Another Day, Another Travel Disaster

Darling Man and I are both university-educated professionals. We are organised, on-time and wise in the ways of the world.

So we are baffled when things go wrong.

And things usually do go wrong when we travel.

This week we set off on a much-anticipated family holiday to Dalat in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.

And we're off

We packed light, only three outfits — and one jumper — each. Part of the reason we chose Dalat as our holiday destination is that it’s COLD. And I am so sick of being hot and sweaty in Saigon.

The first disaster happened just before 5am on the day of our departure. I reached down to pick up the baby for his first feed of the day and GA-ZING … something happened to my neck and shoulder. A horrific muscle spasm that made me almost drop the baby.

As I whimpered … quietly so as not to wake anyone else … I tried to decide whether or not this physical disaster meant we had to cancel our trip.

I waited until 6am before texting my lovely masseuse to see if she could fit me in before our 11am flight. It was a long and painful hour and a half before she responded that she had an 8am spot free.

I thought we could swing it. So I rushed around packing, hunched over like Quasimodo, and then drove my motorbike one-handed to the massage place.

Hieu worked her magic and, in a much more relaxed frame of mind and in far less pain, I drove home. Two-handed this time.

There were delays, of course, in getting two children and our stuff into a taxi and relaying last-minute instructions to our helper, whose holiday job would be to mind our dogs.

We ate breakfast in the taxi. Which is OK in Vietnam. Every bump KILLED my neck and shoulder.

We arrived at the airport, which was undergoing some renovations. And rushed hither and thither trying to find the VietJet counter. There was a long long queue but it was still OK. We had just enough time. We would squeak it in.

We queued. We talked and joked, buzzing with that pre-holiday excitement. My shoulder hurt. I fed the baby in his carrier as ladies young and old tried to pinch his cheeks and his legs and Miss M stuck the magnetic clip of her new bracelet onto everything metallic.

By the time we got to the top of the queue, I was mentally reviewing my short list of Dalat specialties that we’d eat over the next six days. Our luggage was weighed, boarding passes were printed. Everything was progressing normally.

And then there was a longer-than-usual conversation in Vietnamese. I heard the word passport repeated a few times. And I froze.

Because the baby’s passport was at the visa office. This was a domestic flight. We didn’t need a passport….  or so I thought.

I had only packed the passports we had in our possession because hotels in Vietnam need them to register their guests.

Darling Man turned to me, his forehead furrowed, and said that the baby needed some form of identification or they wouldn’t let him on the plane.

I asked if we had time for the helper to bring his birth certificate from home. Darling Man said no, a foreign birth certificate wouldn’t do. Not unless it was translated into Vietnamese. And the translation was notarised by the appropriate government office.


Darling Man called someone who lived near the visa office to see if they could collect the baby’s passport and bring it to the airport. But the plane was due to board in 20 minutes. There was no time.

He tried to work his magic smile on the check-in girl. No luck. No luck with her supervisor either.

Five minutes to boarding. For the only flight of the day to Dalat.

It had been such an effort to get to the airport on time. I didn’t fancy doing it all again the following day. And then there were the rebooking fees.

We made a snap decision. Miss M and I would fly first. Darling Man and Sunny would follow the next day, WITH the baby’s passport.

And so I reluctantly handed over my lovely baby to Darling Man. And the baby’s nappy bag. And took Miss M’s hand to take her through airport security while Darling Man negotiated the rebooking.

Our holiday mood had been totally killed.

In typical four-year-old fashion, Miss M recovered from this travel setback in about seven seconds and she began chatting and squirming and jumping and doing whatever she could to jiggle, knock and pull my injured shoulder. Meanwhile, I thought about a night without my snuggly little baby boy and felt generally bereft.

But just like every other travel disaster, like Darling Man being refused a Schengen visa and Tiger losing our luggage, we coped. We took it in our stride and focused on the fun part of travel, which is seeing new sights, eating new food and just enjoying that holiday feeling.


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6 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Ahhh….I wondered what happened to make bubby not be allowed on the plane. I would never have expected that he would need ID either! You’re so used to these disasters that you just take em in your stride now huh?
    Tracey – Life Changing Year recently posted..Favourite Fotos – Who makes signs like this and hangs them in public?

    • Barbara says:

      Yup, kind of expect things to go wrong now. I saw a sign at the Dalat airport that mentioned orphanages and charities and adoptions, so I think the ID for babies is to stop baby-smuggling, which is fair enough. But still — UGH!

  2. jan says:

    Poor you. I have shoulder trouble too and it is not fun, especially when it is in spasm. But a holiday is a holiday Yay! We didn’t get to Dalat when we were in Vietnam because it was raining cats and dogs there 🙁
    jan recently posted..Ten Photos from Intriguing Kampot

  3. Holly says:

    How stressful! Travel drama is the worst. Travelling with kids adds an extra layer of what can go wrong.
    Holly recently posted..{Tasty Tuesday} A Classic Omelette Recipe

  4. Jenny says:

    Wow – I confess, I would never have taken this solution. Separate me for more than 3 hours from my baby, no way. Of course, I am still breastfeeding her, so that’s that.
    But still, I am amazed – in every other family, daddy would have taken the older sibling into care, or all together would have stayed and taken the next flight (which would be economically dumb, but still). My husband loves his children, but he would surely refuse to care for the baby alone. Yours must be a hell of a father 🙂
    Jenny recently posted..Goodbye, Takapuna Beach Holiday Park!?

    • Barbara says:

      Hey Jenny, it was a tough decision to make. But I had no idea what arrangements Darling Man had made for the baby’s visa so he had to stay to organise its retrieval. And he is an amazing dad. He was a stay-at-home Dad for two years with our first one, so he knows how to handle things.

  5. Holy crap, that all sounds awful, hope your shoulder is on the mend and the pain has eased. Sorry to hear your travel adventuring started out so rocky, although great story for us. I admire you pushing through and getting on the plane, every mum I know would have taken the baby and dad the older one. You guys rock. Happy weekend and a great week ahead. Cheers, Anna
    Anna @ shenANNAgans recently posted..Bringing home the Bacon! #Oink

    • Barbara says:

      Hey Anna, thanks for dropping by! I really didn’t want to leave the baby behind but Darling Man had been handling the visa and passport stuff and I didn’t even know where the baby’s passport was. Everything worked out fine. He’s a great dad.

  6. […] But, you know, plans change. Especially when your baby isn’t allowed to board the plane. […]

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