Family trip means adventures in air travel

Parents of preschoolers, please heed my warnings: Always, always, always book direct flights and pay to check your bags. Oh, and don’t give your child a fiber cereal bar as a traveling snack.

Eve the World Traveler (steering a pretend ship in Baltimore's Inner Harbor)

Our family of three (plus one on the way) recently undertook a trip out East to visit relatives in Baltimore, Md. It was the first time our 3-year-old daughter, Eve, had flown. She did really well on each airplane, with just a few reminders to use her indoor voice. The takeoffs didn’t scare her. Her ears didn’t pop. She stayed in her seat and even snoozed some of the time. However, other elements of our five-day vacation certainly tested our parenting mettle.

Trying to be frugal, we’d booked roundtrip flights that stopped in Chicago both directions. We also packed everything we’d need in carry-on suitcases, to avoid the checked baggage fees. That meant we needed to haul everything we brought with us between gates during our layover. I’d worked out a plan in my head: I’d sling the laptop case and my purse over my shoulders and wheel/carry two suitcases while my husband would carry his dufflebag and Eve.

Why, after three years, haven’t I figured out that children rarely cooperate with their parents’ plans?

No, Eve had to walk by herself. And she had to wheel her own suitcase. Only she wouldn’t pull it. She wanted to push the handle. Of course, she couldn’t really steer it. So she walked like a drunken sailor, bumping the suitcase into walls, kiosks and flight attendants.

I soon realized the parenting tactics that work at home don’t work well on the road. You can’t put a kid in timeout for several minutes when you’re rushing to catch a plane. And you can’t let a kid cry it out when you’re staying in a hotel with paper-thin walls. (Eve threw a fit our first night at the hotel because she wanted to sleep in a pack-and-play instead of a bed. By this point, I had no sympathy and sent my husband outside with her, where she worked through the tantrum in the car.)

We knew this would likely be our first and last East Coast trip for quite some time. It’s considerably easier to travel with two kids when one is still in your uterus. But that doesn’t mean the yet-to-be-born babe didn’t cause his share of problems.

Every pregnancy book talks about how the second trimester is a great time to travel, because you’re past the morning sickness and sluggishness of the first trimester, but aren’t huge and uncomfortable like you will be in the third. Except I’m already huge. And the morning sickeness never waned. Just ask the Japanese business men who laughed (I assume at me) as I hurled into the bushes outside a shopping mall in Hanover, Md.

One of the hundreds of jellyfish on display at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

We did have a great time at the National Aquarium (Dolphins! Jellyfish! Sharks!)  and watching the Twins win at Camden Yards. Eve got to play with her favorite 8-year-old friend/cousin and we spent quality time with family.

On our way home, our first flight was delayed so much we would have missed our connection in Chicago. So the airline rebooked us on a different airline’s flight direct from BWI to Minneapolis. “Direct!?” my husband and I said in unison as we looked at each other giddily. Despite our efforts at a frugal vacation, I don’t think we would have been happier if they’d given us $1,000 cash.

Oh, and about the fiber bar … I’ll spare you the details. Just trust me on that one.