What Are Your Worst Stories About Travel With Kids? Here’s One Of Mine. Tell Me Yours And You Might Win Some Starbucks!

My good friend Matthew Klint and I were talking the other day about horror stories of traveling with kids.  Matthew has a young one and mine have gotten older, so I was recalling some of my earlier memories.  I wanted to take a moment to share one of the truly funny family travel horror stories I can recall.

When our daughter was born almost 12 years ago, I had no idea what was in store for me.  I’d been a business traveler for a few years, though not exhaustively so like I am now.  I had a way I liked to travel.  Note, every type-A travel nerd has a way they like to travel.  My wife likes to make jokes about mine.

Our first airplane trip was before Catherine was even 6 months old.  We were heading to Halifax, Nova Scotia to visit family.  We loaded all of the stuff we would need into our car and headed to the airport.  This really should have been my first clue.  I kept putting bags into the car.  It was like a never-ending sea of stuff.  Who knew babies came with so many things?  For sure, I didn’t.

When we got to the airport, I parked in the garage I always parked in for business trips.  It’s an underground walkway from the garage to the terminal.  It’s not a long walk, per se.  When you consider I’m a really fast walker through airports, it’s kind of a breeze.  You see where this is going right?

Opening up the back of the SUV, it immediately occurred to me that I was going to need a luggage cart.  I could have dropped Michelle off at the terminal with all the stuff and gone to park the car.  But, that wasn’t the way I liked to travel.  Boy, did those habits die quickly.

I went to go find a luggage cart.  As it turns out, my wife had packed enough to fill a luggage cart, and then some.  To this day, I can’t remember everything that was on the cart.  But, it was enough.  Michelle had her hands full with Cat.  I loaded everything up on the cart and started pushing it towards the terminal.

I kid you not, things kept falling off the cart.  I’d move 20 or 30 feet and something would fall off.  Michelle would ask me if she could help.  I would curse.  Loudly.  And decline.  I was so stubborn.  Remember, I had a way I liked to travel.  I was just too stubborn to let her carry something or push the cart.

This little vaudeville routine continued all the way to the elevator.  That was another giant cluster, followed by another elevator ride.  By this point, I was hopping mad, cursing like a sailor.  Thank goodness my daughter didn’t pick up those words from me as a 6-month old.

We had to go the ticket counter to check our 75 bags, strollers, car seats and other assorted items.  And, I knew we had a problem with our seats.  They had split Michelle and I up.  This was a regional jet, 2 seats on each side of the aisle.  Our seats had been together for quite some time.  24 hours prior to departure, our seat assignments disappeared.  This was 10 years ago.  The iPhone existed, but there sure weren’t apps. Websites definitely were less customer-friendly.  And, so was the United agent who I asked to help us.

I was heated at this point, but I somehow managed to hold it together with the agent.  It was around this time in my life that I started learning you get more flies with honey than with vinegar.  Don’t worry, it still took me years to effectively deploy that strategy.  At any rate, I was keeping my cool and trying to get the agent to help us.

She clearly just didn’t care.  After a few unsuccessful attempts at convincing her to help, I leaned on the counter.  Apparently, my hand extended over the counter just enough to block part of her computer screen.  That’s when she slapped my hand.

No, I don’t mean she calmly moved it out of the way.  Nor did she gently tap it.  She slapped my hand and barked, “I can’t see the screen!”  I was so shocked I didn’t really have a strong reaction.  Completely taken aback, I wasn’t quite sure what to do next.

I figured I had to make one more attempt at this before getting a supervisor or completely losing my cool.  We’d been at the counter for a solid 20 minutes at this point and Cat was getting fussy.  Michelle was still calm as could be, one of the many reasons I love her.

The agent kept insisting there weren’t two seats together.  I kept explaining to her that I was trying to find an “A” seat and a “C” seat in a row.  I didn’t care what row at this point.  She told me that “A” and “C” seats aren’t beside each other, that they were across the aisle from each other.  There might have been some regional jets in the United fleet way back then.  Heck, for all I can recall, it might have been an Air Canada flight. I don’t honestly remember, other than I was as certain as I could be that this plane was an AC/DF configuration. 2 and 2 with an aisle in the middle.  I’d flown quite a few of them.

She decided to bark at me again that I shouldn’t tell her how to do her job.  She had been doing this a long time and she knew what the plane configuration was.  I’ll be honest.  I’m not entirely sure where things would have escalated to from here.  Maybe I would have walked away defeated.  I was pretty riled up and I had no idea what to expect putting our newborn on the plane for the first time.

As it turned out, we never got to find out.  The agent beside her interrupted her while she was screaming at me to tell her that A and C were, in fact, beside each other on my plane.  The agent working with me insisted she was wrong.  Now, both of us were getting her wrath.  Thankfully, the other agent politely reiterated her position.  The agent working with me got very quiet when she looked at her screen again.  30 seconds later we had two boarding passes beside each other, just a few rows behind where we were to start.

And, I haven’t even gotten to the good part yet!

I really do want to hear the worst/funniest family travel stories you guys have.  I’ll rustle up some Starbucks gift cards for the ones that make me laugh the hardest.

I look back on this story and can’t believe my frustration.  It’s funny today, but certainly wasn’t then.

Stay tuned for part 2!

The post What Are Your Worst Stories About Travel With Kids? Here’s One Of Mine. Tell Me Yours And You Might Win Some Starbucks! was published first on Pizza in Motion


  1. Mine is actually travelling with OTHER people’s kids. My wife and I were upstairs on a DL 747 (while it was still 2×2 seating) form TLV-JFK, in the row immediately behind the exit so LOTS of room in front of us. Flight departed at 1am, and my wife was getting over an illness so feeling much less than 100% and tired to boot. At the last minute a local family boarded with a “lap child” that must have been 5 or 6. The kid was all over the plane, running, yelling, playing…. family didn’t stop him, FAs tried to coax him to behave but he wouldn’t listen, FAs tried to talk to the parents about curbing their child’s “enthusiasm” but the family who spoke PERFECT English when they were demanding about their food and beverages suddenly didn’t understand English when FA was talking to them about their kids. The best part? Dad was so tired of his kid he takes two blankets and proceeds to spread out and go to sleep on the floor IN FRONT OF MY SEATS. Surprisingly he didn’t understand FAs then either when asked to move. Only when the PILOT was brought out to deal with it did he move (but suddenly complained loudly in English about how he was being treated, the crew was anti-Semitic, DYKWIA, I will sue, etc).. wow. my wife and I ended up with about 2 hours sleep on that flight (and were returning to a 3 week power outage/trees down across our driveway due to major blizzard and ice storm that had just hit our home).

  2. We were kind of like the Griswolds while our kids were growing up…we planned one weeklong summer vacation each year in our VW Vanagon (because that’s all the money we had). The year in question included some time at a campground just north of Gatlinburg, TN. It just so happened that a total lunar eclipse occurred during our trip and, on our walk from the shuttle bus stop back to our campsite under crystal clear skies, our daughter looked up at the eclipse in wonder and asked how eclipses happened. We explained to her that the moon, earth and sun had to be in a perfectly straight line, etc., etc. After thinking for a minute, she asked, “Well, then, where’s the earth?” While in a gift shop in Gatlinburg on the same trip, our son just happened to be standing directly under a ceiling air conditioning vent (but didn’t realize this) and looking at some painted buckets. He called to us excitedly to tell us, “You won’t believe this, there’s wind coming out of this bucket!” (He was holding the bucket in just the right position for the air from the vent to be redirected back into his face as it “bounced” off the bottom of the bucket.) We still laugh every time these stories are retold (our children are now adults with children the age they were when this memorable vacation took place).

  3. I “sharted” on a Mexicana regional turboprop plane when I was maybe 8-10 years old? My mom had to take me to the (only) lavatory in the back of the plane and sort of hold the door open to help me out. We threw out the underwear and I had to go commando the rest of the day!

  4. May 2006, traveling with our 5 year old twins and 18-month old toddler, returning to Newark from San Francisco.

    The toddler was cranky, he was just getting over a cold, and we figured that was it. We’re among the first to board the Continental narrowbody, with the “parents with young children” group. We’re taking up five of the six seats across. I’m with the twins in a set of three seats with my wife taking the aisle and middle across the aisle from us.

    We get settled, when the toddler throws up all over. No one else is on the plane yet (at least not in our area), so she quickly strips him down to his diaper and runs to the lav in the back. We brought a change of clothes for the kids on the plane, but unfortunately didn’t think to bring anything for ourselves. Luckily, he mostly missed her and she was able to quickly change him and get back to our seats.

    And then he threw up again. This time all over him and her. She strips him again, no more changes of clothing available, and now people are boarding in earnest. We’re kinda near the front, and everyone is slowly walking past our seats. Each person looks at my dripping wife, the barf-covered naked baby and the empty seat. They each slowly look at their boarding pass, and exhale in relief that they didn’t win this negative lottery.

    My wife looks over at me in horror and whispers: “Oh my God, we’ve become ‘those people!'”

  5. Our daughter was a breeze for travel as a baby/toddler. We assumed that meant our son would be the same. Nope. We moved to Dubai when our son was 3 months old. During our first summer trip home, our son was 9 months old. For those who don’t know, 9 month old babies are supposed to sleep – a lot! Well, on the 14 hour flight from DXB to JFK, our son did not sleep – at all. There might have been 3-5 minutes when he closed his eyes, but certainly not 10. That meant mom and dad didn’t get to relax either. Same thing on the way back home to Dubai. The experience was so bad that we chose not to fly home for Christmas that first year.

  6. There are so many travel horror stories with our kids to share! I will share a few.

    Before having kids, we used to travel much. When we had our son, we thought he would be a well behaved kid, who would travel with us without trouble. How wrong we were! When he was 11 months old, we took him for the first time on a trip from our home in Hong Kong to Bangkok, thinking a shortish flight would be not be a problem. Reality is completely different! The two and a half hour flight turned out to be a non stop marathon of ‘how to pacify a baby’! He was crying incessantly. We tried many many ways, but the only way to make him quiet was to carry him up and down the plane. So the whole flight was us taking turns to carry him down one aisle and up the other then repeat for goodness knows how many times!

    Another time, when he was around four, we took him to Osaka. We were in those herringbone seats on Cathay Pacific Business class. As you may remember, each passenger was isolated and could not really see others, except the feet of those on the opposite side of the aisle. Anyway, all was going well until prior to landing, when, with wishful thinking, I told him not to touch those seat controls once the seatbelt signs came on. And you can guess what happened next. About a minute prior to touchdown when everybody, including the crew, was seated, a loud scream came from behind me. He managed to recline the seat to almost flat and the seatbelt was straddling his neck! No one could do anything, not even the crew! The only way to tell he was ok was that he kept screaming….and that minute before touchdown was the longest minute in my life!

    When our daughter was four, we all went to Dubai for Chinese New Year. We thought taking the Emirates late night flight would be perfect. It had a stop in Bangkok. We were in Business, thinking that a flat bed would help them sleep. Again, another wishful thinking on our side, we thought that after take off from Bangkok, she would be exhausted and would sleep through to Dubai. Again, how wrong we were! She was exhausted, yes, and, in fact, she was over exhausted, so could not sleep! She started wailing with intermittent screams even before we were airborne! Again, we tried every way to settle her, but to no avail. My across the aisle neighbour said to me, “A great night ahead for us then”, not knowing she was my daughter. I apologised and said my daighter was like this when tired. He was embarrassed and apologised too. Not sure who should be more so at that juncture…anyway, she eventually settled somewhere over India…phew!

    1. “She eventually settled somewhere over India” is such a great line that you’d hear almost nowhere except among a bunch of travel crazies like us! The seatbelt story sounds a bit scary. Glad it ended okay.

  7. My little one has had a lot of traveling, and it’s mostly gone very well.

    A memorable event was approaching airport security when he was around 16 months old. We’re shuffling along with all our things, trying not to hold up the line. I pick him up so my wife can fold up the stroller. Fun time to discover a top-5-alltime diaper blowout.

    We don’t want to go change him and get back in the end of the line … so … I carry him, arms FULLY outstretched, through the metal detector.

    The TSA’s lack of humor in these situations unfortunately prevented any jokes about a bomb having been set off.

  8. I don’t have kids but I did witness this one event before a situation. A woman with a little boy was on her phone not paying attention to her kid as he was running around and he had gone up to a random woman, taken her phone, and ran. She ran after him and everyone in the airport could hear the huge smack she just gave him right across the face before yanking the phone out of his hands and proceeded to yell “do it again and I’ll give you a punch instead of a slap”. Everyone was in shock but the mother was still only paying attention to her phone. That’s why I’m not rude to people on flights. You never know what could happen.

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