Traveling with children is beyond fun and offers a completely different experience from traveling alone or as a couple.
Experiencing new things is the whole point of travel, right? To go somewhere you’ve never been, taste something you’ve never eaten or learn customs that are foreign from your own.
Our trip to Iceland was no different. From spending a week with old friends and making new ones, seeing the Northern Lights, and realizing that spaghetti with ketchup is an acceptable dish (sorry dad! 😭), we experienced a lot of new things.
If you’re a parent and you have traveled with children, you can probably agree that as soon as you step onto that plane, your so-called “plans” go right out the window.
This was our first international trip with the kids and to help us get from one side of the airport to the other more easily, we decided to use wheels. We used those folding hand-truck contraptions that attach to your kid’s carseat. The hope was to be able to move the carseats (and children) through the airport effortlessly. They worked pretty well in the airport for the most part. One kid fell off once, but it wasn’t a very far fall. Thanks Graco for the extra padding!
As soon as we landed in Reykjavik, we realized one of the carseats was stuck.
Somehow, the plane seat’s belt buckle had lodged itself into the dark abyss between the seat, roller cart and carseat. It took nearly twenty minutes to wrestle the carseat free from the grasp of the seatbelt.
Many curses and grunts later, I sheepishly walked off the plane past all the people impatiently waiting to board.
Lesson 1: Don’t anchor a carseat, with roller cart attached, to an airplane seat.
Successfully off the plane and in the rental car, we made our way through the blustery cold morning to our first stop along the ring road.
Our plans began to slowly unravel on day two when our daughter, Ellie, had a mild fever around bedtime. Luckily, we brought a large full bottle of Children’s Motrin and soon she was off to sleep. By day 6, that bottle of Motrin was practically gone but the fever was still there.
At this point, Ellie wasn’t eating much, was barely drinking and – as anyone who was sick would be – was generally cranky and didn’t want to do much of anything.
Thankfully we picked up more Motrin at a local pharmacy, along with some magical cough medicine made from moss. The combination of these two medicines helped get us through to day ten – the plane ride home.
Lesson 2: Always bring extra medication.
By the time we got to the Reykjavik airport, Ellie’s condition had worsened and we had to make a decision.
Should we adjust our travel plans, and take her to the local ER in Iceland, or should we get on the plane, knowing it would be at least 8 hours before we could get her to a hospital. We ultimately decided to get on the plane.
During the flight, Ellie’s condition got worse. She began to breathe shallow belly breaths, and was a mixture of asleep and unconscious with occasional fits of scream crying and unintelligible words.
At this point, we began to plan our next steps to streamline the process once we landed. My wife Mallory would carry Ellie and our passports. Our son Gavin would walk in between us. I would handle the bags and carseats. After we got through customs, we would go immediately to the hospital.
After landing in Baltimore, and with Mallory in the lead, we charged to passport control.
A woman in line ahead of us noticed that our daughter did not look well. Soon, a CBP Officer noticed Ellie’s condition and allowed us to cut to the front of the line.
We raced through baggage claim and straight to the hospital where Ellie was admitted immediately.
After a few tests, the doctor determined she had a case of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). Soon she was on meds and back to her old self in a couple days.
Lesson 3: Accept what you have control over and what you don’t. I couldn’t make my daughter magically get better on the plane ride but I could plan my next moves. Doing this kept me calm and more able to take action when the time came.
Every trip has its highs and lows, and it’s important to learn what we can from both.
Our family trip to Iceland was full of fjords, [water] falls, and lots of glaciers. But the lessons I learned in those moments of adversity will stick with me and they’ve already paid dividends on my later travels.