One of the great things about living on the east coast is how close you are to so many amazing places. Jesse and I are trying to take advantage of this more, so this fall, we planned a semi-spontaneous long weekend trip to Philadelphia. (It’s a little hard to be spontaneous when you have three small children and can’t just jump in your car, but we do the best we can.) Anyway, it was a really fun weekend and we are looking forward to going to Philadelphia again sometime soon as there is so much to see and do there, not to mention, it’s so close for us. I decided to break this up into two posts. I share a lot of the strategies we use for traveling with our kids, along with highlights of our trip, so it ended up being a little longer than I’d planned. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.
About a month before our trip, we reserved a hotel room, bought ourselves five tickets on the Mega Bus, and made a plan.
For those of you who may not be familiar, the Mega bus is like Greyhound, except MUCH better, cleaner, nicer, and more reliable. I took the grey hound twice in my life and that was enough. Never again. The Mega Bus also only travels to more touristy cities like Boston and New York, etc., so kind of in a different camp than Greyhound. Anyway, we pulled K out of school and J took the day off of work so that we could have an extended weekend. We set out early Thursday morning and took a Lyft ride from our house to the mall where the Mega Bus picks up. When the bus arrived, we lugged our three kids, three car seats, one small suitcase, and two backpacks onto the bus. The ride is only about an hour and fifteen minutes from our house to the heart of Philadelphia. I highly recommend this for those of you who’d rather not deal with traffic or tolls.
It was a beautiful day and we were all excited. All was going smoothing and as planned. About a half hour into our trip, however, things took a turn. B (our one-year-old) who ended up sitting in my lap, had just finished a bottle and was trying to climb up the back of the seat in front of me. Out of the blue, he suddenly threw up all over himself and my lap. K who was sitting next to me immediately jumped up and went to the row behind me with Jesse and our other four-year-old son. She has a very weak stomach and is known for her own car sick tendencies. Jesse then switched places with her and began helping me clean things up as best we could. It felt like a very Macgyver-like scenario—trying to clean up the mess with whatever we could find. (Sorry if some of you are too young for that throw-back reference.) We stripped B of his clothes, put them in a zip lock bag from some snacks, and wiped him and me down with nearly an entire package of baby wipes. This next part gets my husband serious brownie points because he then did his best to clean off the seats and wipe up the floor. Thankfully, B and I caught most of the mess on us, so it wasn’t too much. Just a little note to help those of you sighted folks reading this to better appreciate the situation—when you’re blind, one of the nonvisual techniques you use to clean up surfaces is to use your other hand to feel where the mess is and verify that you get it all since you can’t see the spill with your eyes. My weak-stomached husband did a great job and managed to get it all, so well in fact that when we arrived and could do a better job since we were stopped and had the assistance of the driver, there wasn’t really anything to worry about. As if that wasn’t bad enough, about a half hour later, both K and J.J. threw up within a few minutes of each other. Thankfully, they are a little older and can at least give you some warning, so Jesse was able to hold a trash bag open for them and contain the mess better. We were reminded of some valuable lessons we’ve forgotten about travelling with our motion-sick pruned children that day. It’s been awhile since we’ve been on any long car rides with them. After arriving, we informed the driver and asked if he had some cleaning supplies. He rounded up an old towel from some other driver at the stop and had a bottle of disinfectant spray. He and I then sprayed down the floor and seats as best we could. The driver seemed very impressed that we even told him what had happened, let alone offered to clean it up. He said that happens all the time and that mostly people just get off and don’t tell anyone about the mess. Go us for being good doers!
After getting off the bus, we walked over to Union Station for a bathroom break and to clean up better. We then got some walking directions from a station attendant and started out for our hotel. It was a beautiful day and we decided to save ourselves a little bit of money on a ride as we’d have to pay for a larger vehicle to hold all of us. So, since the hotel didn’t seem too far away, we decided to walk. (Anything that you can walk to within 15-20 mins. For us seems reasonable. ) I pulled the Sit n’ Stroll car seat (it has wheels and can be used like a stroller) while carrying B on my back in the Ergo. J.J held my hand while K held Jesse’s hand. We then stacked the two booster seats in the Sit n’ Stroll, and Jesse pulled our suitcase. (We only brought one small suitcase with all our things.) We’ve kind of master this way of traveling with suitcases, kids, and car seats over the last couple of years. Since Jesse and I also use canes, and we were pulling something behind us, the kids hold our hands by holding the hand not using the cane by the fingers. We call it “holding pinky hands” and have been doing it with our kids since they started to walk. Since their hands are so small, you can hold their hands tightly with two or three fingers, and if you need to pull them quickly like to avoid harm, you can easily do so or even just drop the item you are pulling. It’s hard to explain, but it works. Our kids also are really good at just staying with us and walking next to us. Thankfully, we’ve never had issues of them darting off into the road, going too far ahead of us, or not wanting to hold hands. I guess it’s just something we instilled in them from an early age.
Our walk turned out to be more like an old drop route travel lesson from my days at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. We were traveling in an unfamiliar city, and yes we did get lost, but we figured things out and eventually made it to our hotel. The problem was that the entrance of the hotel and the physical address didn’t match and the street dead-ended into the convention center, so the roads around it were kind of confusing. Thanks to the GPS on our phones, structured discovery orientation and mobility skills, problem solving abilities, and a LOT of patience, we managed to figure it out. We did ask for directions a few times which was also helpful, but we were staying in a touristy area, so several of the people we asked didn’t know where it was either. Finally about an hour later, we made it to our hotel. Our kids were such troopers! WE checked into our room and took a little R and R from the crazy bus ride and long walk before venturing out again. I want to really point out the value of the good o and m training that Jesse and I had. I am a big supporter of the structured discovery learning method. It not only teaches you skills and how to problem solve in different situations, but it teaches you how to have the confidence to find your way around in an unfamiliar place. Sure, you can say we’re gutsy or brave, and maybe we are a little bit, but the thing is, we don’t let our blindness hold us back. Yes we get lost sometimes, and yes, it’s frustrating, but we figure it out and get where we need to go. Sometimes these challenges even make the whole experience richer. Sometimes you just end up fighting with your spouse. But when you’re lost together, eventually, you have to learn to work together so maybe it’s good marriage therapy too.
Later that afternoon, we ventured over to Reading Terminal Market for lunch, where we browsed some of the local stands and enjoyed some real-deal Philly Cheesesteaks. After, we walked several more blocks to Franklin Square Park where we rode one of the oldest carousels in the country and played mini golf. (No, mini golf isn’t very accessible to the blind so I’ll have to write about this another time and how we’ve tried to play before.) This time it was mostly our kids and their first time playing. We spent the rest of the evening walking along Market Street just taking in the sites of the city and looking for some place fun to eat before calling it a day.
To be continued…e