I may not have boarded a plane before my twentieth summer, but I’ve more than made up for it since. In just the (almost) five years since we had Elanor, we’ve visited four continents, eleven countries, and somewhere between fifteen and twenty states. I have even written posts advising others about how to make traveling with kids easier. If travel is a battlefield, I have walked away victorious time and time again. I’ve even gotten a bit cocky about how good I am at traveling.
Friends, New Zealand was our Waterloo.
It was actually a great trip, but this post will highlight all the ways in which it was a comedy of errors.
This is the suitcase I so carefully packed for the girls. Inside is a veritable cornucopia of winter weather appropriate goods, games and toys to keep the girls occupied during long drives and during evenings spent in the various serviced apartments we were going to stay in.
I left it in Singapore.
In my own defense, we had three suitcases-one for Ravi, one for myself, one for the girls. At the very last second, we added a fourth for random electronic cords and last second things we didn’t have time to pack in the last 10 minutes before the maxi cab arrived. When I did the suitcase count to make sure we had everything, I counted three suitcases. I did the apartment check, and saw nothing we’d forgotten…including the pictured suitcase, sitting right next to the windows in the living room. (Also in my defense, Ravi didn’t see it either.)
People who are my friends on FB might recognize this post….
By the time I got back to the airport (we’d missed the easy turn back to the airport by the time I realized I was without keys), we were running out of options. There was a later flight–could we get even one person on it? Nope. We checked google maps and realized there wasn’t enough time to get the suitcase. Either we risked our trip, or we left without it.
This is the car seat that we no longer use for Rhi, but she does technically fit into it. Since we were booked onto an overnight flight, I brought it with us, thinking it would be the easiest thing for her to sleep in. It is FAA approved to be used on aircraft.
Qantas wouldn’t let us use it
Heads up, parents–I’ll be doing a post dealing specifically with the horrible experience we had with Qantas and the back and forth we had with the horrible flight attendants over at White as Milk. Apparently, though, we are hardly alone (3rd comment) in our bad experience. Had we known in advance exactly how awful Qantas is with regards to car seats, we would have not brought it at all, or paid the higher cost to fly Singapore Air. It was a bad enough experience that I’m pretty soured on Qantas.
The back and forth with the flight attendants, on top of getting shit over gate checking our stroller (more on that in a second), and forgetting the suitcase meant I fell apart and was doing one of those crying so hard you can’t breathe cries by the end of it. Which was pretty humiliating.
We then got to carry the damn thing around the sydney airport before we could gate check it through to Wellington. On the way back we just sent it as checked luggage. As we didn’t use it as a car seat (Rhi is better off forward facing in a car), it was a giant waste of space/effort.
This is our “travel” stroller. I got crap over gate checking it. I was told that we wouldn’t get it plane side in Sydney (as we’ve gotten in every other country we’ve been to). So we confirmed that they knew our final destination was Wellington, NZ, so that we could get it there.
While we made it to Wellington, the stroller did not
We got it back the next day, but still. I got to spend two hours in Wellington filling out lost stroller paperwork, while Ravi tried to keep the girls entertained. Guess what? There’s only so much you can do with kids in the baggage claim area of an airport before you want to sell them on eBay.
While in Taupo, Ellie decided it would AWESOME fun to jump off of the couch. Rhiannon thinks that anything her sister does is a GREAT IDEA. So she did it…and smacked her cheek on the coffee table. This photo was taken moments after she fell while running at the Aquarium in Auckland about a week later, and there’s also a goose egg forming under her bangs.
Not a huge thing, except that Ravi and I were nervous about telling Teacher R, who adores her, that we were returning RhiRhi to her in slightly damaged condition. And, you know, because nothing says lasting memory like a giant bruise on your kid’s face.
This is our rental car. Here it is broken down in the middle of nowhere, 20 km north of Rotorua, New Zealand.
Ravi put unleaded gas in the tank. It is a diesel car.
In his defense, when we went to get gas, Ravi checked the owner’s manual. There is apparently an unleaded and a diesel engine version of this car. There was no further info that we saw. He opened the tank, and there was nothing on the gas cap. So he got unleaded…because who makes diesel cars? (Hint, they’re almost nonexistent in the US).
We began to drive to Hobbiton. The car started bucking, and we tensely debated what we should do. Things felt like they were smoothing out, so we kept driving. Then the car broke down, luckily where I could quickly pull off the road.
We had no cell signal. We saw people on the roof of the house up the road. We decided that I looked less threatening, so I walked there while Ravi stayed with the girls in the car. The people on the roof were contractors. Luckily, one of them let me stand in the one small spot in the house with cell signal to call the rental company, who then connected me to nearest tow truck. We went back and forth about where I was until a contractor took pity on me and explained that we were “two kilometers past the deer abattoir.”
Tow truck arrives. Ravi goes into the cab with the driver, but because the girls have to be in their car seats, I stay in the car with them as we are lifted onto the flatbead of the truck, and driven back to Rotorua to the Toyota dealership. They have to drain the tank/line and change the filter (I really don’t speak car). Luckily it wasn’t a ton of money-I feel like we were far luckier than we deserved to be.
This is a picture of what our serviced apartment in Auckland was supposed to look like.
It didn’t look like that
I would have insisted on leaving that night except the kids needed to go to bed (it was really late, hours past their bedtime). What was wrong? The key reader on the door was broken (requiring six or seven tries to get in), the dead lock was broken (replaced with a flimsy chain), there was only one space heater for the entire 2 bedroom apartment and the windows were super drafty (10C and lower overnight) leaving Rhi and I sick the next day, I did a load of laundry and after 3 hours in the dryer the clothes were wet and warm, but not dry, and more.
We decamped to a Holiday Inn.
Seriously, though, it was a great trip. It was just the series of disasters that I am now starting to laugh about that made it something out of a screwball comedy. More about the awesome parts to come.
The next time you’re feeling stressed about traveling, just remember–it could be worse. You could be traveling with us.
If you’ll excuse me, I have to turn in my “awesome at traveling” merit badge now.
Separately, I’d like to thank all of you who stuck around and waited for me to come back to blogging. I’m still trying to adjust to the lifestyle demands that my back injury continue to require, and finding balance is a challenge. We’ve also had a visit from my mom (which I won’t be blogging at her request to retain her privacy) and the trip to NZ.
Edited to add
In the week since I posted this entry, I was billed for repairing a scratch on the bumper of the rental car and received a speeding ticket. Because of course I did.