We had a great vacation. I plan to dedicate many other blog posts to the fun we had . . . but not this blog post. This blog post is going to be all about traveling cross country with 4 children.
First, getting to and from the airport with 2 adults, 4 children, 4 large rolling duffels, 1 car seat (even though legally we probably should have taken 2 more booster seats), 5 backpacks, 1 computer bag, one rolling carry on case, and 1 double stroller is not small task. The simplest way would have been to drive to the airport in our van and pay to park it there while we were gone. The $23.70 a day parking rate would have totalled (over 15 days) to $355.50; and we just might have actually paid it (which would have been a huge bill to swallow)-- except for one problem. We flew out of one airport (White plains) and upon returning 2 weeks later flew into another airport (JFK).
So . . . how to get to and from the airport -- I looked at car services (starts around $150), hiring the college aged kids from our church congregation (they each charge about $120 and have to drive your car), and finally decided on renting a van.
It worked well. We rented a van which was not only cheaper than all the other options, but in the end quite convenient. Trent went the day before to the airport (actually rode the train there from work) and drove home in the rental van. We were able to take our time loading it up and then just drove to the airport and turned it in.
We liked it so well, we did this 3 times. Getting to the airport. Getting to our hotel in California from LAX (this one was the most expensive because we did a return to their location by Disneyland-- not back at the airport -- but it was still cheaper than a shuttle for 6) and then again returning home.
Second, the timing. Our first flight left at 7:30 am. That means we had to leave our house at 5:45 am. OUCH! With 4 kids, the early morning thing can be brutal, but it does have its advantages . . . like the kids clothes stay clean since they only wear them for 15 minutes before you leave. . . and they stay out of your way when you are finishing up loading the car the night before . . . and the house stays clean (if it was clean when you went to bed). Traffic is not usually an issue this early-- however, this is prime travel time for business travel and the airports are generally very busy which means long lines to check all that luggage and long lines at security. We were a cutting things a little close but had finally made it to the front of the security line. I handed the TSA agent our ID's and boarding passes. She looked them over closely and then informed us that the agent at the counter had given us the wrong boarding passes. She had given us our boarding passes only for our flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles, not for our first flight from White Plains to Atlanta. They let Trent and the kids move to the side while I RACED back to the counter, interrupted the lady at the counter, and rapidly stated, "You gave me the wrong boarding passes, and our flight is scheduled to leave in 10 minutes!". The agent quickly helped me and additionally used her radio to warn the gate people that a party of 6 was just coming through and to wait for us. I ran back to security and we made it to the gate (which is not hard to do as this airport is teeny tiny) only to find that our plane wasn't even there yet.
Our flight home was a red-eye. It left at 11:05 p.m. Despite the all night flying thing, this was probably the easiest time I have ever had getting to the airport with 4 kids. I packed in the morning, we played all day, we said our good-byes, and headed to the airport around 9:30 pm. There was no traffic, the airport was empty, the security line was incredibly short (something that nevers happens in Salt Lake), and the kids were tired from a long day and were rather subdued (unlike the morning flight where they were so excited you could taste it~!).
Plus, all four kids fell asleep rather quickly on the plane. Now, just FYI, we did not bring pillows and blankets for the us or the kids -- that is just one more thing to carry and keep track of. On every flight I have ever been on, there are always pillows and blankets-- but I of course had never traveled on Jet Blue. Jet Blue does not have pillows and blankets for free. They are 7 dollars. Instead you get their jet to sleep pack for free (one eye cover thing, and a set of earplugs). Can you believe they charge $7 for a pillow and blanket??????
While our kids slept, Trent and I should have been sleeping. However there was one problem. The woman (who was traveling alone) 2 rows in front of us, in the aisle seat passed out into the aisle about 15 minutes into the flight. The flight attendants turned on all the lights and came over the PA asking if there was a doctor or nurse with their credentials on the flight. (there was a nurse -- and really -- who knew that medical professionals should travel with their licenses????) The nurse knelt in the aisle right in front of me and was taking her pulse, and the flight attendants were hopping over the lady to the front and back of the plane quickly and they were rummaging through luggage trying to find hers and searching for her name, and one was on the phone with the captain, and one was on the phone with Medlink (the airlines medical advisory). The brought a blood pressure cuff and the poor nurse tried like 10 times to get her blood pressure but the plane is so loud she could never get it. They were giving her oxygen and she would come to and try to sit up but then she would pass out again and then she would come to and they were trying to get her to drink orange juice (which she did a little). Medlink was telling the nurse to start an IV and our plane was going through some pretty impressive turbulence and the nurse wasn't comfortable doing it (not to mention the tight space she had in which to work). Let's just say -- there was enough going on to keep Trent and I wide awake for the first 3 hours of the flight. We kept wondering if we were going to emergency land and for a while it looked like we were headed to Lincoln, Nebraska, but then the woman came to and drank some more. But then she was back out and it looked like now we were headed to Kansas somewhere, but then she was awake again. And finally after 3 hours she seemed much better and was back in her seat. (the nurse now looked like she was going to pass out -- but I think she had been pretty stressed!). Curiously the woman refused all medical treatment upon arrival and insisted on walking off the plane and up the concourse unassisted. We all think she must have been diabetic??? Who knows? but it made for a pretty crazy flight!
But back to timing -- the kids slept about 4 hours on the flight and 2 hours in the car (thank you NY traffic) and Trent and I got about 30 minutes each. It was a long next day. The kids had enough sleep to refuse to nap and just be plain grouchy. Trent and I each tried to nap in the morning. Trent napped in our room for 3 hours and then he had to go return the rental car (drove to manhattan and took the train home). I napped on the couch with the kids watching TV and playing around me for 3 hours (which means I did lots of refereeing, channel changing, volume controlling and very little napping). We ate donuts for breakfast at the airport and when it came time for lunch, I opened the fridge and found nothing so I opened the freezer and found ice cream (obviously we have the most important things). So my kids had ice cream for lunch. About 3 pm they were hungry again and since I knew we were picking Trent up from the train station at 4:15 and going to Costco for pizza, hot dogs and a small fortune in groceries, I did what any good mom would do and let them have icecream again. By 7:30 that night all the kids were sound asleep. Trent and I were out at 9:30 and though Trent had to catch the train in the morning for work when he called at 8:30 am from work, we were all still asleep. Madelyn even slept until 10:30!!!! CRAZY!!~!!!
Third, driving. We drove from California to Utah. 10 hours. 4 kids (and all that luggage I mentioned previously). I figured the kids would sleep. After 5 days at Disneyland combined with a 3 hour time change, I thought everyone would be exhausted. Apparently only the parents were. The kids were so excited to see the new movies I had bought that they all stayed awake to watch them. (Note to self: bring old, tried and true, movies for car rides so that your children will be willing to let themselves fall asleep when their eyes start weighing heavy as opposed to forcing their eyelids to stay open so they can see how the movie ends). Surprisingly, I found the car ride pretty relaxing.
Flying with children vs. driving with children. I have to say that as long as the driving can be done in one day -- I think the driving is better. You are flexible on time, you never have a flight attendant tell you that you cannot take your 2 year old to the bathroom, you don't have to take off your shoes (only if you want to), you don't have to wait in lines, you have a little more space. You can take sippy cups filled with water. You can stop anywhere for dinner. You don't have to buy a pillow and blanket!
So there you have it. The stories of the getting to and from and to and from.