A few months ago I took all three of my kids on a “vacation” to visit my parents in Idaho. I was solo. And by solo, I mean by myself. No husband. No nanny. Just me and three children 5 years and under. The decision to go wasn’t an easy one. I am very aware of how painful it is to complete a simple trip to the grocery store, more less fly across multiple states with all three of them in tow. But in the end, I figured, what the hell? Why not? Sure, my kids have never been good travelers. Shit, they can’t even keep their cool on the 10 minute car ride across town. But I convinced myself that this trip would be different. They would be excited about all things travel: The plane. The airport. Going to Grandma’s house. I even thought I had the timing down. I specifically chose an evening flight – with a 2.5 hour layover. I figured it would be a perfect way to break up the trip, grab a late dinner, and run the kids around the airport terminal so that they would all sleep on the 9:30PM flight to Idaho.
All I can say is…Damn. How in the hell could I have been so clueless?
First off, let me just start by saying it’s taken me a good 2 months to recover mentally, and get to stable place where I could write this without crying. Or boozing. Or both. Traveling (solo) with three children is definitely up there on the list of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. Right below (or possibly above) that “quick trip” across the border to Tijuana when I was in college.
So if you’re considering taking a similar trip, I am here to talk you out of it. Sister, it’s not worth it. Put those suitcases back in the closet, pour yourself a glass of wine, and pat yourself on the back for making a brilliant decision to stay home. If I haven’t made myself clear, let me spell it out for you…
The luggage. Oh lord, the luggage. I packed “light” knowing that I would be visiting my mom and she has all the essentials like shampoo and toothpaste, and always loads the kids up with clothes. But shit. We still had SO. MUCH. CRAP. Add on the Bob stroller and we were a sight to be seen. The true definition of a traveling circus show.
The security check. Really Sir? You’re going to ask me to take my shoes off? And my jacket? Do you not see the screaming baby strapped to my back? Or the two children who are stomping on people’s feet as they play “ninjago warriors” in line? Sure – I’d be happy to unload ALL my bags and have you wipe them down because they look “suspicious.” Let’s be honest, the only thing suspicious is that gooey crap all over the back of my three year old pants.
The plane. The boys spent most of the flight(s) fighting over who got the window seat. And kicking the chair in front of them. And spilling their drinks. My daughter? Well, she refused to nurse, screamed bloody murder from the pressure in her ears, and touched every single nasty surface that she could get her fingers on. In between apologies to the fellow passengers, I frantically applied hand sanitizer and checked my watch. Believe it or not, time was actually moving backwards.
The snacks. I packed half of my fridge in those damn carry on bags. I figured I would keep them busy by feeding them. Hey, if they are eating, they can’t be talking, right? Wrong. All they cared about were the “special snacks” the flight attendant promised them as we boarded the plane. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when both my boys lost their shit when she finally arrived with pretzels. Really? That’s all you got for me? Thanks – these pretzels are really “special.”
The drinks. Yes, I totally bribed my kids with soda. Sprite to be exact. After spilling the first round on my lap, they asked for seconds. After the third round I lost count. Following the pretzel disaster, I was not emotionally prepared to handle another meltdown, so I caved. Again and again and again. Go ahead, judge me all you want. Join the club of fellow passengers who looked on in complete horror.
The layover. A dead iPAD. One coloring book. 3 HANGRY little animals who wouldn’t touch the food I brought along. So what did I do? Went to Burger King of course. Nuggets. French Fries. And MORE sprite. We posted up on the very clean (horribly disgusting) floor outside of gate 63A, and ate our “dinner.” Exactly 3 days later, I came down with the GNARLIEST cold of my life. I’m sure they aren’t related in the slightest.
The waiting. Three delays later, we spent a total of 5+ hours in the airport, from approximately 7PM until midnight – but whose counting? They were ALL exhausted, but NONE of them would sleep. My 1 year old rotated between hanging off my boob and screaming; my 3 year old begged me over and over to play the “big video games” (AKA slot machines. Oh, did I mention that our layover was in Vegas? Yep. Another smart move by yours truly). My 5 year old was the only saving grace, since he can tie his own shoes and wipe his own butt. Needless to say, if you are going to do it, just pay the extra money for a direct flight. Spare yourself the extended torture and expedite the process.
The bathrooms. Did I mention the 2 liters of sprite my children downed on the plane? Well, they had to pee. Non-stop. All at different times. It was like dominos – one after another. With no one there to watch my stuff, I had to load all my bags and the three of them into the handicapped stall, wearing the baby, all while trying to make sure none of them rolled around on the floor or licked the walls. Oh, and you can forget about peeing yourself, because that would have been a recipe for disaster.
The stares. Funny, I read all these posts on Facebook about parents who are flying with cranky babies, and some fellow passenger comes to their rescue. Here I was, flying with THREE, and all I got were stares. Lots and lots of stares. There were a few, “wow. you’re brave,” and “are they are all yours?” but not a single person offered to help. Even the stewardess seemed to avoid us. I guess I can’t really blame them. Maybe it was the death stares I was giving the boys. Or maybe the crazy in my eyes. I guess I should just be happy that no one called CPS on the delusional parent that would actually consider flying halfway across the US with her three children BY HERSELF. Honestly, I should turn myself in.
So, what’s my advice to you? Well, you have your whole life to travel. There is no rush. And more importantly, no shame in posting up at home. Shit, it’s been two months and I’m still so traumatized I have yet to even make a trip to Target alone with my three hooligans. Vacations are over-rated anyways. At least that’s what I’m telling myself for the next few years.