July 20, 2008

Thanks, Bananas: Travel Horror Stories

I don't know that my travel horror stories will be as entertaining as some... but they were CERTAINLY horrifying to me at the time. Mostly I'm looking forward to reading other people's horror stories!

Travel Horror #1: London Night Bus

Ten years ago when I was 18, I went to London for a quarter through a study abroad program at the community college I went to. I had a little bit of trouble in the first couple weeks adjusting because I was 18 and had never been away from home like this, and had never been away from my sister (then 16) for more than a week in my entire life.

Public transportation in London is AWESOME, but if you stay in Central London too late, the tubes shut down and you have to ride the night bus with limited service. When I arrived, there was a Monet exhibit showing at one of the museums, and I couldn't pass up the chance to go and see it. My new friend, Heather, and I went to go get tickets, and due to demand they had decided to keep the museum open all night on the last weekend of the exhibition. We got tickets for the earliest available time - 3 AM. Which meant that afterwards, the Night Bus it was. The exhibit itself was amazing, I couldn't believe what I was seeing, I'd been to museums before, but never anything like that. In the end, it was really all worth it, despite anythin gelse that happened.

I managed to board the correct bus, which was standing room only. I talked to the driver, and asked him to announce my stop - Merton Rd - so that I'd know when to get off the bus since I wasn't familiar with the area and didn't know how close to my house it would let me off. When the driver announced my stop, I made my way to the front of the bus and looked out. It did not look familiar AT ALL. So I didn't get off. If I had bothered to look across the street I would have seen that I was a block away from my house, but on the opposite side of the street, which is why it looked unfamiliar. Instead, I stayed on the bus. Until everyone else had gotten off. By which point I was crying.

I was so tired and confused and in a foreign country that I didn't know what to do. I explained what had happened to the driver and he agreed to drop me on the way back to the city, but he was going to take his break first. I am sure he felt sorry for me. In any case, I got home okay, but it was pretty scary for a few minutes!

Travel Horror #2: Kids Change Everything

Last Christmas, my husband, then 18 month old Sam, and I flew to New Jersey for Christmas. We had a seat for the boy, brought his carseat so we could keep him contained and comfortable, and the flight on the way there went swimmingly. Justin flew back to Washington before Sam and I, so on the return flight I was on my own.

Problem #1: Me, pushing my 18 month old in a stroller and carrying two bags and a carseat.

We checked our bags at the curb, but I still had all of our carryon stuff. At this point I would have given just about anything for one of those things that screws wheels and a handle on to your carseat to convert it so you can push it. If I take the carseat on the plane next time, I'm totally borrowing one, but I also found this online today, and am thinking about whether it would be worth it.

Problem #2: Going through the security line with all of that stuff while having to remove my shoes, fold up the stroller, remove the portable DVD player from it's bag, and TAKE OFF SAM'S SHOES.

That's right, they made me take off Sam's shoes. He was 18 months old, for frak's sake! Then after I finally got through, trying to gather up all my belongings without holding up the line for two years, while juggling my kid.

Problem #3: I then found out that I had to take a SHUTTLE to get to my plane. With all my shit.

Luckily, I then ran into a woman who had been sitting right in front of me on the flight TO New Jersey (funny, huh?) and she was kind enough to help me carry the car seat.

Problem #4: The airline proceeds to give about 3 minutes for pre-boarding, and by the time I can manage to pick everything up and head to the door, they are already boarding all the other passengers.

Problem #5: As I get on the plane with the carseat, the flight attendant at the front of the plane stops me to check Sam's carseat.

There are many problems within this problem. First of all, by him taking the carseat we are now holding up boarding for ALL of the other passengers. They couldn't have checked the car seat when I checked in to make sure it was FAA approved? Secondly, Sam is now squirming in my arms and I'm struggling to hold on. Thirdly, English is not the guy's first language, and he's having trouble understanding the label on the seat. I FINALLY get through to him that it IS FAA approved, and that the label says that it is FAA approved as long as it's used as a 5 point harness and not a booster seat. This all probably took about 10 minutes. I'm annoyed, tired, anxious. I start down the aisle and then...

Problem #6: I realize the aisle is so narrow that there is no way in hell I am going to be able to make it to my seat with Sam and all of our stuff.

The flight attendant basically says, well, I wish I could help but I am NOT ALLOWED TO LEAVE MY POST. I think that it wouldn't be that hard for him to freaking call one of the other flight attendants, but whatever. I stop once to let people by, try again, stop again. At this point I am swearing under my breath and trying to keep Sam calm at the same time. Finally someone helps me and I get to my seat, get Sam's car seat in, and we get settled. The first hour or so of the 5 hour flight goes fine. Then...

Problem #7: Portable DVD player battery dies.

Sam starts getting restless and wants to get down. I distract him as long as I can, give him juice and snacks, and then...

Problem #8: Sam starts to cry.

Crying escalates.

Problem #9: Crying turns into scream crying.

I try everything. Rocking, food, taking him to the back of the plan and rocking him. He cries for OVER AN HOUR. I feel horrible. My anxiety is out of control, I feel sorry for the other passengers, especially the 20 year old boy sitting next to me who was travelling with his parents (they were across the aisle) who had to deal with all of this. I feel bad for my baby because he's obviously really unhappy, and REALLY tired. Finally, I get him to calm down. He's awake, but he's not crying.

Problem #10: On the way back to our seats, I realize Sam is wet. Really wet. Soaked through his diaper onto his onesie & pants.

Problem #11: Even though I ALWAYS have at least one extra set of clothes for him, I don't.

Problem #12: He HAS to be changed. We go to the restroom and I put him on the hideous hard changing table that takes up most of the bathroom. The calm disappears and he is crying again.

I now have an 18 month old with a onesie, no pants, no shoes or socks. I let him walk up and down the aisle of the plane, looking at things, as I follow, bumping into people. This fainlly calms him down, and we finally head back to our seat. I put him in the carseat and he finally falls asleep, facing backwards, legs curled under him. I decide if any of the flight attendants tells me I have to buckle him in for landing, I will literally kick them in the crotch.

He stays asleep until we land. During landing I hear the 20 year old boy's mother whisper to him "She needs help". The boy and his family walk with me, and he carries the car seat AND my carryon all the way from the plane to the other side of security, where Justin is waiting. I am practically in tears at their kindness, and can't thank them enough.

On August 6 I am boarding a plan BY MYSELF with Sam to fly to New Jersey again. Eight months have passed since the most horrible flight I have ever taken in my life. I am praying this time will be better. I have more faith, I have ideas, and I know my limitations, like not bringing a stroller AND a car seat to the plane. Sam listens a little better now and can walk further by himself. Oh God... writing this all down just reminds me what it was like... please excuse me while I go have a panic attack.


Simply Shannon said...

You poor thing! The car seat attachment thingy is AWESOME! My only complaint is that you have to take the thing apart so many times while you're at the airport because the seat won't fit through the x-ray with it still attached. Definitely still worth it though. Some of the best money I ever spent.
Good luck on your trip!

Summer said...

Oh my goodness that made me feel frantic just reading it. I don't think I will ever attempt to fly with a little one now. I hope the next trip is easier!

mummyjaan said...

Hi. That was a tough journey. Hope the next one will be better, though!

the rabbi's wife said...

I came from bananas' link. Sorry for the horrible trip. Moms in Israel swear by Benadryl for plane trips. Check with your Ped. of course, but If if doesn't make them sleep, it at least makes them Chill. Women here make the trip to America (10 hours), South Africa (7 hours), and Australia (13 hours) alone with 3-5 kids all the time, with a little "vitamin b" for each of them.

Jill said...

Oh goodness! Traveling with kids is tough with two parents, nearing impossible when you're alone! When Kylie was 2 we had THE.LONGEST.TRIP. from here to D.C. complete with all sorts of delays. It was exhausting! She was such a trooper but I can't imagine having to do that by myself.

We have this bag (though I don't remember it costing $65): http://www.amazon.com/Eddie-Bauer-Car-Seat-Travel/dp/B00005YXVW So while you still have to carry the carseat, you can sling it over your shoulder. I can try to find it if you want to borrow it for your August trip.

Harmony said...

Thanks for stopping by my travel horror story. Yours sounds horrific too! Nothing like a screaming baby to up the stress level! You were brave to attemp it alone. Thanks for sharing.

Abbreviated said...

Do you win for the hightest # of travel horror stories ?

Stacy (mama-om) said...

Wow! That was a horror story. I was totally captivated and your last line made me laugh with relief.

Thank goodness it is over, huh?

And thanks for the good story.

Coffeegrl said...

Thanks for the welcome on my blog :) Your horror story was a true horror to me. Traveling with a small person and all their gear isn't easy and it gives me chills just to think about. I love that family that finally helped you out. There is still good in the world!