48 Hours of Travel Pain
We always fly direct. Always. Unless it’s impossible. We are so committed to this that when we realized we needed to get from Dublin to Bergen to meet up with friends, and that there were no direct flights, we figured we’d spend three days in Copenhagen in between so that we could fly direct on either end. This plan got trashed when some other friends booked a vacation to Ireland for those Copenhagen dates. We decided to stay on in the Dublin area to hang with them, and to then fly from there to Bergen in a single day.
So we booked a connecting flight on Norwegian Air from Dublin to Bergen on July 4, by way of Oslo, with a one hour layover.
The morning went smoothly, with short lines at the airport and no issues with luggage sizes or weights. We boarded and got settled. Our flight was delayed. We naively figured we might still make the connection until we got off the plane onto one of those runway buses that takes 10min to fill, idles for 5min, then drives for 2min before letting you off. Then we realized that even though we were going from one EU country to another, we’d have to go through passport control because Ireland is not in Schengen and Norway is.
After passport control we sprinted, me wearing WP in the carrier. She started out asleep but was quickly woken up. We ran until we realized there was another set of security screens and another round of ticket checks and that we had run through gates C and D, were staring down gate A1 and needed to make it to the B gates. We stopped. We looked at the monitors. Gate closed.
We went to Norwegian customer support and a helpful man put us on the next flight with space that left in six hours. He said our bags didn’t make the flight either, and they’d travel with us. He gave us meal vouchers. We got a greek yogurt and berry smoothie for WP, and pizza and wine for us. WP grew sleepy again and I put her in the carrier to try to get her to go back to sleep. The whole scenario was annoying, but it was fine.
We started walking through the airport. WP coughed, wailed a little, and then reared her head back as far as it would go in the carrier, and vomited. She vomited greek yogurt and berry smoothie all over her, all over me, and all over the floor.
We used to travel with spare clothes for WP and an extra shirt for me, plus tons of wipes, when she was really little and blow outs and spit ups were common occurrences. But at 17 months she doesn’t spit up and her diaper doesn’t leak. Yes she might spill some food on herself, but it’s usually nothing a napkin or a wipe can’t fix.
Not so with this. We were both soaked. We found a family bathroom, stripped WP down, and changed her into her zip hoodie with nothing underneath. I took off my t-shirt and threw it out. It was completely soaked with vomit and it was a bit ratty anyway. Plus there were no paper towels or hand dryers in any of the bathrooms, just those endless circular towel things that are no help to anyone in this situation, so it seemed a lost cause to try to clean too many things. After all, we had a normal amount of wipes needed for a day of routine diaper changes. Not enough to launder clothes with.
I put on my sweatshirt. WP was sad, and uncomfortable, but seemed more tired than anything else. Perhaps the smoothie had been sitting out for too long. Out with the bad.
We went back out. I put WP back in the carrier to try to get her to go to sleep for real this time. I walked and bounced and shushed. Fifteen minutes passed. She coughed. She wailed. She vomited the other half of the smoothie.
This was very demoralizing.
We went back to the bathroom. I took off my sweatshirt, now equally soaked with vomit. That morning I had discovered it was stained and was planning to get rid of it when we got to Bergen anyway. So I threw it out. I had managed to use WP’s blankie to catch a bunch of the vomit so her sweatshirt needed a wash but was not ruined. However she had thrown up on her pants. We took everything off. Shirtless me held shirtless, pantsless WP while Mike went to buy us new clothes.
Luckily there was a small kids section in the one clothing shop in the domestic terminal. Mike came back with an overpriced white t-shirt for me and a dress and pants for WP. Meanwhile WP had fallen asleep. We gave her a few minutes before we couldn’t stand being in the bathroom with no seating and not even a toilet seat any longer. I put her back in the carrier. We left the bathroom.
Thirty minutes passed. She coughed. She wailed. She threw up. This time there was only berry yogurt residue. But it was enough to stain the overpriced white t-shirt. So back to the bathroom. I took off my shirt. I did not throw it out. Upon further reflection, it seemed like it might come in handy. Mike washed it. I put on his sweatshirt, our last adult layer. We cleaned WP off as best we could, out of clean clothes for her entirely, and went back out.
Long story short, she vomited twice more on the plane, including once on Mike, though mainly just saliva at that point (I am sorry to the lady on the aisle, we were very crappy seatmates). We landed around 830pm, a bit shell-shocked after 12h of travel and 6 voms, and went to baggage claim. I couldn’t wait to put on a clean shirt and change WP out of her wet, smelly clothes.
Perhaps you can see where this is going. No bags. None of our four bags came off the belt. No car seat, no crib, no clothes. We trudged over to customer service. By the time we finished filing a lost luggage claim it was 915pm. Check-in at our overpriced hostel (which at least was affordable compared to the overpriced hotel options) closed at 10pm. The train downtown took 45 minutes.
The information desk at the airport informed us that for only $60 we could take a 19 minute cab ride with a car seat. The Norwegian Air guy seemed to think this would be reimbursed. At that point honestly though it didn’t matter.
We trudged into the hostel where a perky young lady with an American accent greeted us with great sympathy, rented us towels and showed us to our room, where we had to make our own bed. She could not find their baby cot. Luckily the grocery store nearby was open til 11. We unfolded our mercifully carry-on sized travel stroller and wheeled a delirious WP to buy bananas, toothbrushes, laundry detergent, and other essentials.
So began a one night experiment in co-sleeping during which WP slept horizontally, acrobatically kicking with me or Mike in the chest in between her sound-asleep tumbling routines. I hate sleeping nude but Mike had handwashed all our clothes and they were hanging to dry so I slept in only my underwire bra. This somehow seemed better. At 1:30am the Norwegian Air lost luggage desk closed for the night. Our bags had not arrived on the last flight in. The sun rose at 4:29am. We did not sleep very well.
The morning brought better news. WP did not throw up on us overnight, or even on the extra towel we had rented to place under her (before we realized how much acrobatics would be involved). We were sleepy, and our clothes were still wet, but we realized if we microwaved them for two minutes at a time a bunch of the water would turn to steam, and you could sort of shake them out, and then repeat the process. My shirt was only damp when we ventured out in the chilly morning air to the nearby H&M that miraculously opened at 9am.
With $25 of new clothes in hand for me and WP, and Mike wearing his sweatshirt again, plus a cup of coffee, we saw an update on our luggage tracking. It would be in Bergen by 11am. We were given a delivery window.
WP was feeling better. She refused to consume anything but watered down juice, but she was in a decent mood. Around 3pm our friends Steph and Rob showed up at the hostel and made their own bed two doors down. Around 4pm our luggage was delivered. By 5pm I was showered and in a completely clean outfit. After restlessly cataloguing the contents of our suitcases all night to see what would be truly devastating to lose, suddenly it was all in the past.
Or so we thought. We spent a lovely 24hrs sightseeing in Bergen, grabbed an early evening cocktail, and picked up pizzas to take back to the hostel. Just as we were walking back to the hostel the world got a bit blurry; I did not feel right. Forty-five minutes later I was vomiting my equivalent of berry yogurt smoothie. I threw up six more times that evening. All the while I was thinking: I’m doomed. Not because lying on the bathroom floor of a hostel is so bad, when it’s your own private bathroom. But because the next morning we were embarking on day 1 of our two day cross-country excursion through the fjords. And day 1 involved an early wake up, a train, a bus, and a boat.
I get VERY motion sick, always have, and always will, though it’s better now than when I was a child. But this train-bus-boat trifecta was like a ridiculous ascent along the peak of nausea-inducing modes of transit. Train? Not bad. Bus? Depends on the roads. Boat? Always bad. How does one survive this when simply lying down is cause for full-body-contracting nausea, I wondered? What if one is also responsible for a child?
Luckily, there was Mike. Mike who’d eaten five slices of pizza and half a kebab, who almost never got sick. Thank goodness. I finally stopped vomiting at 2am, and drifted off to sleep. I was awakened at 5am by rustling in the bed. Mike going to the bathroom. Mike staying in the bathroom. Mike repeatedly going to the bathroom from 5am until our alarms went off at 7am.
Mike did not throw up, but this inability to do so seemed to make it worse. By the time we were headed to the train, I was in decent spirits, and he was a mess. WP, who had eaten some popcorn and raspberries for dinner and not much else in the last 48 hours, was still not eating much, but otherwise was doing fine. Mike was not fine.
We both suffered through the train ride, heralded as one of the most stunning in the world, as we closed our eyes against the swerving and rocking views. By midway through we’d handed WP back to our friends with the iPad and retreated into our own personal misery.
When we arrived and got off the train we figured we could take a moment to breathe, but were told that all the buses to the port left immediately, no matter what time your ferry was. Several buses were already full and pulling away. We had to board. I went into the bushes and vomited profusely, expelling all the juice and water I’d ambitiously consumed before boarding the train.
We boarded the bus. By some miracle, backwards-facing, iPad-watching WP with me as her bus-fearing, just-vomited chaperone had a lovely bus trip watching waterfalls out the oversized windows. Mike lolled his head in front of me, trying not to fall off the seat as he had a bad reaction to the Dramamine we’d both taken.
We got off the bus and trudged over to the waiting area for the boat. Mike went off to find someplace to lie down. I took WP to get something to eat. I tried to get her to eat a pancake but all she would accept was her favorite food: an orange. Finally the moment I’d been waiting for: WP’s nap. I strapped her in the carrier, bounced her to sleep, and then found a quiet chair outside where I could lean all the way back and close my eyes. You can do this, I told myself.
Things seemed to be looking up. Then we went to board our 1:30pm boat. There weren’t very many people there, just a group of 50 Russians on a guided tour, and a few families. No one was lined up. Strange. It turned out that’s because the boat had been canceled. Don’t worry, we were told. There is another boat in a few hours. My spirits sank.
Then we saw that the Russians were being herded onto a boat leaving in 15min. There were a few more spaces, they admitted, but not enough for everyone else who was left stranded.
Was this the lowest point of the day? It’s hard to say. What I do know now at least is that it was the last low point. Having spent the morning sipping and vomiting juice, I had a sleeping baby strapped to my chest and I was too exhausted to stand. I was being told to wait. And I was not having it. I was getting on that boat.
I don’t know if my cajoling and aggressive positioning at the head of the pack did it, or if fate intervened, or what, but we got on that boat. It all looked up from there. The boat ride was lovely, we made it to our Flam lodging without incident, and we ate ramen and went to bed at 6pm. Deep breaths all around. We survived.