It’s 10:00 pm. Instead of being tucked up on my swanky ship for another night of cruising around Ha Long Bay, I’m sitting in a van by the side of the highway to Hanoi. We’ve been pulled over at a police stop. Our driver is now nowhere to be seen.
We love to travel. We really do. Have we had bumps in the road? Absolutely. It’s a part of the game. This is what we do when things don’t go according to plan.
Focus on the positive
If I want, I can tell you some travel horror stories. You want sickness? I can tell you about when 3/4 of us got violent food poisoning in Sarajevo and spent the whole night losing our dinner. I can tell you about Henry coming down with a high fever in Florence. I can tell you about Mac’s ear infection crossing the Atlantic. Goodness, I can tell you about Mac puking in the bushes on our most recent trip to the Cameron Highlands.
You want logistical issues? I can talk about flight delays. Missing bag. That time that we delayed our flights to KL by a whole day because our first flight was delayed.
Kid issues? We’re talking more meltdowns, missed naps, and tantrums than I care to count.
But to tell you the truth, I had to really dig in my memory banks for these stories. I tend to think we’re very lucky in travel, but I think it’s just because I don’t dwell on the mishaps. Bad things happen, but we don’t focus on them. For each of these horror stories, it’s much easier for me to tell you 100 stories of adventure, exploration, and fun.
Our general philosophy is that life happens. Kids can tantrum at home or they can tantrum on the road. We even play a little fast and loose with sickness. Obviously, we are cautious bringing the kids around others with serious infectious diseases. But for the most part, it’s just as easy to rest in the stroller as to rest at home.
Life happens. Focus on the good. And move on. Enjoy what you can. The rest will probably be a funny story later, if you even remember.
Our Ha Long Bay cruise was cut short by one night because of an impending storm. Instead of being ragey, we focused on all that we DID get to do. We had multicourse meals on the deck of the ship. We kayaked. We had a bbq on the beach. We got to do a lot. That’s what we choose to remember.
In general, we like to travel light. If we forget something, we can do without it. Or buy it there. For the most part.
James is very diligent, however, on packing what we call the electronics and drug bags. These items have been key on many travel occasions. We’re talking chargers and external batteries. Tylenol, neosporin, Benadryl, allergy meds. We don’t use them all the time, but these things have really saved our bacon.
Preparation goes beyond the stuff as well. You don’t have to have hundreds of contingencies planned, but it’s a good idea to have options. Maybe an A, B, and C. What to do when the museum is randomly closed. Or the restaurant is randomly closed. Or if it’s pouring rain. Or how to get somewhere if the bus never shows. Smart phones have certainly made this easier. Don’t expect the worst, but be prepared just in case.
Always have snacks
This goes along with being prepared, but snacks are always a good idea. And I don’t just mean snacks for the kids. You need things the adults will eat as well.
For example, on our Ha Long Bay excursion, all boats had to be in to shore by 5:00 pm. We docked and then had to wait almost two hours before being shuffled onto a shuttle for the four hour trek back to Hanoi. As we entered the van, they handed us all paper bags with pastries and fruit. Um, thanks? Definitely better than nothing, but not really replacing the full dinner we had been expecting. (There was nowhere else to buy any other food.)
In times like these, snacks are key. I say both the army and the family moves on its stomachs. You never know when you’ll have the flight delay where nothing is open at the airport. Or when you get stuck in killer traffic. Or when there is no food to buy after your hike. It’s a little ironic that I’m suggesting snacks because I’m actually not a huge fan of snacking in general. But in many travel situations, food is key.
Do you have any travel horror stories? What do you do when it all goes wrong?
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