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 By Natalie Thomas

As I prepare for another season of holiday travel (Read: Run around like a crazy person, doing errands, laundry, buying gifts, stocking up on extra snacks, new books and toys, charging every electronic, loading up the iPad…), I can’t help but reflect on previous trips, shudder with fear and pray this year will finally be our year, that the travel Gods will take pity on us and cut us a break. Either that or Mary Poppins will magically appear onboard and relieve us from our duties- and our child. At this point, I’m thinking the latter is the more likely scenario given our track record…

travel horror stories

My husband, Zach, and I¬†haven’t taken one problem-free flight in almost ten years and we’ve traveled a lot. There was the first time I flew to meet his parents and attend a wedding, in which I got to the airport early and noticed there was another flight that left ahead of mine. Excited, I hopped on it. Well, that one ended up being diverted to Detroit, where I spent the night with no clothes or toiletries, only to fly to Dallas the next morning, have him pick me up and drive me back to Austin, where he’d just been. I missed the rehearsal dinner and half of the weekend. Of course, my original flight left on time and arrived early to my planned destination. Then there was that time I flew to Miami.

Still, we had no idea how bad it could actually get. Because then we became parents. And every other person with kids reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about. First there’s the pre-game, in which you empty your entire house into several overpacked and overweight bags, not to mention the car seat, stroller and diaper bag. (Visions of my husband sweating it out with a giant Britax backpack pop into mind.) Then you have to herd wild cats in a massive, dangerous and often off-limits space. And then there’s the stares from other passengers, the social anxiety, bad habits you create, rules you break and deals you make with God. And that’s on a non-stop, on-time, hassle-free flight, of which we’ve never taken. Not since getting together and certainly not after having our little Lilly.

Where should I start on my list of worst family trips ever?

travel horror stories

The first time we flew as a family of three was when Lilly was a mere months-old and Zach swore we didn’t need a stroller bag for our new, overpriced, double-the-cost-of-my-first month’s-rent as a new New Yorker, luxury ride, only to have a wheel break off after the first leg. After that, While I was changing a blowout in the backseat of our rental car, he discovered all of our luggage wouldn’t fit, so we had to swap cars. At that point the damage was already done, if you know what I mean. I still feel bad about that.

Or what about the one where she was going through her car-sick phase (that lasted 2 years) and we took¬†a cab, to a flight, to a layover, to a connecting flight, to a rental car and an hour drive to a vacation home that wasn’t even ready. We brought three changes of clothes for her (none for us) and that still wasn’t enough. It culminated in a naked baby falling asleep, illegally on my vomit-soaked lap, as we drove around waiting for said house to become available. Zach and I, who hadn’t eaten in six hours, grabbed food and ate in silence (and a smelly car), him in the front seat, me in the back, hushing him at every rustle of the sandwich wrapper. Pure paradise.

travel horror stories

Then there was the Christmas where we flew back from Texas with a fevered child who turned out to have pneumonia and the Thanksgiving where I flew home with food poisoning. Or how about the trip¬†from Hilton Head to NYC where our flight was cancelled? We waited in the airport for hours with a 5-month-old, only to be shuttled with tons of other outraged passengers to Savannah, which was south of us and our intended destination, arriving within mere moments of our new departing flight, which we ran to and missed. Needless to say, there were lots of Chili’s-To-Go margaritas that night.

travel horror stories

We’re all fortunate to be able to fly, visit family and friends and take the occasional trip. But, man, traveling with kids, you need a vacation after your vacation, am I right?! Tell me some of your travel disasters below. We have to laugh with one another. Otherwise, we’d cry and the child in 8B (not mine!) is doing enough of that already!

travel horror stories


Natalie Thomas is¬†a lifestyle blogger, Emmy-nominated producer and contributor to the Today Show and Huffington Post. She collaborates with nationally and internationally known companies such as¬†Pottery Barn Kids, Giggle, Baby Bjorn, Johnson’s Baby, Crayola, Minted, West Elm, H&M, Ann Taylor, One & Only Resorts, Atlantis Resort, Drybar, Flywheel, Physique 57, Sprinkles Cupcakes, and Momofuku Milk Bar,¬†amongst others.


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