Holiday Travel Fiascoes -- How to Fix Them!

Cynthia Dermody
child in DARE car

Photo by 920Wendy

CafeMom TheTravelMama (aka Colleen Lanin) is an expert at traveling with kids, but only because she's had her share of past fiascoes to learn from along the way. Colleen is a travel writer and founder of the Travel Mamas blog, the resource for everything and anything related to traveling with children.

Today the mom of 20 month year old Leo and 4 year old Karissa shares three of her own biggest traveling disasters and how she learned to prevent them the next time she hit the road:

Fiasco #1: Kids Tend to Throw Up

You never know when motion sickness or the stomach flu may strike. During a road trip to an amusement park, my preschooler, Karissa, woke 20 minutes before our destination and announced from the backseat, "I'm gonna throw up!" I whipped around from the passenger seat and frantically searched for any type of vessel. I grabbed a box of Kleenex, ripped the tissue from it, and thrust it beneath her chin, narrowly evading a smelly disaster.

The Fix:

Ever since this incident, I keep a bucket in the car. A small plastic sand pail is fine, but make sure it's within your reach. It won't do you any good stuffed under the suitcases in the trunk. For older kids, it's easier to nab a couple of air sickness bags during your next flight to stow in your glove compartment. However, for young children with poor aim, a bucket really is a must.


Fiasco #2: Little Insomniacs

The best laid plans may not work. On an excruciatingly long journey from San Diego to Barcelona, Karissa (then age two-and-a-half) refused to sleep. She did not sleep during her afternoon nap, even though I chose the flight times to perfectly coincide with her sleep needs.

She did not sleep at bedtime, even though I dutifully changed her into her pajamas, brushed her teeth in the airplane's lavatory (using bottled water, of course!), read her three bedtime stories, and snuggled and swayed her on my lap. She did not sleep after my husband walked her up and down the aisle for an hour. I tried wearing her down by playing with lace cards, sticker books, and Silly Putty. I let her watch oodles of cartoons on our travel DVD player. Still, she would not sleep.

Finally, we gave in to the controversial advice from well-meaning fellow parents. We gave our daughter a small dose of Benadryl. Did it work? Of course not! Benadryl makes some kids sleepy. It makes others hyper. Now, not only was Karissa not sleeping; she was WIRED! She kicked the seat in front of her. She banged her head into the seat behind her. She crawled through our legs. She refused to get back into her car seat. Finally, she did fall asleep. Twenty minutes before we got there.

The Fix:

Do not give children medication they do not need! Children eventually will fall asleep.  Maybe not when you want them to, but they will sleep.

Try new things at home first. If you want to try something new -- whether it's a new type of medication, baby sling, nursing cover, or travel crib -- try it at home first. The consequences of your child rejecting something new are more severe when away from home. Plus, there is no sense packing extra stuff your child won't use.

Plan ahead but know your child may (probably will) have other plans.

No matter how much you plan ahead to ensure that everything goes smoothly on your trip, there are bound to be snafus. Don't let it ruin your vacation. Just plan and adjust; plan and adjust; plan and adjust.


Fiasco #3:

Traveling while sick is difficult. Traveling while the whole family is sick is horrendous.

My daughter was just getting over a bad cold and it seemed like the rest of the family might be catching it as well. My husband, our baby son, Leo, and I all had runny noses. But we had been looking forward to long weekend in Las Vegas. Plus, the hotel room would be free since we were tagging along on my husband's business trip. Not willing to forego an inexpensive vacation, we piled into the SUV and off to Vegas we drove.

Six hours later as we pulled into our new digs on The Strip, it was becoming more apparent as three of us coughed and sniffed, that we were well on our way to full-blown colds. The smoky casinos only worsened my poor asthmatic son's condition. At night, with all four of us piled into one hotel room, neither my husband nor I got any sleep as we took turns soothing our one-year-old son, Leo. The nights were long but the days were even longer as we dragged ourselves to Circus Circus and Caesar's Forum Shoppes. I practically ran a red light one day driving back to our hotel because I was so groggy from illness and lack of sleep.

The Fix:

Avoid traveling when sick! Most airlines and hotels will allow you to reschedule a flight or room if you have a communicable illness like the flu or chicken pox, especially if you plead sweetly ... and provide a doctor's note.

Take steps to stay healthy. For a week or two before travel, practice "Kid Lockdown." This means steering clear of germ-laden locales like the park and playgroups as much as possible. When you must venture out, be sure to slather on the antibacterial gel often.

It's a whole lot easier to recover from an illness if you can get some rest. At home, my husband and I would have taken turns caring for Leo, but with all of us bedding down together, it was impossible for either of us to sleep. (Thankfully, our daughter slept soundly through all the ruckus!)

If a member of the family does come down with something while away from home, you might want to consider upgrading from a single room to connecting rooms or a suite. To be on the safe side, you could always book something bigger to start with like a condo or home rental. For a thrifty solution, look into doing a home exchange so everyone has room to spread out. Check out sites like Home Exchange or Home Link International for more information.


Thanks Colleen, super advice!

What's the biggest travel fiasco you experienced on a road trip with your kids? How did you fix or avoid it on the next journey?


Related posts:

Last-Minute Holiday Travel Tips

My Baby Threw Up on a Flight Attendant

Secrets from TheTravelMama

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