My plan was to rent a car, pack it up, head out, allot for an extra hour in a two-hour drive, arrive into Frankfurt early enough to look for the US Consulate, have a nice dinner, and check into our hotel.
My plan had other plans.
When my husband and my dad got to the car rental shop, it was closed. They called me to try to find an open one, anywhere near us. After an extensive search, I was finally able to find a place on the other side of town. They rushed over, rushed back to the house, and rushed packing up the car. We left several hours later than planned.
That’s ok, though, right?
We did not own a car yet in Germany. We had lived here for only 8 months at the time, which meant our US license was no longer valid. We took the opportunity of my parents visiting from Florida to rent a car and go to Frankfurt to apply for my son’s passport.
My dad drove. With his brand new and very first grandchild in the backseat, my dad set off very carefully. He slowly approached every sign and crossroads. He often waived his priority, unsure of the road rules in another country. Plus, he was still getting comfortable in the rental car. Once we were on the autobahn his concentration switched. There was no priority to waive on the autobahn. Cars were zipping past us. And as they were, my dad was thinking of his brand new grandson seated in the backseat.
Then it started to snow. Hard.
Did I mention my parents were from Florida?
It was the first snow of the season. Early and unexpected. My dad turned off the radio and all talk ceased. He stayed to the right to let the faster cars (all the other cars) pass. A cry from the back interrupted the calm and quiet inside the car. My son was awake, it was time for him to eat.
He wasn’t the only hungry one. We cancelled our plans for dinner in Frankfurt and pulled into a rest stop. And here we experienced another first. Using a public changing room. Fortunately, my husband handled that situation.
While my husband and son were in the changing room, I took the opportunity to look at the shop. My parents and I chatted for a bit. We decided it was too late, and too snowy and we should just get up early to head to the consulate the next day instead. We talked about what they would do while we were in the consulate. How we would contact them since cell phones were not allowed in. They made sure I had all my documents. After a while we wondered, why are C and W still in the changing room?
I went to check on them.
In the process of changing our son’s diaper, C had managed to dirty every outfit I packed for him except for one long sleeve onesie. Our son, a three-week old baby, was going to have to face the snow and drive in only a onesie.
My dad went to the car to start warming it up. I put my jacket on my son and attempted to rush to the car without slipping on the icy sidewalk.
We arrived into Frankfurt many hours later. We headed straight to the hotel and collapsed from exhaustion. I washed one of the thicker outfits that was dirtied earlier, and let it dry on the towel warmer.
I sat in the hotel room thinking about the night. Where did I go wrong? This was supposed to be an easy trip. I read all the tips and tricks for traveling with kids. I OVERpacked. I took care of arrangements in advance, allotted so much extra time for everything and still ended up getting into Frankfurt late. I was a traveling mom failure.
I grabbed stationary and took notes of what I would do differently next time.
That was 2 and a half years ago.
Since then we’ve stayed in countless hotels, survived many road trips, flights, and train trips. Things will go wrong and that’s ok. It’s all a learning experience.
When it was my daughter’s turn to have her first hotel experience we were more proficient travel-with-baby travelers. Even considering the overseas flight, time difference, and jet lag we still had enough energy to go out for her first Halloween!
Traveling with babies requires a new sense of humor, a new normal, and a new way to approach problem solving. But, it’s so worth it. Nothing is harder than those first trips, but I promise, it gets better.
How was your first overnight trip with your children? Any tips for parents heading out for the first time?
The post is part of Friday Daydreamin’ at RWeThereYet. Click on the link for more travel tales.