Family Travel Tales: Hawaii (With Vomit)

Afamily travel horror stories hawaii trip with vomitfter experiencing “Seven Steps to the Worst Travel Day Ever,” back in November, I thought our next trip might be relatively incident-free. Unfortunately, there are no karma mileage plans, so this is how our recent Hawaii trip went down ...

Despite having my dad, his wife, my brother, my husband and myself on the six-hour plane ride to Maui, it took all of us in shifts to entertain our toddler son because he WOULD. NOT. SIT. STILL. Let it be known that this would be our last trip where he is without his own seat.

But, we finally made it to paradise and the worst was behind us, right? Off to dinner we went ...

Hawaii 105-oh!

Our 4-year-old daughter decided she would make our arrival day memorable, too. She was in great spirits all evening so we didn’t think anything was amiss. But on our drive home from pizza dinner in the rented minivan, Sidney vomited on herself. Multiple times. Truth be told, that was not a total surprise. I write this wincingly — we boarded the plane earlier that day knowing she had a sore throat and a temperature of 101. 

But isn’t that the worst thing right before you take a big trip — to have a kid suddenly flare a fever and/or cold symptoms? I had tried to ignore the foreboding feeling that the mild early symptoms might come back to bite us. What could we have done? The gears were in motion, time off was taken, the rental house booked, bags were packed, tickets bought, expectations set.

It got worse.

As we sped down the dirt road to our rental house, our daughter, covered in vomit, began to seize. Now, she’s done this before, when she was 19 months old. But even with experience, there is nothing scarier than watching your child’s eyes roll back, their body go rigid and they completely stop responding to you. 

As we suspected, she was having a febrile seizure, but unbeknownst to us, her temperature had shot up to 105. The books say febrile seizures are relatively harmless and to just keep the child from hurting themselves until it passes. So we pulled up to the house in a plume of dust, ran in, put her into a lukewarm bath and gave her ibuprofen. But the fever wasn’t budging, and in the middle of rural Maui at 8 p.m. with no idea of what medical help was nearby, I felt we had no choice but to call 911. All I really wanted though was a second opinion.

Three firefighters and two medics showed up fairly quickly and after looking her over, confirmed that we had done everything we should. They asked if we then wanted transport to the hospital but didn't push it. Her fever started to break so we declined and they left. My husband and my dad immediately left for the 24-hour drugstore 40 minutes away to stock up on children’s ibuprofen and acetaminophen (the non-air conditioned house felt like 70-75 degrees at night). She continued to have a fever for another 36 hours. To think I almost didn’t pack that thermometer...

The vomit bookend

It’s only proper that a trip beginning with such excitement should end with commensurate excitement.

tropical fruitSince my dad and his wife returned to the mainland a few days before us, the adult:kid ratio was less favorable. But on our last day in Maui, we hurriedly tidied up the rental house and packed our things.  My husband and I took turns pulling food out of the fridge and feeding the good stuff to the kids. They gathered around the kitchen island with their mouths open like baby birds. 

Prior to this, my husband and the kids had visited a star fruit tree on property and filled up on tropical fruit (foreshadowing). But for some reason, as soon as I gave our daughter a piece of pineapple, it began. She puked all over the kitchen floor, mercifully missing her clothes. We cleaned it up, no problem.

After 10 minutes, she felt good and tummy was stable, so I gave her some Cheerios. Moments later, she puked again in the kitchen, this time all over herself. Hours of careful packing were undone in a frantic minute as I popped a practically bursting suitcase open to look for her last clean outfit. 

She stabilized just in time for us to load the van. My husband and my brother took the opportunity to strap the kids in their car seats, during which our daughter puked a third time. I was amazed, because what did she have left? Miraculously, her only outfit escaped unscathed. I couldn’t say the same for the sliding van door. It should be noted we were all dressed for our eventual 40 degree Seattle destination, not our current 75-degree Maui reality. So everyone was miserably hot. But on the way to the airport with the A/C on blast, we all relaxed, and both kids passed out for a deserved nap.

My husband dropped almost everything and everybody at the curb on the departures deck. He then proceeded to the rental car return with just our sleeping daughter. Minutes passed. Finally we saw them step off the Hertz return shuttle. She was holding handfuls of paper towels. Yep, she had puked again, on the shuttle bus.

The reality hit me that we might be trapped on a plane for six hours with an actively vomiting child and a toddler who couldn’t keep still. I’d never felt more freaked out in my life.

Overheating and preoccupied by waves of panic, I forgot to empty the water out of my favorite, take-everywhere-with-me water bottle stowed in my backpack. Mr. TSA guy got in my face and refused me when I asked to dump it out in the garbage can. I think he expected me to just throw it away.  Hell no. 

Now, I don't often lose my cool with TSA folks because it’s got to be as bad for them as it is for us but I stared him directly in the eyes and said (barely keeping it together), “I'm wrangling two kids here, can you HELP ME out?” It evidently worked because the guy took it somewhere and emptied it, but he made sure to grumble excessively the whole time.  I thanked him but what I really wanted to say was, Oh I'm sorry, did I inconvenience YOU? How much puke have you cleaned up today?”

All's well that ends well?

Little did I know, though, that the security checkpoint was our last hurdle to a surprisingly smooth and vomit-free return flight. Mercifully the universe again smiled upon us and the person who was supposed to be sitting in our row never showed up. So our toddler son got his own seat for free.

My husband rationed out bites of a croissant, crackers and sips of water to our ravenous daughter. Poor thing was so hungry, but we were not going to take any chances. It was not until our descent into Sea-Tac that the kids both fell asleep. Typical. 

Not to sound ungrateful, but I was giddy with excitement to be back in rainy, cold Seattle. Back to our native climate — sans heat, humidity, mosquitoes and, hopefully, puke. Mahalo!


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