Full-time travel results in many mishaps. We document some of ours for you to enjoy!
As always, remember to be kind. We share our embarrassing moments to show you travel with a big family is real, raw, and often hilarious.
Babysitting Fails in Asia
We love to date. Traveling full-time with our five kids doesn’t get in our way of regular dates. I’ve got many tips and tricks for dating in foreign countries. However, we’ve had our fair share of babysitting fails.
None of our kids have been endangered in our babysitting fails, thankfully. Many of my friends swear they could not leave their child with a stranger. I get it. We all have our comfort level and there is no judgement.
In Singapore, I contacted a “nanny service”. Asia doesn’t use babysitting, per se, as extended families members are always available. Babysitting really exists for tourists and foreigners. The contract of what the babysitter could do shocked me. She could not:
- Cook for the child. All food had to be prepared in advance
- Take the child outside the apartment
- No guarantees about getting the child to sleep
Woah! Talk about a warm body. We wanted to take out the three oldest children and had her watch the two toddlers. They watched a lot of TV for a slick $20 per hour.
I still think it is totally worth it to get our older kids that quality time with us, but it was a bit painful.
In Hong Kong, the nanny service sent a kind 40-ish woman. Our Hong Kong apartment, located downtown, was spacious for the city. However, we felt smothered in the small space. The fridge was in the living room and without a kitchen table, we ate at the coffee table in front of the TV. Imagine babysitting any kids in such a place, let alone five rambunctious, American kids.
Having connected over What’s App previously, I started to get texts from the babysitter two hours before we were scheduled to leave. I asked Chris to get the kids ready to leave while I left for the gym. On the treadmill, I noticed a picture of a coffee cup from the babysitter and text saying “Gearing myself up for today… I hope I can find my courage.” Alarm bells sounded in my head as I texted Chris to talk to the babysitter when she arrived and feel her out. Would she be able to do it at all?
She showed up like a deer in headlights. How they convinced her to accept the job, I do not know. Again, we decided to take our three oldest kids on a hike and leave the two toddlers. When I expressed my desire for her to get them out of the apartment sometime in the 8+hours we would be gone, she panicked. The park was a short walk away and we had a stroller. Overwhelmed and stressed, she reluctantly agreed and we left.
I soon received a call from the service letting me know she was already declining another job with us. We’d been gone all of FIVE minutes. We nearly called the whole job off and turned around, but they assured me she would complete the job that day. She did, in fact, make it to the park. She also told me it was the most stressful thing she had ever done. (What??). She did a great job overall, but it must have given her serious anxiety.
We asked the service to schedule someone for us for Valentine’s Day and watch all five kids for 10+ hours. Karma kicked us back and Chris fell super ill with the flu (this was Feb 2019… perhaps an early COVID-19! Haha). He missed most of Hong Kong in general, but was starting to feel better by Valentine’s. We were thrilled to get out together. He yearned to see something other than the four walls of that tiny apartment. The nanny service let me know they had found another candidate who would be more comfortable with lots of kids and getting them to the park.
About 45 minutes before we should leave and while I am texting the sitter, Harrison (then 3) knocks on the door. We open it to have him vomit all over our feet. Crud. He came down with the flu, aside his two brothers. We canceled the babysitter and spent $250 for the 10 hours of babysitting anyway. Valentine’s was not spectacular, but worth a good chuckle. Once everyone was in bed, we did have Lucy watch and we slipped out for a dragon boat ride together. Thank goodness Hong Kong doesn’t sleep!
Valentine’s in Hong Kong
Carsick Around the World
Who else suffers from motion sickness? Poor Grant (now 9) inherited this from me. My motion sickness, surprisingly, calmed after five long bouts of pregnancy nausea. Perhaps I was so ill when pregnant it dwarfed my motion sickness forever.
Grant’s motion sickness is young and virulent. It rears its ugly head 30 seconds into every drive we take. He manages it well, but we’ve pushed his limits too far a few times.
We partnered with a non-profit in Bali, The East Bali Poverty Project, for Christmas. The experience was fantastic. It required a long drive from our Airbnb to the remote jungles and I was warned about the winding roads. I prepped in advance (not always my strong suit) with snacks and Dramamine.
We used our favorite driver and piled six of us into a seven-passenger sedan. Our favorite babysitter in Bali, Maya, watched the two youngest. (BTW, Maya is amazing and one of our favorite worldwide! Message me for her contact info if you are heading to Bali with kids).
As the roads got more winding, Grant started to moan and worry me. I stuffed him with more Dramamine in a last-ditch effort, along with some crackers and rolling down the windows. Too late, we heard him wretching in the backseat. Mortified about the car, the driver, and our impending meet-up with the non-profit group, I tried to use baby wipes to clean him down and help the car.
Our driver was so kind. During his several hour wait for us, he cleaned up his car and used coffee grounds to hide the smell (life hack!). Grant reeked terribly, however, so we stuck him and Lucy in the back of the truck as we bounded down the village roads. When it down-poured rain, I took him out into the rain to try and wash off some of his stench. Granted, the village itself had some unique smells, but he was potent.
You might think I learned my lesson, but you are wrong. We scheduled to go back for Christmas Eve and deliver several hundred personal care items, this time with ALL the kids and my parents in tow. Using the same driver and the same car, 10 of us now piled into the seven-passenger sedan. Three adults had a child on their lap, Lucy was scrunched in between my parents in the back and we put Grant front and center in the middle row to have him look out the windshield. I prepped all the kids (and myself) with Dramamine.
Running late, we ate yogurt drinks and peanut butter on rice cakes in the car. Everything was smooth until we hit that same winding part. Grace (then 1 years old) on my lap started to squirm uncomfortably and moan. Grant, already moaning, was suffering next to me. Long story made short, two kids threw up that drive. My entire shirt and pants were plastered with peanut-butter laced yogurt. Grant spewed into my hair as well as his own outfit. The smell permeated that poor car to a degree I could scarcely describe. My poor parents, having arrive only a couple of days before, were packed sardine-style into a run down taxi in the wilds of Bali, covered with their share of the vomit.
Once again we toured the village in all our smelly glory. Poor David, who runs the non-profit, was so patient with us. It was still magical in its own way, of course. I was incredibly grateful for showers and laundry service for Christmas.
Poor Grant suffered the most in Bali, but got some bad street food our last night in Krabi, Thailand. The night before we all ate from the same street cart, our favorite dinner spot that week. On our way to the airport, the tell-tale moaning began. We quickly pulled over and switched him to the front seat. No luck.
We were already running late for our flight and about 10 mintues before we arrived to the airport, Grant lost his Pad Thai all over himself. Those sticky rice noodles don’t digest overnight, apparently, and decorated his entire outfit. In fear of missing our flight, we encouraged the driver to “keep going!” as we handed Grant the baby wipes. When we arrived, I thanked my lucky stars I have the kids pack an extra outfit in their travel packs.
I furiously stripped him to his underwear at the entrance to the airport, threw away his socks (the vomit had puddled nicely in his socks), got that fresh outfit on and we ran for the plane. I brace myself for a rough flight… if he got it, we should all get it. Once on the plane, I handed out vomit bags to all the kids. Thank heavens no one else got sick that day.
Shanghai Lost Child
Our 17-day tour of China with China Highlights ended in Shanghai. We had one free day to visit Disneyland Shanghai. We made the most of that day and fell in love with the castle and rides. Someday will plan to return.
On our metro ride home, we guessed at which exit was ours. After a long day, our memories were strained. We watched the stations, searching for a clue or landmark we remembered. Ready to get off, I thought we had the right exit and told everyone to bail. Once off, I realized ours was the next stop. Yelling at Chris, we quickly turned around and got back on… except sweet Grant. As the doors closed, his look of panic is one I will not soon forget. We screamed at him to STAY PUT. Thankfully, after many previous false alarms, we had prepped the kids for this situation. “Stay put and we will double back to get you”, we told them.
The Longest Ride Ever…
Those 2-3 minutes to the next stop dragged into eternity. Of all our children, Grant is the least likely to get lost. He sticks to us like glue in the fear of being separated. My insides broiled with anxiety at the thought of him alone in that station. On the train with us, several locals noticed the commotion. We found out one group of young adults actually watched the event and had a man in their part get off the train at the last second. They then told me he would wait with him and another young lady would help me get back to the previous station.
Can you believe it? This is the kindness we found worldwide. When people limit their travel due to fear, these are the kind of moments I think of. Yes, it was scary, but people love to help you worldwide.
At the next station, I quickly left the other kids with Chris and ran to the opposite side for the train back. The kind young woman with me had the man on the phone with Grant. He said everything was fine. Within minutes, we were reunited and everyone back on their way. How grateful I am for Grant’s extra calm, my furious prayers, and those kind young people. Their English was perfect and they had no judgment whatsoever. All I could do was smother Grant with relived hugs and kisses and hide my tears of relief.
Rome Bus Ticket
Who wouldn’t want to be stopped by police in a foreign country when watching five kids?! My poor father-in-law faced this exact situation in Rome.
Chris and I celebrated our 15-year anniversary with this amazing itinerary in Italy. We flew out my in-laws to Rome to watch the kids while we galavanted around Italy alone. Considering my mother-in-law had never left the USA before, this was a steep learning curve! Our Rome apartment was only slightly larger than the Hong Kong apartment previously mentioned above. It had very little common space, was packed into a busy city surrounded by constant noise and traffic, and was ALL WHITE. Not a great combo with five kids in a big city.
Heading Out With the Kids
We learned of this incident after our return. They were kind and spared us the gritty details of watching the kids until we were back to reality. I love that about them!
One day, in the midst of normal chaos in our family, they prepped to head to the Villa Borghese Park. After struggling through homeschool, which is enough to send any adult into insanity, they started to head out of the apartment. The two toddlers quickly ran from the apartment to the main entrance. In a panic, my father-in-law ran from the apartment and left the keys inside! My mother-in-law, unknowingly, also left with the other three kids.
In the rush, he also left his passport and the bus cards we had left for him. Granted, we rode the bus dozens of times with no one using tickets or cards and no policing of these things. Little did he know it was his lucky (or unlucky) day.
While he texted us about the keys and we had to arrange for the owner to meet him and let him in, they headed out. On their bus trip back, at rush hour, the Italian Police boarded the bus and started checking tickets. His heart fell. Not only did he not have the cards, but he didn’t have his passport either. He told us later he prepped his wife that he might be going to jail right there in Rome.
The police were not happy with him and issued him, immediately, a 100 Euro fine. They were having none of the excuses or pleadings from the grandkids. Thankfully, they let the passport thing slide when he could produce a picture of his passport. Ouch!
I’m so grateful to my in-laws who let us luxuriate in romantic bliss while manning the chaos of our five kids. Way to go, Susan and Greg!
I hope you enjoyed this latest series in our travel funnies. As always, I encourage you to still get out there and travel with kids! These mishaps turn into funny stories and the memories made are rewarding beyond measure.