Friday, July 16, 2010
Friends some time ask me how it is to travel with Aidan, and if he travels well. In fact, he travels very well. Other than needing to pack a few more essentials in terms of feeding or medications or gear, traveling with Aidan is not that troublesome. Aidan is a good traveler. We can pop in a DVD on the portable player or put on some music on the iPod for him and he is fine for just about the entire plane ride. In terms of the airplane ride, I don't have to worry too much about Aidan. Connor is the one that causes some concern. Unlike Connor, Aidan doesn't demand to get out of his seat to run up and down the aisle. Also, unlike Connor, Aidan doesn't insist on singing the "Bob the Builder" theme song full-voice, and defiantly singing louder the more we shush him. The one big challenge though is the need for diaper changing space on the airplane. The airplane restrooms are small enough as it is and now that Aidan is bigger, changing him in the restroom is a real challenge. However, on our most recent plane ride back from the Cayman Islands, we all sat in the bulkhead row (the dividing section between Coach and Business/First Class). The bulkhead row has a lot more legroom because there are no seats in front of you, just a section divider. That worked out much better in terms of changing needs for Aidan. Kevin held his upper body while I quickly changed the diaper. That worked out fine, but luckily Aidan only went #1, changing a #2 on the airplane is a lot more tricky...and smelly.
Some might think that traveling with Aidan might slow us down, but in fact, he helps us get fast-tracked. I always accompany Aidan through airport security and since he can't walk through the metal detector because of the wheelchair, we go through the special handicap lane, and that lane hardly ever has a line. We have to wait for a "Male Assist" to pat down Aidan, but we still get out way before the rest of our family members are able to get through their metal detector and x-ray lanes. Fortunately, I have also not had any problems getting his formula feeding pump through security either. It usually is a large bag of Pediasure milk formula, exceedingly over the carry-on liquids limitation, but I've never been questioned about it. And...we also get to pre-board the plane too. But, sometimes getting on the plane can sometimes be tricky. When we travel we don't use his everyday home wheelchair. We use a collapsible stroller-type wheelchair with a special seater insert. That way we can push him up to the airplane and gate check the stroller and remove the chair insert and use that on the plane as a sort of carseat. Boarding the plane is usually a team effort. While grandma and grandpa wrangle Connor, the carseat and the carry-ons, Kevin will remove and carry Aidan in the special seater and I will fold-up the stroller and leave it at the gate. While we love vacationing and traveling with the grandparents, I have to admit that it is extremely helpful to have another couple sets of eyes and hands to wrangle the kids and the luggage, not to mention the fact that they're built-in babysitters.
We've been to domestic and international destinations for our family vacations, and it's become apparent to me how much more welcoming and inclusive international destinations are to us with our special Aidan. When we went to Costa Rica and did some excursions, Aidan was treated just like one of us. He was able to do the canopy zipline tour right along with the rest of us. Connor, at 3 years old was also allowed to do it. Of course, zipline guides rode with each of them. But the Costa Rican guides took it upon themselves to adapt the venture and make it work for both Aidan and Connor. They truly made it an unforgettable experience for both of them. I am positive that that would never have been allowed anywhere in the U.S. I think in the U.S., they are overly concerned about liability and law suits, and always are more cautious and risk-averse. Like when we went to Anaheim's Disneyland, Aidan was only able to ride the 2-3 officially designated handicap-accessible rides. When I requested to hold Aidan on my lap or have him sit on a ride in his own seat insert, Disneyland would not allow it...even on the slow, easy-going rides. I even offered to sign a liability waiver... but they wouldn't budge. Contrary to that, in Grand Cayman at the Dolphin Discovery, they allowed Aidan to get in the water with all of us and he was able to pet and get kissed by a dolphin...and a stingray! Yet, another activity that I don't think Aidan would have been allowed to do in the U.S.
Our semi-annual family vacations are priceless family-bonding experiences that Kevin and I truly treasure. We love going to new places and seeing new things and especially love that we are able to share the experience with our children and see things through their eyes. Besides the fact that we love travel, one of the reasons why we like to do family travel now, while the kids are young is because Aidan is still rather small and more importantly...portable. When necessary, we can still pick him up and carry him. We'd like him to experience and enjoy the world along with us as much as possible. Fortunately, Aidan and Connor both LOVE going on vacations; in fact, just the mention of the word, puts a big smile on Aidan's face and his entire body shakes in excitement. Traveling with Aidan when he is much bigger will be a little more challenging. Thus, Kevin hopes that some day there can be some type of Iron Man-type suit that Aidan could wear so that he could get around easily, and go everywhere we go. But, until then...we just make it work.