A Tale of How to Travel Awesomely with 3 Little Kids

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This is Pin-able. Do you hear me? PIN THIS. Pin it now. And tweet it. Because I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about having an amazing, easy, germ-free trip with your family. This is of course, complete sarcasm. Because that of course is never, ever possible.

But, we traveled from Wisconsin to New York by plane, train, taxi, and car with three little kids, 7 pieces of luggage, no naps or baby wipes.

And we are still alive.

One child might have E.coli, but for now, we’re still alive.

Want to hear my awesomely easy secret? It’s this: Share your story. Laugh about it. Because if you can’t laugh about it you will be dead by the end of your trip.

That is if most of you have travel days like the one we did. Which if you have kids under 18 I’m going to guess you have. Or you will (heh heh heh)

Here’s what happened.

We were leaving for New York on Friday morning. At 6am. On Thurdsay, our mini-van was declared totally incapable of driving to the Milwaukee airport (3 hours away). So we rented a squishy full size car for the trip. Everyone woke up around 5:30 am central time.

Things were looking good on our morning drive to Milwaukee. No traffic. Squeaky clean kids in coordinating and very cute outfits. Everything packed into the car the night before. Banana’s and waffles in the car. Beatles music on.

At this point in our trip we were smiling and anticipating the train ride up to our hotel, and some New York pizza by the pool with the grandparents. The kids were almost chanting “Hotel! Pool! Pizza!”

We nailed our check-in at the airport, breezed through security, and enjoyed the sparkling clean play area while we waited for our plane.

Still fresh as daisies!

Still fresh as daisies!

The first thing that happened was a delay with the flight. By an hour. We laughed it off. A delay? Psh! At least no one is melting down.

Then we got on the very teeny, tiny, plane. The one with the super grumpy stewardess. The one that had extreme turbulence for almost 30 minutes. The turbulence was so bad in fact, that Princess starting getting motion sickness, I started weeping silently, Camera Guy was practically frozen in disbelief. Oh, and the LOST plane crash scene was running through my head on hyper-speed. Did I mention we were flying over a  huge body of water at the time? It was easily the most scared I’ve ever been in my life. Aside from that time I found two spiders dancing in my hair.

Well, at least the plane ride came to an end on time. Er, sorry, it hovered over JFK Airport for an hour trying to land because there was so much air traffic. And we were the family trying to restrain our 18 month old who had pretty much lost all his patience with the  “table in upright locked position” rule.

After we landed in glorious JFK airport, and we dismounted the plane on the tarmac, in the pouring rain. With all our carry-ons and children…we proceed to make our way over to Avis to pick up our rental car which only took 45 minutes of dragging suitcases, children and ourselves, up, down all around the airport terminal.

Necessary stops had been made at the filthy airport bathrooms. Hands had been sanitized. So far, we were a little tired but still nailed it. In two hours we’d be “Hotel! Pool! Pizza!”

After Camera Guy stood at the Avis counter for the better part of an hour. The kids began to get really tired, and really comfortable while waiting. So comfortable they starting chasing each other without their shoes on. Then I started chasing them. Then one of them knocked over a sign. Someone started screaming, the baby pooped his pants and I realized we had no wipes. Also, the baby with the poopy diaper suddenly realized that he had been restrained long enough all day and angrily refused to be held or coaxed to doing anything aside from running.

This is when the fun began. Apparently you can’t rent two cars in the same day on the same credit card from Avis. That was a big pickle. So next option was to call the grandparents. Ah, but then travel tradgey numero uno happened: the cell phone was dead. And you guessed it: someone forgot to pack the charger. (Ahem, I say someone because this part of the argument has yet to be solved who the guilty party is)

In any case. We only had $1 on us to use a payphone to make a quick call for help. When we waited for them to call us back, of course, each time we picked up we couldn’t be connected probably because we had run out of quarters.

Finally we gave up and decided to head back the 45 minute trek through the airport to hail a cab and somehow get to a train station.

By this time it was around 5pm eastern time. The time we were supposed to be having “Hotel! Pool! Pizza!”

Sooooo here’s what we did. We made our way to Penn Station where there were two trains heading our direction. By “made our way” let me be clear, it was more like trying to run a race with cinder blocks on our feet.

We had Little Guy on Camera Guy in a back pack. Then Camera Guy was wheeling two suitcases, and carrying a laptop.. Then followed Princess carrying her own backpack . Then Mr. Chubs had his guitar case on his back. I brought up the rear with a duffel, a backpack, a purse and a suitcase. We were like a tiny parade of sweaty people. Taking escalators, climbing on train shuttles, and getting in elevators (we even rode in one that someone peed in! Yum!) were excruciatingly panic-striken moments of “Hurry! Jump over the gap! DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING! Get over here or someone will grab you!”

So somehow, without having a child disappear, still hauling around a really stinky baby we found ourselves in Penn Station. With both trains we needed to be on completely sold out.

Hmm. Also, the hotel would not refund us our money so unless we wanted to loose $200, we had to make our way up to our destination somehow.

It was then 7pm and we needed to eat. So we got the best New York pizza ever and also thoroughly patroned their dirty bathrooms too. Little Guy let me change his diarrhea diaper in this bathroom which conveniently had nothing but a toilet, a sink and toilet paper. I’m not even going to describe to you what changing that diaper was like. Without wipes. Or a changing table. With diarrhea. Although we used 5 dirty bathrooms that day, I was proud that all of my kids did not have hand contact with anything in any of those bathrooms. Somehow, amidst all the annoyances of the day, that one little fact just made me so proud. At least we nailed that!

A New York Slice

A New York Slice

Mama Mia! That's a pizza!

Mama Mia! That’s a pizza!

Since Penn Station was ruled out, Camera Guy announced we had to catch a cab to get to Grand Central. So we stood, all five of us, with our 7 pieces of luggage in the pouring, and I mean pouring rain for a good five minutes until a cabbie was kind enough to actually pick us up. (One did stop to pick us up, but then changed his mind and sped away leaving me utterly shocked and very wet)

Yay! At last we got to Grand central station. We had to fall out of the cab, grab our luggage fast, and the kids and practically RUN across the street into the station because of all the rain. I was really proud of the kids because of the way their survival instincts kicked in:

ME: Chubs! Get the backpack! Princess you take a suitcase! GO! GO! GO! FOLLOW DADDY!

I ran behind them, lugging the remaining luggage (omg. I just realized why they call it luggage). And through blaring horns, pouring rain, tons of people, we made in into the station.

Princess was sobbing loudly “I AM ALL WET!” This was definitely a far cry from “Hotel!Pool!Pizza!”

Soaking wet Mia

She was kinda wet.

Jack giving us the thumbs up for making it to Grand Central

Jack giving us the thumbs up for making it to Grand Central

By the time we got on our train, the kids had been awake, nappless for 15 hours. Camera Guy was so soaked with rainwater and sweat he said that he couldn’t  even stand the smell of himself. I thoroughly agreed.

Our seat on our train ride upstate was the one next to the bathroom. And if the stupid college girls who missed their stop and pulled the “Emergency” brake weren’t enough of a cherry on top of our day..(Because you see, you can’t pull the brake unless it’s an actual emergency. So we had to wait a half hour for the police to arrive. That means the train was at a standstill for 30 mins. Which in precious baby-needs-to-be-in-a-bed-now-time it feels like a hundred years) I probably should go to confession for wishing all those girls to have triplets someday.

So if that wasn’t enough of a cherry…and believe me, it was…Chubs announced in loudly stressing tones:

“Mom! I have to really, really go poop. It’s coming!”

Inwardly I screamed “You have GOT to be kidding me!!!”

For those of you who haven’t been in a Metro-North Train bathroom. Let me inform you, that my husband, who pees on my toilet seat daily, purposely avoids using those bathrooms because of how filthy they are. They have a stench. They have a reputation. You have to be either really wasted or really busting to use that bathroom. It’s kind of like that outside bathroom at a gas station, but dirtier.

So, very, very, reluctantly… I escorted my son to the train bathroom. Still tauting my record of clean hands in my head. Even though I was exhausted I knew I had to be on my game for this one to complete my day of no gross bathroom germs.

As soon as we stepped in the bathroom, I picked him up and was placing him on the seat instructing,

“Ok, so just make sure you don—“

He stuck his hands under the toilet seat to hold on. UNDER. As in the sweaty, slimy part where thousands of people’s festering urine has not been cleaned! It’s like a petri dish of E.coli under that!

I gasped and shouted “JACK! What are you nuts?!!! Get your han—“

His knee jerk reaction, for reasons I will never understand and he will certainly never live down was to yank his right hand out from underneath the seat

And stick three of those fingers in his mouth.

I think I blacked out after that.

But Camera Guy told me he heard me yelling in there.

Epic. Epic fail.

“At least we didn’t crash” we consoled each other around midnight, which is when we finally checked-in to our hotel…a whopping 19 hours after waking up.

Which is true. Considering the alternative of floating on a plane seat cushion in the middle of Lake Huron, I am easily glad to have had a disgruntled long day of mishaps and exposure to bacterial infections. At least we were all together and safe. Tired, sweaty, but able to hug each other at the end of the day. And sometime in the way far off future, when my middle child, my special son gets married- I cannot wait to give his lovely bride a piece of advice for traveling with kids.

“Forget the hand sanitizer, sweetie” I’m going to tell her, “Doesn’t do squat if they touch the train toilet seat then stick their hands in their mouth. The two most important things to bring with you on your trips are a sense of humor and extra quarters for a payphone.”

Happy Summer Vacationing!

Cranky, tired, and confused but alive and well.

What the heck happened yesterday? Is that normal?!

Category: Uncategorized

12 thoughts on “A Tale of How to Travel Awesomely with 3 Little Kids

  1. AnneMarie, you are a saint!!! Tommy told me about your travels, but he did not tell me all the details!!! Hope you are having relaxing days in New York and we can’t wait to see everyone in Pittsburgh in just 30 days……praying your trip from NY to Pgh will be uneventful. love, mom

  2. Just 3 words…You’re…..my…..hero!!! We haven’t braved any travel since Mary was born in May, but tomorrow we are heading into NYC to spend the gift card to the American Girl Store that Giovanna has been cherishing and planning for since her birthday in May…Should be an easy MTA 2 stop trip in simple 90 degree heat with the Ergo strapped on. Gotta love that “attachment parenting” in this weather. It gives “sticky” a whole new meaning. I will bring your sense of humor and 4 quarters withe me! Much, much love! Maura

  3. Am. I love you. Can I call you for a pep talk on our 3 day car trip to the Outer Banks? With my in-laws?? You’re the best.

  4. Pingback: 5 Favorites Vol. 9 | McSisters

  5. Oh my gosh, that is the worst/best thing I have ever read! We traveled to Florida with 2 kids under 4 and myself 5 months pregnant, and it went really really well. This is my nightmare. Your son in the bathroom at the end…oh my gosh. And you are a saint.

  6. Thanks everybody! Jack is fine (thankfully…I was so worried!), but he’s been “sharing” his “incident” with anyone who will listen. He’s very aware how this is the most sensational thing he has done so far in his short life….topping his dive off the couch last year. I’m crossing my fingers this isn’t becoming an annual thing for him- to shock the pants off of us.

  7. Annemarie, I spit coffee on the screen when I read he stuck is fingers in his mouth. Oh my goodness if I had a dime for every time I thought we’d escaped the public bathroom without touching anything only to have Henry lick the stall handle or something similarly gross… Glad to hear you survived.

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