Coping with Unexpected Long Travel Days

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Have you ever embarked on a travel day that was supposed to take five or six hours in total (including transportation to airport, flight and then transport to your resort/hotel) only to end up on a 10 hour + adventure?

For many parents traveling with young children, one of the worst things that can happen is the above: some parents find themselves without adequate supplies to last for long periods, kids totally expire and you end up dealing with meltdowns all day, and once your own mood (as a parent) is shot, it’s often hard to recover.

Today, we took a flight from Toronto, Ontario to Orlando, Florida. The entire journey should have been seven hours (travel to airport, waiting to board flight, air time and then travel to resort). But, shortly after boarding our flight, the plane rolled back from the gate and then abruptly stopped. As a seasoned traveler, I knew what that meant. Trouble…

After 35 minutes of total silence, the captain finally announced that we had to go wait in line for de-icing (where they spray the plane to prevent it from forming ice on the exterior during flight) and then line up to take-off. There was a back log all around.

Since we had already pulled back from our gate, that meant seat belts had to remain fastened, table trays remained tucked away, no bathroom breaks etc.

Well, lets just say, after two hours on that plane, trying to entertain a toddler and a kindgergartener, I was spent. My patience was shot and I was frustrated at everything around me. Why couldn’t we have just spent the delay in the actual airport instead of being cooped up in our seats?!

Alas, we ended up taking off and enduring a relatively seamless flight except that we were now traveling with two tired, un-fed cranky children and one impatient parent (Rick kept his cool but he wasn’t seated in our row so…#aloteasierwhenyou’renotinthethickofit)

When we finally got off the plane and made it to baggage claim, it took about 20 minutes to realize that our bags were not coming out. The supposed carousel we were waiting at was under repair and there were no other passengers, from our flight, to be found.

Alas, we tracked down our bags which were in a locked luggage room!? We had to then go up a level in the airport to ticket check-in (which was packed) and ask someone to come down to baggage claim to unlock the room with our bags. I mean, really….

Then, we were told by our rental car company to go to parking sport Q12 and look for a specific vehicle. Needless to say, she wrote down the wrong parking space and we were on a goose chase trying to find the right vehicle.

So, when bad goes to worse and Murphy’s Law seems to be at play, how can you cope?

(1) Be grateful.

It seems simple enough but, merely reminding yourself of how fortunate you are to travel is one easy way to change your mindset. A lot of people (other families) cannot get the time off from work, their children can’t miss school or extra-curricular activities, budgets don’t allow for it and so on. So just be thankful that you’re on an adventure.

(2) Let kids burn off energy.

Kids will be kids. They’re unpredictable, moody and childish. That’s the whole point of childhood. Trying to control their mood on chaotic, long days is next to impossible. So forget everyone around you and allow room for those meltdowns. Quietly reassure them, try to bring them down a notch, but at any opportunity, let them have a good run. We like finding quiet, unoccupied gates in airports to let them go wild.

(3) Travel early.

It’s no secret: the earlier in the day you travel, the better it will be for your young family. When little kids are coming off of a good night’s rest, they’re less likely to meltdown in stressful situations. Evening or late afternoon flights tend to bring out the worst in toddlers and preschool kids. They’ve often had a long stimulating day and when you add a lot of travel to that mix, it can result in disaster.

(4) Feed the bears.

Keep kids fed. It’s simple. They’re blood sugar dips and they won’t even know it. This can result in shorter tempers, less patience and moodiness. If you keep decent snacks (like nuts, mini sandwiches, a bagel, popcorn, seeds, cheese) on hand, you can help keep the meltdowns at bay. Feeling “hangry” is awful no matter how old you are.

In a nutshell, you can never predicate when travel days are going to unravel like a wrecked car. Even on sunny days, there could be mechanical error and so on. Knowing your “exit” strategy or how you will cope if things take longer than usual is the key to success.

Did we succeed today? Heck no. But, when we got to the hotel and calmed down, we had a nice opportunity to assess the situation and reflect on how things could have been better.


Happy Travels!

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