, and automobiles,  with my husband and (foolishly, again) by myself. I gladly share all of my hard-won and pathetically earned secret information to make your travels as painless and smooth as possible when accompanied by small selfish people who think gum is a food group.

IMG_0364^^ On our way home from Boston. To be fair, I took the kids across the country by myself for 10 days. I needed a lot of stuff. ^^


 Travel With Kids: Everything Nobody Else Will Tell You

For the most part, your fellow passengers are so glad to be traveling alone and oh so glad to not be you, and this translates into a helpful attitude. When they ask if they can help, be ready with an answer! Can they hold the baby for a split second while you rearrange your carry-on full of toys? Can they pull a bag out from the stroller basket? Can they unzip that DVD case for you? Can they carry your bag up to that bench by Starbucks?

Give them a chance to do a good deed and give yourself a chance to breathe for a split second. Everybody wins.

Not the first. Never the first. You’re just wasting precious running around time- run their little legs ragged while you can, people. And then you won’t have to wait in a long quiet line, or walk slowly in a line down the aisle, or have to hustle your kids out-of-the-way when you finally find your seats. Go on last. Trust me.

Because old-you might have been able to make a 20 minute connection with a bathroom break AND a coffee run, but parent-you needs to find the family bathroom, change a diaper, nurse a baby, let the kids run up and down a few empty hallways, eat lunch, wash hands, repack carry-on bags and then maybe finally buy an over-priced latte. Give yourself a few minutes to do all of this, or plan a direct flight. Short layovers are a bad idea.

In the world of traveling with kids, there can be this undercurrent of competition in who does it better. I saw a mom in an airport who was wearing her baby, had a toddler on a leash,  and ONE SMALL DIAPER BAG on her arm. Meanwhile, I had a double stroller, a backpack, and a weekender bag JAM PACKED along with my two small children and their various blankets. In the world of who did it better, it might seem like she was winning. This is false. Here’s why: Because I know my kids. I’ve traveled with them a million times, and I knew I would need everything that was in my arsenal of stuff. Think through your whole day of travel, no matter the mode, and plan hour by hour. If your kids are old enough to watch 3 full-length movies and eat apple slices all day, simply pack their DVD player and an apple. If your kids are babies who need constant attention and soothing, pack their favorite blankets and movies and snacks and little toys, so that you can move your day along in 20 minute increments of survival if need be.

I always, ALWAYS pack two extra outfits for each kid, and enough diapers/undies for an entire day without our luggage, and in case of: spilled apple juice, peed pants, diaper blow-outs, smeared animal crackers, delayed planes, et cetera ET CETERA. Pack their extra clothes in gallon Ziplocks so that you have somewhere to put their dirty clothes, and don’t forget to bring a fresh shirt for yourself as well.

I don’t care what you do or don’t believe about a supreme being. When you are 37,000 feet in the air or 237 miles away from your highway exit and one or all of your kids are crying because you can’t hold them/let them walk/feed them lunch yet/find their binky/get them to sleep- YOU WILL FALL TO YOUR KNEES IN PRAYER. You will cry out to God to fast forward time and space and to please make your baby stop crying, and you will whisper a grateful “thank you” when everyone arrives unscathed. There are no atheists in fox holes, and there are absolutely no unbelievers traveling during nap times. So don’t be afraid to go there; you’ll be better off with a prayer on your lips than a curse word. Although a few of my prayers included curse words, so. Whatever it takes.

Recognize the incredible privilege of even being on airplane or on a road trip, the magnitude of wealth that a plane ticket or a tank full of gas and a working car represents to billions of people all over the world. You might be getting stressed in the circus of TSA security measures or really tired of hearing your kids ask when you’ll get there, but there’s a mother out there who isn’t sure where her babies’ next meals are coming from. So. Put your shoes on the conveyor belt and be thankful.

My sister in law told me this once. It’s helpful. If things just aren’t going your way, if the day has been long and hard and your baby or toddler just cannot be consoled,  please don’t worry about the passengers around you. They will likely never see you or your kids again. They will go on their merry way and not give you a second thought, so why worry about what they think? Most of them probably feel sorry for you, honestly. And if they are actually upset about a helpless, tired, confused baby who dares to (God forbid) cry on a plane…. then repeat sentiments above. 

So! Happy Travels this holiday season and beyond. May your flights be smooth, your roadtrips be jolly, and your snacks be filling. Much love from the Horney house to you and yours!

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