What Traveling With Kids and Altitude Sickness Taught Me About Life

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Traveling with kids to Colorado and our experience with altitude sickness. With a positive attitude, a little humor, and tips for next time, we made the most of a family vacation filled with unexpected twists and turns.

Last week our family of 4 piled in our mini van and embarked on our first ever “official” Spring Break trip.  Our oldest son is in kindergarten now, so besides summer, we are now limited to travel during Spring Break.

I’ve never been skiing, and it’s something I wished I would have learned as a kid, so several months ago I told my husband I wanted to take the boys to Colorado to teach our 6 year old to ski.  He told me he was a great age to learn and I l fell in love with Colorado when we went on our first trip away from the kids about 1.5 years ago.  I had been itching to get back and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I was traveling the week before our Colorado trip, and since I’ve never been skiing, I told my husband he was in total control.  Yes.  To those who know me you might be shocked to know I had absolutely nothing to do with planning the trip.  Nada.  He booked the condo, ski tickets (or whatever they are called… see, I know nothing about it 😉 )  bought all the gear we’d need and reserved ski’s for himself and our son.  He handled it all… I was super thankful for it, too, because I was focused on my trip to California the week prior.

Since I had little to do with planning or researching the trip, that meant I had no idea about a little condition called altitude sickness.

Little did I know when we loaded up in the car at 4am on Wednesday morning, by evening time I would know exactly what altitude sickness was.

We traveled to Winter Park, Colorado from Kansas City and stopped in Denver to grab lunch.  When we sat down my 6 year old looked at me and said, “I’m full”.  He hadn’t taken a bite.  Ok, Mamas… you know that if your kiddo says this a red light goes off.

I instantly asked him how he felt.  His tummy hurt, so we went outside while the other two finished lunch.  I thought maybe some fresh air would help.

I get motion sickness fairly often, so I told myself he was experiencing that.  We went to Target, grabbed a bucket (just in case) and kids dramamine.  We gave him the medicine and the bucket and off we went on our ascent into the mountains.

I was driving because of my motion sickness, and remember I told you I traveled before we left for this trip?  I was going on very little sleep and several time changes going from Kansas to California, back to Kansas and now to Colorado… and Daylight Savings Time hit at the same time, too.  So, when I was driving up the mountain and literally falling asleep with my eyes OPEN I told myself I was just tired and run down.

The fatigue was awful.  I swear time was crawling.

I couldn’t keep my eyes open and I was petrified he was going to vomit in the car… which is pretty much the worst thing ever.  We finally made it though and all 4 of us were more than ready to get out of the car after 10 hours.

My son thought he felt better so they got their skis, found a local pizza place and then headed back to our condo to rest for the night.

Before bed, his tummy started hurting again and we laid with him until he fell asleep… only to hear him wailing in pain within minutes of falling asleep.  He was trying to sleep and couldn’t because it hurt so bad.  I finally suggested that he sleep with me in the master bedroom and my husband went to sleep in the room the boys were supposed to share.

I laid with my 6 year old for 2 hours, running to and from the bathroom having “close calls”… just waiting for him to get sick.  I get super anxious thinking about my boys vomiting.  I’m not an anxious Mom, but something about the unknown of vomit about does me in.  So, I was a nervous wreck but trying to be brave for him.  By this point I’d figured out he was suffering from altitude sickness so I knew it wasn’t a tummy bug.

After a few hours he told me he didn’t want me in the bathroom with him anymore.  He didn’t want to get sick in front of me.  My heart broke in a million little pieces, but I honored his wishes and stepped outside the door only to hear him within moments finally get sick.  This transition into independence can be really heartbreaking sometimes, and though I know it’s necessary, it doesn’t make it easy.  He’s only 6… isn’t he still supposed to want me there for this kind of stuff??

He felt better, but that’s when I started feeling ill.  I was telling myself it was only my anxiety… but soon I realized it wasn’t.  I was struggling with altitude sickness as well.  My hands were swelling and I felt so dehydrated.  My skin felt like it could burst.

I told him we just needed to sleep it off.  We’d wake up in the morning and feel much better.  It took us a while to go to sleep, and one more round for him in the bathroom… and we slept until morning.  Sadly, we woke up feeling the same and couldn’t get out of bed.

He was supposed to go to ski school that day and he laid in bed bawling that he had to miss it, and instead of being strong, like I usually am, I cried too.  He said it wasn’t fair, and I told him I agreed.  I told him life isn’t always fair but we were going to make the most of it.

My husband and youngest son felt totally fine thankfully, so they left us at the condo snuggled in bed praying to Jesus that we wouldn’t feel like this the whole time.  I researched and talked to some friends and everyone told me the same thing.

Take Advil and drink as much water and Gatorade as we could.  So that’s exactly what we did.

About 3pm we got out of bed, thinking we were better so we went sledding…. that was a mistake, but we survived.  By the time we got back to the condo that night I had to get in bed and even though my son was able to sleep in his room, he still went to bed with a tummy ache.

That night I developed a fever and made the mistake of googling fever and altitude sickness.  Basically, I convinced myself I was going to die.  (I never deny I can be a little dramatic)  This is why I never research anything medical on Google.  Ever.

So, in a moment of panic we called a nurse line who walked me through my symptoms and told me I could go to the ER if I wanted… of course I didn’t want to.  I started praying. Praying that it was all in my head and that God was going to take good care of me.  She told me I needed to eat, because I really hadn’t all day.  I had a big bowl of grapes and Gatorade and Advocare Rehydrate and took 2 Advil and went to sleep.  I woke up the next morning and felt totally fine.  I was super thankful we didn’t waste money on an ER visit over my sense of panic.

It took our bodies about 24 hours to adjust to the mountains, thank goodness it didn’t take any longer because I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

My son felt better for the most part and decided to go to ski school that day.  It was snowing, hard, and my husband and I miscommunicated on how things were going to go when we got there.  I thought it was a “quick drop off” but it took us over an hour to find exactly where he needed to go and the 3rd stop was finally the right place.  I was at the resort for over 2 hours.

I didn’t put my youngest or myself in our ski clothes… stupid.  Or rookie mistake.  Either way it was a disaster.  We were drenched by the time we left the resort, with my oldest in tow because he only made it half the day at ski school because his tummy hurt again.  That was the moment I gave myself two options.

Change my attitude or cry.  I chose to change my attitude.

We were going to have a good vacation whether it was going the way we’d planned or not.

And from that moment on, the entire scope of the trip changed.

I quit feeling sorry for myself and started looking at what was going right.

We were together.

My boys were loving the snow.

We got horrible wi-fi connection in the condo so I couldn’t work, and to be honest, I needed a break.

God told me to SLOW DOWN.

He slowed me down because I wasn’t doing it myself.

We ended up heading home a day earlier than we’d planned.  My son decided he didn’t want to go back to ski school, and for one brief moment we felt disappointment… until I asked him if he had had a fun vacation and his answer was, “besides being sick… yes.”

That’s what mattered.

My boys had fun.

Their fun wasn’t what we planned on their fun to be.  We thought he’d love ski school and spend 2 full days there.  He spent one morning there and the rest of the time he just wanted to play in the snow at the resort.

On the last day we were there my husband skied and the boys and I ate breakfast together and then I let them dive into every snow pile they could find.  They threw snowballs and laughed so hard.  We don’t get much snow in Kansas anymore so I let them play all morning.

Before we left we went to Colorado Adventure Park and I got to tube with my oldest.  The first day we were there my husband took our toddler tubing while we were sick in bed, so he’d been… now it was my turn.

I dragged the 2 seater tube up the mountain (ok there was an escalator) and we got to the top and my heart was pounding.  I was scared.  He was excited.

I looked down into the tube and second guessed if I was going to fit.  I told the mean girl in my head to shut up and got in the tube.

I couldn’t have done that 100 pounds ago.

I wouldn’t have even tried before having back surgery, I would have been WAY too scared it would have sent me into an episode that would have left me in incredible pain for days, if not weeks, and would have made the drive home miserable.

We went down that hill 6 times together.  It was exhausting and exhilarating.

I have never laughed with my son like that.  He got a kick out of me screaming the whole way down.

I was screaming because that’s some scary stuff, guys.  But also… I felt FREE.

I felt free from living life on the sidelines because I was too big and uncomfortable to enjoy it.

I felt free from chronic pain.

I felt free from negativity.

I felt free from shame.

I felt free from guilt.

Traveling with kids is exhausting.  Traveling with kids to a ski resort is really exhausting!  But, I’m so thankful I have chosen to become healthier and I’m in good shape so I can enjoy these experiences with my family.

I’m not watching from the sidelines anymore.

I’m not making my husband do everything because he’s trimmer and more athletic.  Let me be honest, I’m still not athletic… but I’m in good shape 😉

This Mama is LIVING.

I’m living my life in a way I never have before.  I’m not letting negativity bring me down, and it easily could have on this trip. I will not allow the bumps and bruises in life to take me down, because those bumps and bruises are guaranteed. We are going to get knocked down… I had to learn how to get back up quicker instead of wallowing in a sea of negativity all the time.

God puts those obstacles in our way to teach us something.

The quicker we acknowledge the lesson, the quicker we enjoy the journey.

I could have let our altitude sickness and change of plans “ruin” our trip by having a bad attitude about it.

I chose not to.  I chose to look at it our experience through the eyes of our children.

I found beauty in powdery white snow.

I found joy in bumpy parking lots that made them laugh hysterically… so we turned around and did it again.

I found hope that while my son didn’t want to go to ski school, that doesn’t mean he never will.  He just wanted to be a kid and play in the snow.

I found a greater love with my husband because there is no one else I would rather go through this life with.  He is an amazing father and husband who always remains calm, even when I get emotional.  He grounds me and without saying a word, assures me that everything is going to be fine.

While this road trip to Colorado wasn’t what we planned, I’ve decided it went exactly as it was meant to go.  We learned a lot about traveling with kids, even though we’ve done it before.  What we learned we’ll apply next time we take them skiing.

Life offers us blessings disguised as obstacles should we choose to see them that way.

 I’m so thankful for the memories I made with my boys on Spring Break in Winter Park, Colorado.  I’ll never get these days back, so I’m going to enjoy them while we are experiencing them and hold on tight to memories of a time where the only thing that really matters is that we are together.

Traveling with kids to Colorado and our experience with altitude sickness. With a positive attitude, a little humor, and tips for next time, we made the most of a family vacation filled with unexpected twists and turns.

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  1. WOW! You had quite the experience. I will definitely note these lessons and keep them in mind. One thing that I’ve been trying to reinforce is my attitude determines my life. When I go into things with negative attitudes and mindsets, I’m miserable. When I quit complaining and find the positivity, I can allow myself to be happy. In the end, I’m glad that God was able to give you wonderful insight and wisdom to share with others during this experience. You have a beautiful family by the way. God bless!

  2. I love this! I definitely think God has a way of forcing us to slow down right when we need to. It’s your attitude when you hit those road blocks that make the world of difference!!

    1. Drink lots of water!!! Hydrate today especially, including Gatorade. There is a vitamin you can take but I’m not sure what it is. At this point though I would just be drinking a lot of water and continue to do so when you get there. If you can slowly get there, maybe stop for a while on the way, that is good too. Next time we will spend the night in Denver to acclimate more gradually.

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