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Learning Laboratory: Travel With Three

Johnny, Lily, and Emma smile angelically

We have travelled a lot this past year, but this last trip was my most parenting-intensive attempt thus far. My brother B. AND sister E. flew out with us, E. flew back with us, and I had quite a bit of help from family while we were there. But the critical ingredient – Mike – was not there, meaning I was on my own for driving, bedtime, and other parenting dilemmas. Add in the emotionally-charged motivation for the trip (my grandfather’s funeral), and it was a big trip. Here’s how it went – at least, what I remember of how it went:


  • Wonderful time with family members who, in some cases I hadn’t seen for over a decade.
  • Really good visits with my three remaining grandparents.
  • Time with my dad, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
  • Lots of help from family with the kids.
  • Lots of help from Emma, who really stepped into her big sister role for the trip.
  • Our pediatrician FINALLY figuring out what was making Lily cough for 5+ hours/night the day before we were due to fly out (reflux), resulting in much better sleep than she or I had had in weeks!
  • Very well-behaved children on the flight back when I experimented with providing NO toys, and retreating behind a book. I had all three kids in my row (E was on the plane, but in a different row), and while I did give them snacks and had to remind Johnny to fasten his seatbelt, sit down, and not kick the seat in front of him a few times, they mostly entertained themselves with the airplane safety card and magazines. Lily slept the entire second flight (DC to Boston), which also went a long ways towards helping me make my way through Princess Academy, which I inherited from my sister R during the trip. I’m thinking Emma might enjoy listening to some of Shannon Hale’s books on CD…
  • Having my kids drink their juice on the plane from sippy cups instead of the airline’s options. So much less stressful – and messy!
  • Seeing my children enjoy some of my favorite childhood pastimes.
  • Getting all three kids dressed in exactly what I wanted them to wear for the funeral (see above), and having them happy with the result. This may not seem that great of an accomplishment if you don’t know my kids.
  • Having a church-provided nursery during the funeral, where my kids had a blast and so I could focus on the actual event.
  • A beautiful funeral.
  • Mike suggesting that I leave behind a “to-do” list – and completing every single item. Thank you, Mike!!!


  • Major meltdown from an over-tired Johnny on the plane on the way out when we had to turn off the ipod due to FAA landing regulations. Dear FAA, do you really believe that an offline ipod will interfere with your plane’s trajectory? I suppose this low is sort of a high, since it is part of what inspired my shockingly successful no-entertainment strategy on the way home…
  • Forgetting that I had handed my house key to my sister for safe-keeping, so that she had to drive from her home to ours after we landed in Boston. We have a key hidden near our house, but Mike’s over-the-phone instructions weren’t enough for me to find it. I owe E. big time!
  • Whatever I did to my back during the trip. Not being able to put on your shoes without large quantities of pain/effort is not a good thing. Of course, this could also be a odd sort of high since it’s forcing me to do physical therapy for less severe back issues I’ve dealt with for years.
  • Johnny’s regression from sleeping in his own bed without any problem. I’m sure we’ll get there again, but the going is a little rough at the moment!
  • Other meltdowns during the trip. Especially around bedtime. Sometimes I felt like joining in.

All in all, it was a good trip, especially considering the fact that it was a last-minute decision and plan! I didn’t forget to pack anything, I don’t think I left anything behind, the kids were as good as I could have possibly expected them to be, and we came home to a beautifully-kept house. Mike was actually out of town when we got home, but he had made us a welcome-home sign, stocked the fridge with fresh groceries, and left Hershey’s kisses on everyone’s pillows. I wish I had had the camera on hand to record the kids’ excitement when they discovered the chocolate!

learning laboratory at mama smiles

What’s your favorite travel story?


MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

15 thoughts on “Learning Laboratory: Travel With Three”

  1. Elisa | blissfulE

    Your children look wonderful and so happy all dressed up – I’m glad you got a picture of that amazing achievement!

    How awesome that the flights home went so well, especially the phenomenal success of the no entertainment option! I’m sure a bit of quiet and a good book was what you needed after such an emotional journey.

  2. Great tips….flying with kids alone..is tough! Super tough! I knew you could pull it off…and what a great hubby! A funeral nursery makes sense..great idea!

  3. Mike is such a great husband and dad. Hopefully your back feels better soon, I am fighting some issues as well right now. Perhaps I will try your “no entertainment” strategy too at least for the part of our 6 hour flight to NJ.

  4. I’m glad that all in all you had a smooth trip. I was glad our own trip of driving two days each way to Ohio resulted in no motion sickness! (I think you have to turn off iPods for take off and landing in case there are emergency instructions. At least that’s what someone told me when I once wondered why I had to turn off mine).

  5. Traveling with 3 kids is no small feat! I love that your husband was so thoughtful of you when you came home!

  6. I definitely feel like joining JC in his meltdowns sometimes.

    Very sweet that Mike left kisses on your pillows!

  7. What a great trip! And what an amazing husband!
    G-d bless!
    Many more years to enjoy your remaining grandparents!
    May you only hear good news from now on!♥

  8. The church nursery for funerals is so helpful!! I couldn’t even imagine trying to focus on anything other than a fidgeting toddler if I hadn’t been able to plop her in a room full of toys for an hour!

    I am so jealous of your return–chocolate on your pillows even?? That’s amazing, what a great husband! I came home from our trip to MI to find three baskets of wrinkly laundry and a sink full of dishes!

    1. I’d never heard of a nursery before for a funeral, but it was amazing.

      And I was very impressed with what we came home to – thank you, Mike!!!

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