Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Traveling with Twins: the good, the bad, and the incredibly ugly

Between Wednesday April 9th and Tuesday April 15th, Josh and I took Nolan and Judah on our first official big family vacation.  We have been up north, visited friends, and went to my parents' cottage, but this would encompass our first plane ride together as a family and we were gone for longer than we've ever been away from home.  In order to fully help my readers out there comprehend what the vacation was really like, it was imperative that I split up the actual vacation part from the traveling since they could have not been more different...

Our traveling starting Tuesday when we would drive to the Detroit Airport and fly to Jacksonville, Florida and then drive a little less than an hour to St. Augustine. 

We left relatively on time (it is completely different trying to get a family of four dressed, fed, packed, and buckled in to leave than it was when it was just Josh and I) and got to USA Park, the parking lot we always use when we fly out of Detroit. 

Our "luggage" consisted of these things:
-Three suitcases (one to check, two to carry on)
-Two umbrella strollers
-Two car seats and two bases
-One Pack N' Play
-One gym bag
-One large bag
-One diaper bag
-Two children

Before you judge and think me crazier than you already think I am, I can assure you, now that I've gone to St. Augustine and back, that we packed the most necessary of items; we used everything we brought. 

Getting all of this on the shuttle bus wasn't too bad; it was parked right next to our car so we could go back and forth, back and forth loading things on it while the babies sat in their car seat until the very end.  Right before the bus pulled out, we realized we hadn't gotten their car seat bases; not a crisis, but it did freak us out and Josh did run back to the car and get those faster than I would've ever imagined. 

The most difficult part was when the shuttled dropped us and all of our stuff outside the airport.  Josh and I looked at each other and both thought what in the WORLD do we do now?  I said aloud to him, "I want to go home.  N.O.W."  It is impossible for two people to carry all those things mentioned above.  Thankfully we were able to find a cart to use, which was truly a life saver. 

After checking the car seats and our bag, we lightened our load a little, which helped a little.  We got to our gate just in time to board so we learned we needed to leave even more travel time than we had anticipated.  Our flight left at 4:22.

The plane ride was pretty good actually; we listened to other parents' advice and had stuffed our carry ons full of toys and snacks to entertain the boys with.  Every few minutes we would get out something different to play, eat or read, and put the old toy, snack, or book away.  It was work and was very different from how I like to spend a plane ride (zonked out...I'm afraid of flying), but it was a success. 

Our hiccup at the Jacksonville airport, was having to wait for our rental car for almost an hour and a half.  What do you do with a cart full of luggage and two 11 month olds in an airport for ninety minutes?  You pray... a lot!  Judah was cranky, Nolan was exhausted, and Josh and I were freaking out thinking about the hour drive to St. Augustine.  They would surely sleep the whole way and then what?  Would bedtime be a disaster? We still had to set up their Pack N' Plays, get them dressed in PJs and fed somehow also.  This was not going to be good and we were right. 

Between the wait, the drive, and trying to get everything figured out for bedtime, the boys were beyond tired and beyond cranky.  Bedtime was late and difficult.  We made it and could finally start our vacation.  I told Josh I didn't care how much fun we had on this trip, I was never leaving my house again ever.

We used everything we learned from our first experience with airport travel to set us up for better success on the way home.  We left earlier, got to the airport earlier, got a cart right away, and checked more baggage.  So far, so great!

Or plane was set to leave Jacksonville at 10:30am.  Because the boys usually nap around 10:00, we were hoping to get on the plane, feed them, and try to tire them out so they would sleep at least a little.  Our plane did not, however, take off on time.  In fact, at 11:30am, we hadn't moved since pulling out of the gate.  Apparently there was a computer problem with the airplane; mechanics were good, but computer wasn't connecting or something.  They pulled the plane back in, shut it off, and tried to restart the system.  Josh and I again exchanged a very heavy look at one another.  The boys had been sitting now for almost a full flight time... how would they EVER be able to make it once this plane actually took off.  When a plane is shut down, it gets super super hot, which was an added "bonus" to our already terrible ride home.  Restarting the computer system did nothing; our plane was not leaving any time soon.  And here we go, I thought. 

They deplaned us and Josh and I quickly tried to problem solve how we were going to make this work.  Our first idea was to feed them right away, again, in hopes that they would then tire out and fall asleep.  Trying to get two kids to sleep in a busy airport in the middle of the day turned out to be impossible.  You can imagine how tired and cranky they were while waiting for whatever was going to come next for us.  Also, they had now been sitting in a car seat or held since 7:30 that morning, it was 12:30pm by this point and it was easy to tell my boys wanted to play and crawl around.  All I could think of was how dirty the floors and chairs of an airport must be... Yuck. 

A new plane came to our rescue and we were in the air around 1:45pm.  To remind you, our plane was supposed to leave at 10:30am.  My boys have still not napped and they were a disaster for the beginning of this flight.  No matter what we did to try and entertain them or sooth them, they were past the point.  Judah finally fell asleep on me and Nolan was bad enough that Josh ended up taking him into the bathroom for about 15 minutes to sooth him.  Eventually, both boys were asleep.  Whew.  They slept for about an hour of the flight. 

When we finally pulled into Detroit safely, I couldn't be happier.  We had finally made it home!  We then came to find out that we could not pull into the gate because they didn't have enough ground workers to wave us in.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  DO YOU NOT SEE I'VE GOT TWIN BOYS AND WE ARE BARELY KEEPING IT TOGETHER HERE PEOPLE?!

We sat in the gate for 30 extra minutes and FINALLY GOT OFF THE PLANE.  around 4pm.  We had been traveling since we left our condo in St. Augustine at 7:30am.

We got all our things with a cart and were maneuvering around the airport going up and down elevators to get to where our shuttle would pick us up.  Then, we hear from the shuttle people that they are really backed up and it might be a long wait.  Super.  Also, there was a small planned power outage where we were in the airport and we couldn't use an elevator or escalator for about fifteen or twenty minutes.  This is getting comical, seriously.  When the power turned back on, Josh, Judah, and our cart full of luggage got stuck on an elevator while Nolan and I walked around looking for them not having any idea what had happened.  We FINALLY piled into a crowded shuttle with all of our stuff and finally got to the parking lot and our beloved Saturn Vue. 

While driving home from Detroit, about halfway there, I realized that we had never picked up the Pack N' Play from baggage claim.  The hits just seemed to keep coming and coming and coming.  Upon calling the airport, because this was our fault and not theirs, they would not ship our Pack N' Play to us and would only keep it for a couple of days before getting rid of it. 

When we arrived home around 6:30, we ate, put the boys to bed, and Josh drove back down the airport again to pick up our bag.  Finally, when he got home around midnight, our traveling was officially over.  In total, with all the crap that happened, our travel home took about 16.5 hours.   

Yes, this story was long, yes, it seems like we could've made this stuff up for how crazy it was.  Yes, I have thought about never traveling again. 

But on the Brightside, we learned A LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT about how to travel with little kids and also how Josh and I would react to crisis situations as parents.  Although we both had our moments of complete and total unraveling and break downs, they never happened at the same time.  One of us was always strong, positive and 'with it' when the other was not any of those things.  I, surprisingly, laughed off a lot of these crazy hits that kept coming.  What else can you do really except laugh?

We also interacted with some amazingly nice people during these crazy travels.  People who offered to help carry things, people who opened up doors for us and found carts for us. People who had to sit next to us on these flights and were kind, understanding, and even complimentary to Josh and I.  Although this did make me second guess my love for travel, it also restored my faith in the human race and you can't put a price tag on that.   

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