I try to be positive when I blog, so I never write about the many things that go wrong on our travels. I like to look back with joy on our adventures rather than remember the bad bits – which is why I love photography so much! I do get asked a lot, however, if our trips are as amazing as they look on social media, and the answer is no. While yes we are so lucky to be visiting some amazing destinations around the world, the truth behind the beautiful images is often a different story – one I don’t want to remember!
I am the biggest advocate of travelling with children – obviously I must be, as I’ve taken Cheese on over 30 flights in her four short years. I think it’s time to get honest, however, about the many things that do go wrong for us, and how we deal with them to stop our holiday from being ruined (where possible!). It’s time to get real!
When the kid isn’t a good traveler
When people hear about how much travel we’ve done with Cheese, they automatically assume she’s an excellent traveler. Honestly, she’s not. While she handles flights and jet lag like a seasoned pro, she does not deal well with the excitement of travel, or being away from her routine. We have tantrums galore when she can’t deal with the excitement of all the new places we’re seeing.
How we bounce back: we keep our routine as much as possible, with minimal late nights and rest periods in the middle of the day or afternoon. We also remove her from situations where she is unable to calm down, even if it’s just to our room for a short while at a hotel, or at a park or attraction, to a quiet place out of the way to simmer down again.
When someone gets sick
Two words: travel insurance! Always, always, always get it, because that one time you don’t, will be the time you end up in the ER with a bill that bankrupts you. Seriously, we have ended up in the ER in the US twice while traveling (once while at Disneyland!) and it’s seriously scary contemplating how you will be able to afford medical care when you’re so far from home. We were lucky that our travel insurance covered everything.
How to bounce back: We pack a giant medical bag with us, just in case. We pack things like pain relief, treatment for gastro, rehydration sachets, all-purpose antibiotics, sea sickness medication, antiseptic, bandaids, Mylanta, allergy relief for mosquito bites, etc. I am happiest when I can bring the whole bag home unused – but we’ve always had to dive in several times each trip. And travel insurance! Get it!
When flights are delayed or cancelled
On our last trip we had particularly bad luck with flights – three in a row either had significant delays of over three hours, or were cancelled. One day in particular we sat at their airport for eight hours waiting for our flight to leave, and two were either cancelled or delayed so late that they became short red eye flights – which are just torture when you have small kids in tow. The problems we had with flights were the absolute worst part of our trip.
How to bounce back: being prepared is the only way to cope. Check in with the flight 12 hours beforehand to get its status. We always travel with little neck pillows and a blanket for my daughter – these have been invaluable for sleeping in airports waiting for delayed flights, as well as on the actual flights itself. If your flight has a significant delay the airline might be required to give you meal vouchers (we were given three $25 vouchers our last delay).
My husband and I tag team sleeping on flights, and also at airports when we have massive delays – one of us will always try to sleep at the same time as the child so if she wakes up mid-flight one of us will be well-rested enough to care for her.
When there are epic tantrums
We tend to get so many more tantrums when we travel. Bedtime is a fight, every time we say “no” to something there’s crying and wailing, and there’s a lot more sass, yelling and arguing in general. What a headache!
How to bounce back: we deal with the tantrums as best as we can, with our normal discipline (we don’t tolerate certain behaviours) and enforcing routine. Husband and I also tag team with each other so the other gets a break when they can’t deal with it any longer. We try to remember that she is usually tantruming because she’s exhausted and overwhelmed, and try to calm her down rather than punish bad behaviour when we know the cause is the over-excitement cased by travel.
When luggage goes missing or breaks
We’ve had both these happen to us. Thankfully our luggage has turned up a few days later when it’s gone missing, and when it’s broken it’s still been usable so we haven’t had to buy new luggage.
How to bounce back: Report missing or damage baggage at the airport straight away. You will need to file a report immediately. Most travel insurance companies require you to file a report with the airline and try to get them to pay for it before they will agree to kick in – and there is usually an excess to pay with luggage, so you’re better off either trying to get the airline to pay or asking the luggage company if they can fix the luggage under warranty. We had a Crumper bag break after rough bag handling, and amazingly Crumper agreed to fix it for free as it broke under regular use. Amazing! In case our luggage goes missing, I always take a spare change of clothes or two for myself and my daughter in my carry on.
When we’ve misjudged the weather
On our recent trip to the Florida Keys we didn’t realise how incredibly hot it would be. Living in a hot country we tend to assume we can deal with any kind of heat, but we were totally wrong! The intense humidity of Florida overwhelmed us and made it incredibly hard to get out and enjoy the keys fully.
How to bounce back: air conditioning! We stuck to either water activities or places that were air conditioned where possible, took lots of breaks during the day, stayed hydrated and set our expectations lower as to what we wanted to see and do.
When plans fall through
We had one epic bad day at Epcot in Walt Disney World where I’d organise us FASTPASSES a month in advance to get on the new Frozen ride. My plan was to review the ride and write about it for publications afterwards, so I was really counting on getting on this ride, and had planned the day around it. Of course luck was not in our favour and the ride kept breaking down over and over again the entire day. We were hot, angry, and spent the whole day waiting around for the ride to be fixed – which made me even angrier that we wasted the day and money this way.
How to bounce back: This was a tough day for me because it was the worst day of our trip. I was beyond furious at the wasted expense and a day when we could have done something else. In the end, I’ve had to let it go and just focus on all of the other wonderful days that we had. I’ve also learned not to pin plans on things I can’t control – like a ride!
When we’ve all got jet lag
Amazingly we had hardly any jet lag for our entire trip – until we flew back into Australia, where Cheese and I both suffered from the worst jet lag we’ve both ever had. It was just brutal – four days straight of waking up at 3 or 4 am, and feeling like a zombie all day. Combined with a head cold I picked up on the flight, it was the most agonising return I’ve ever had.
How to bounce back: rest, rest and more rest. I usually like to get back on track straight away after flying in, but this time we took it easy for the next five days, with no outings that weren’t necessary, lots of TV and iPad time (hey what else do you do at 3am in winter?!) and going to bed early, even though my brain was telling me to push myself to stay up later. Day five was the magic morning where we both slept in till 6am and woke up feeling more alive than dead.
What are some of the biggest problems you’ve encountered when traveling?
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!