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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles….or 12 days, 2 car seats, and a slew of travel nightmares

January 3, 2011

My kids are great travelers…for the most part. They rocked the two flights from the western desert to upstate NY without complaint. They napped during the 2 hour drive from the airport to Nana and Grandpa’s house. We enjoyed a week of snow and fun, staying up far past their bed times and even several trips out to the new local wine bar without much incident.

Then, the Monday that we were scheduled to depart we found out that our flight had been cancelled due to snow and the fun began. We spent 3 extra days in NY–lucky to still have the cabin borrowed from a family friend so that we did not have to pack up and relocate. With the bags, the pack and play, Morgan’s “doggie bed” that became his pallet for the week and all of the toddler snacks and baby foods we were not exactly traveling light.

We got to the airport for our WED evening flight 3 hours early. The airlines had not been able to confirm seats for us, so we wanted to make sure that we got there in plenty of time to straighten things out and to avoid jostling the other passengers to make sure that we got to sit next tot he kids.  Fortunately, we were also able to catch up with one of Jeremy’s childhood friends who was en route to his home town.

Cue our first real drama: Morgan and I took the escalator to  the second floor to visit Dunkin Donuts, which is the only food available before entering the terminal of this small airport. We grabbed a couple of donuts and a cup of coffee to snack on while hanging out in the lobby area with Jeremy’s friend. The problem was that I have this thing about escalators…and heights. I hesitated just a second too long while juggling the coffee and holding Morgan’s hand and realizing that I didn’t have a third hand to grasp the escalator rail. Morgan took off, I didn’t. He scrambled towards me–half on one step and half falling and the escalator sailed downward. I freaked. He freaked. He scraped his knee and was wailing while trying to grab at my legs. Adrenaline replaced fear and I jumped onto the machine, coffee be damned, and raced down after my little guy. We were both shaking like crazy when we got to the bottom.

The fun continued with navigating security. Any of you who travel with children, strollers, car seats, baby food, bottles and your own crap know how much fun this is. Ten years after 9/11, flying is still no joke. I’m almost immune to the (very) audible sighs when we arrive at the check point and begin throwing shoes, coats, car seats and various prohibited liquids into the plastic trays. To be honest, we’re pretty good at this part and are often quicker than some of the single idiots who rarely fly and arrive with pockets full of change, belts, and (gasp!) lace up shoes. J and I whip into action, stripping shoes off of kiddos and breaking down stroller/car seat combos and throwing them into the x-ray machine. I got chastised for a forgotten plastic container of baby food in my diaper bag, but other than that no big deal. Our only major search was Morgan’s dinosaur back pack on the outbound trip. Not sure what triggered the alarm…perhaps his leap frog laptop qualified as a real computer?   We were all clear after that 🙂

We get to the terminal, score some McDonald’s and head to the gate. We meet a nice crunchy couple en route to Seattle with a baby that is a day younger than Leighton. The kids play on a blanket and we start to relax…then the announcement comes from a neighboring gate that the Chicago Midway airport has closed due to weather and a flight is cancelled. We are supposed to be flying into O’Hare, and then Denver, and then the desert…convenient, no? The next announcement from our gate is that we will be delayed 2 hours. Added to the 3 hours that we arrived early that is a grand total of 5 hours in the airport with two small children. Wheee….

J got smart… panicked…and got on the phone. We were told that if we didn’t leave Albany that night, we wouldn’t get out until Monday morning. He then called  the airport Hilton in Chicago to book a room in case we missed our connection to Denver. We had only been given 35 minutes to race to the new gate with our passel of kids and gear.   He started to scout for flights out of Chicago…there was precious little with the weather, the New Year’s holiday, and the Sun Bowl. We had tickets to the Sun Bowl on Friday and friends flying in to visit us. We held our breath. The hotel was booked in time to hear that our flight was leaving 1 hour late, rather than 2, and that “no one was expected to miss their connections.” Excellent! Except for the 2 NON-REFUNDABLE days we had booked in the hotel.

The plane goes up and we  are off to Chicago. I am white knuckled as usual, but it wasn’t awful. We then circle O’Hare for an extra half hour before being given permission to land. Since we had only been given 35 minutes for the connection we needed to make to our Denver flight and Jeremy decided that Morgan and I should run for it and he would wait for the gate checked items. We land…and we “run”…at least as much as anyone has run with a full size rolling carry on, a diaper bag, a toiletries bag, and a three-year old. Call it more of a light jog…I was focused on speed and covering ground…and missed the elevator to the new terminal. We ended up a bit lost in the Chicago airport and I kept calling Jeremy on the cell that was turned off after he told me to turn mine on.  Morgan and I back track to the elevator, find our path, and the phone rings…”Where are you?” he wants to know? While we were off gallavanting, he and the baby arrived at the proper gate in time to see a gate closed sign. I breathed a quiet sigh of relief knowing that we had missed the flight through no fault of my own terrible sense of direction.

Another hour spent waiting at customer service counters and pacifying two kids as we sorted out flights and received the news that we would be staying in Chicago for 2 days. We made second calls to the hospital to let them know Jeremy would AGAIN not be at work and to the dog sitter’s to let them know that we were not abandoning Claire forever. We also had to sort out being booked in the wrong hotel and rebooking in the true airport hilton that did not require a taxi ride.  We resigned ourselves to two days without luggage after the ass hat at baggage refused to pull our bags (even though we had been told by customer service that it would not be a problem) .

We got to the hotel room and ordered a bottle of wine and room service. After performing a quick inventory, we had 7 diapers, 1 pull up, 1 container of baby food, precious little wipes, and no clothes for Morgan. J and I each had a clean shirt and an extra pair of undies and Leighton had her full wardrobe. We ate, got a bit tipsy, and decided to make the best of it. J went out and got more diapers, some baby wash, and a glow in the dark “Chicago” tee shirt for Mo to sleep in.  My child doesn’t do “naked” and fussed a bit about being cold and needing pants. We thought about stuffing him into a pair of sized 9 months hot pink leggings…but in the end he settled into bed and fell asleep without further ado.

We all slept late and woke at 9am to plan our next move. Our room was completely devoid of the usual hotel guides, city attractions fliers etc…so I had to rely on my smart phone to scout out shopping for essentials…I decided Michigan AVE was the place to visit (OOOOHHH SHOPPING). The concierge let us know it would be a 60-80dollar cab ride ONE WAY…or we could take the El Train for about 2.50 per adult.  All Righty then!

It was a blast! We packed up with a spirit of adventure and navigated the train system pretty damn well with two babies and the endless search for handicap access and elevators that comes with stroller travel. Leighton slept her way across Chicago and Morgan thrilled to his first train ride. We worried about rain, but only experienced a few sprinkles on our way to Anthropologie (JOY) and H&M (SQUEAL!).  We outfitted everyone in dark denim and hipster clothes at H&M for a pretty reasonable price. Morgan had skinny jeans that were too big, but worked nicely when folded down at the waist.  Everyone got undies and socks and then we hit the Signature Room on the 95th floor for lunch over looking the city.

My only regret is missing a chance to connect with fellow blogger Carissa and her sweet twins. By the time we made lunch, Morgan was melting down in a major way. We had hoped to meet up later in the afternoon at the Children’s Museum–but we knew that there was no way this kid was going to endure a cab ride, a walk, and another train ride in addition to play time.

So, after lunch we hauled Mr. Grump back to the train station and he snoozed on the way home. We made a VERY unfortunate decision to dine at the hotel bar that evening and both tired kids wailed through most of dinner. It was not good. People were staring and J and I were sniping and spitting at one another while taking turns bouncing babies and pacifying a screaming Morgan that had accidentally danced his way off of the bar chair to the pretty awesome techno music. I almost spilled my wine.  *Mother of the YEAR award…thank you.

We had been leaving messages on FB for another AP from our travel group to Vietnam and were psyched to connect and plan to meet the next morning before our flight out. Amy and Max met us at the hotel and we shared a hilarious lunch with two bouncing three year old boys. I loved seeing our little guys together for the first time since arriving home from Vietnam. They were so cute!

Then back to the airport (missing all chances to watch the Sun Bowl on TV at least!) for anther 5 hour wait….only to find out that the f@#$ing snow had made it’s way west and now we were going to be delayed for ANOTHER two hours or possibly more before boarding our flight home.  I found myself teary eyed at the prospect of eating another airport dinner while keeping two little people from losing it in a crowded terminal.

Flash forward to 8 hours later when we board our plane for home at last. If I heaved a sigh of relief and thought for a moment that it would be easy from here on out I was wrong. Turns out we were in a plane the size of a can of soup and we did not have the correct seats for our children. Agh. Our flight attendent reseated about 8 people to get us where we needed to be–window seats for the kids, at least two rows back from the emergency exits.

Enter the crazy man.

Morgan had missed his nap and finally fallen asleep in line to board the plane. We had to wake him up to board and he was a complete crab…kicking the seat in front of him and crying. EVERY mother’s worst nightmare. J was seated next to him and feverishly trying to soothe/calm this guy. The man in front of Morgan had ZERO. ZIP. NADA. tolerance for the kicking and freaked out.  He raced down the aisle trying to get off the plane not once but twice. He griped at the flight attendant, who told us to control our child with a pleading look in her eyes. He then convinced his girlfriend to give up their flight and debark the plane when a call came over the speaker for people to volunteer to get off due to the flying soup can being overburdened with weight.

I smiled tiredly and wished him CHILDREN. It was the strongest crab curse that I could bestow upon him at this point…although I might have hoped he would be stranded in the Chicago airport until Monday as well.

Three and a half hours of white knuckled flying later, we arrived home with two sleeping children. FYI angry plane man–both kids slept the entire flight and your drama was needless.

Happy New YEAR!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2011 9:18 pm

    Holy crap! What an adventure!!! I’m sure you’ve never been happier to get home, eh? 🙂

  2. pursuit of poppy permalink
    January 4, 2011 1:17 am

    Um, wow. I’m exhausted just from reading about it all! I seriously don’t think I would have survived. It sounds like you handled it all like a pro! Welcome home!

  3. Kelli permalink
    January 5, 2011 5:21 pm

    I’m worn out just reading about your adventures. You are super mom!!

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