Travel Stories: Cry Then, Laugh Now

Traveling is always an adventure. The adventures within have no bias towards stage of life, state of mind, or emotional condition. To the security guards and flight attendants, we’re just another traveler trying to make it through without anything buzzing or setting off any red flags.

I used to enjoy traveling. During college, I went with a small team to Nigeria for a few weeks. On the way back to the States, I happily took a sleep aid to beat jet lag before I landed. It worked beautifully.

These days, with 3 young ones in tow, sleep aids are a distant memory. Instead of blocking out the noises around me trying to catch some shut-eye, I’m trying to keep my kids from being those noises so others will stop giving me the stank eye!

If you’ve been doing this overseas life thing for a while, I’m sure you have some good stories. Things like running through those mile-long airports to catch the next flight; showing up to the airport to find out someone’s ticket didn’t get logged; lost luggage; delays for hours..or days; waking up kids in the middle of the night to catch the first of several flights in a day; those same young kids not sleeping more than a few winks in a ridiculously long amount of time; puke, fevers, and more; being separated from your family by several aisles with no one willing to switch…and so on. (All these are real-life for me!)

Travel Stories


(I literally think this every time: look cute for the first glance from those we haven’t seen in years! But, reality strikes again. Maybe I’ll just wear pajamas this time!)

Let me share one of the most horrifying-then, funny-now stories:

The pre-story is too long to share, so the short of it is that I had our second baby in late August, when we were already supposed to be back in China. My husband was in a leadership position, so he had to go back one week after the baby was born. No biggie, right?! *Insert wide-eyed emoji here.*

After another month of recovery (ha, “recovery” with a toddler and newborn) and gathering of paperwork, we were ready to join my husband. My parents graciously accepted my desperate plea of accompanying this tired momma and two littles across the ocean. Bless their hearts.

Everyone wants a good night’s sleep before a 36-hour travel day. Sadly, the munchkins and I didn’t get it. The toddler was too scared to sleep by himself at our friend’s house, so he stayed awake until 1:30am. He finally crashed on one end of the couch, with the baby and me on the other end. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well. I was awake by 3:30 to get everything packed up and ready to go by 5. Not a great start.

Our first short flight was traumatic, as you can imagine. A toddler with so little sleep sees everything as a tragedy, right? Somehow, we managed and got a few minutes of sleep.

Then came the long 13-hour trek. Once boarded, I was horrified to realize none of us were sitting near each other. My mom was a few rows in front of me, my dad a few rows behind me. And all of us were in the middle seats. You know the weight that scenario carries!

All 3 of us begged our aisle-sitting seatmates to switch with one of us. But, who would?! I specifically remember the guy sitting next to me saying, “I booked this seat months ago. I’m not moving!” I eventually settled in, realizing it would be his loss in the end. He would have a baby and toddler passed over his head numerous times, the awkwardness of me nursing a kicking baby, and the wafts of poopy diapers being changed (because I can’t leave my toddler sitting by the window while I go change a diaper).

Honestly, the rest of the flight is kind of a blur. My parents hadn’t traveled that far before, so they did their best to help me while not getting air sick and trying to sleep a little. I do remember my toddler barely sleeping at all and feeding him any snack he wanted and allowing him to watch any show or play any game because, survival. I also remember my baby sleeping in the carrier almost the entire trek, which was a downright miracle since he had barely slept at all the first month of his life! The Father knew what sanity I had left at that point, and helping the baby sleep kept what little there was intact.

It was a blissful reunion with my husband once we walked off that plane. I’m sure I looked like one haggard lady, but it didn’t matter to him. We were all together again!

Every time we embark on a long trip, I spend a lot of time praying the week or so beforehand for my attitude specifically. It’s so easy for me to get angry when things don’t go the way I expected them to, annoyed at people who don’t seem to know what they’re doing, and frustrated with my kids who don’t really understand how to handle themselves while in such a big transition. I ask for grace upon grace, patience without needing to fully understand, and joy to share with others.

Just because it’s a tough travel day for me doesn’t mean I get to take a time-out from showing Jesus to everyone who can see.

What awful-then, funny-now travel stories do you have to share?


*Original source unknown. If you’re the artist, let us know! We’d love to credit you!

**Check out our Pinterest travel board as well as our friends’ board at Taking RouteThere are some great tips for anyone, and a lot for those of us with kiddos as well! I’m definitely using some new ones for our trip in a few weeks!


  1. Jennifer Ott June 6, 2016

    I feel guilty, but most of our trips have been pretty uneventful.  BUT our last one left us stranded in a different African country for 24 hours, and they wouldn’t let us have access to our checked luggage.  The airport was closed, so there was no food or anything for our hypoglycemic daughter…and immigration made us wait for 4 hours on concrete floors to figure out our situation (we were the only Americans on the flight).  But in the morning, it was an adventure of the good sort, and we made it on to a flight and got where we needed to be eventually.

    1. Ashley Felder June 6, 2016

      No guilt, Jennifer! That’s wonderful! May all your future travels be just as blessed!

      1. Jennifer Ott June 6, 2016

        I just calculated that we’ve flown over 44 flights with the kids (actually, over 20 were just me with 3 or 4 kids on my own), so I really can’t complain!

  2. Sue Schmidt June 6, 2016

    On a return flight from the US to Africa our family of four had special written permission to have Buddy, the pet, ride underneath with the baggage to Washington DC from Charlotte – even though it was July.  But, at the airport Buddy was denied passage underneath. Instead a kind airline official gave us a tennis bag, from lost and found, and allowed me to carry him onboard the short flight. Buddy, in his tennis bag zipped to his neck was treated like royalty by the flight attendants.

    In Washington DC, I unloaded all 25 lbs of Buddy from the tennis bag and he was transferred to his dog kennel and headed to the next flight. We discovered that due to the late departure of the Charlotte flight we had missed our connecting flight to Belgium.  Our choices were to stay in Washington DC for a week and wait for the next flight or return to Charlotte.  We did not have enough money for either choice, so we parked ourselves near McDonalds and prayed. We explained to the kids our state of no money and no ideas of what to do. We were totally dependent upon the Lord to see what He would do. Luckily we had sufficient money for food from McDonald’s and we could see out of the observation window Buddy in his kennel being treated kindly by the airport workers.

    We were in the airport in Washington DC all day!  Finally that evening around 9 pm the airline made  a decision to fly us  – including Buddy – back to Charlotte.  They then discovered that our luggage had gone on to Belgium without us Buddy was returned to us only to be zipped-up in the tennis bag and we all headed back to Charlotte.

    It was around 1:00 am when we made it to Charlotte and  were met by the same kind airline official who had supplied us with Buddy’s tennis bag.  She had been “watching” us on the monitors all day and knew what our day had been like.  “Are you overseas workers?” she asked.  Yes, she had thought so. At that point she explained that she was arranging for the airline to purchase us all new tickets for the next morning and take us to Africa a different way than originally planned. Also, she’d reserved rooms for us a pet-friendly hotel so we could grab five hours of sleep.

    Amazing!  What a testimony to us what the Lord can do when the situation seems impossible! We made it to Africa the next day and flew on a much nicer airline that originally planned.  Our luggage traveled the world and then ended up in our country in Africa a few weeks later. Buddy made it too.

    God can do the impossible!

    1. Ashley Felder June 6, 2016

      WOW, that’s a story! I can’t believe they only had ONE flight a week–that seems crazy?! What a beautiful story of God’s faithfulness and care…even for the little, furry things. 🙂 And what a testimony to share with others! May that woman who was kind to you and Buddy be blessed!

  3. T June 6, 2016

    My husband is the calm one, so he handles things like cancelled flights and I’ve learned to stay far away from the ticket counter so that I don’t explode.  Our last trip here (3 flights to get here, but another flight the next day to head out to a conference and then back 5 days later) began with a last minute canceled flight.  Thankfully, the ticket agent worked for over an hour to try to get our family of 5 on flights together.  Eventually, she had to scrap our stopping off at home to dump our suitcases, and sent us directly to our conference.  Because my husband was so calm and kind, and the kids and I were sitting quietly (unlike the planeload of other passengers?!?), she decided that she needed to give us “Distressed Passenger Status” so that the airline would have to fix the ticket situation and give us a hotel room and food vouchers.  The meek inherit the earth!  (again, this is so not my nature–I’m just learning to stay far enough away that I have to shut up!)

    1. Ashley Felder June 9, 2016

      Hmmm…I might need to learn how to gather the kids and sit quietly and let my calm hubby handle these things, too. The less I know about the catastrophe, the better. 🙂

  4. Kim June 6, 2016

    I totally understand this! We started with three, but ended with five littles in tow. The last flight from India to the US with baby #5 almost did me in. He hated the cot, so I held him mostly, and I was 15 rows away from the rest of the family who happily watched movies and slept the entire 14 hours (I may have looked pretty rough after that flight). Over the years we’ve had the normal occurrences… one kid’s ticket not processed so they told the rest of us we could go without our 8 year old (What!), but it was finally sorted mere mins before the flight left, so my well-planned idea of lunch at the airport turned into starving, grumpy kids running through the airport to make the flight. I always look longingly at the single people flying who wear heels and perfect makeup. I’ve given up trying to look cute, because the probability of having pee, puke, or poo on me by the end of the trip is pretty high. 🙂

    1. M'Lynn June 9, 2016

      I always look longingly at the people traveling without kids and think about their carry-on bags. What’s in there?? Ha! Mine is full of diapers, wipes, snacks and toys. What else do you need on a flight? 😉

      1. Ashley Felder June 9, 2016

        If I didn’t have kids, I’d have mine full of magazines, books, awesome snacks for myself, and toiletries to freshen up at the end of the flight. I may get this kind of carry on in say, what, 10 years? haha

    2. Ashley Felder June 9, 2016

      That last sentence–ha! So, so true! Sitting rows apart from the rest of the fam is the worst for me!

  5. Courtney Miller June 9, 2016

    I have a few stories I could share, but I’ll stick to a more light-hearted one. Moving back to the states from Indonesia, we had a layover in LA…which meant collecting all our suitcases at the baggage claim and then hauling them through customs before rechecking them for our domestic flight. We had about 1.5 hrs to get all this done – with a 5 yr old and a 3 yr old in tow! Yeah, imagine a stroller being pushed with one hand, 5 yr old holding my other hand, and a chain of 4 carry-on suitcases linked to the stroller handle with suitcase strap (and I was already rough looking after two incredibly long flights to get to this side of the Pacific!). Anyways, we made it through customs and to the ticket counter to recheck bags and get our final boarding passes, and we had about 30 minutes to get to the gate. The worker saw our panic, lol, and RUSHED our bags to the plane – she actually called up a worker to hand deliver it to the plane for us! Then she processed our boarding passes…only to realize that our flight wasn’t until the next day. We had passed the international date line but forgot to take that into account when figuring out our flight info! So, we were able to nap the night away on the floor of the airport and when we arrived in Detroit the next day our luggage was already there waiting for us. I think it really threw the airport workers for a loop to actually have bags show up BEFORE the people arrived, lol!

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