12/23/2011 09:23 am ET Updated Feb 21, 2012

Holiday Travel With (Lots Of) Kids

Kerry Lyons has five very young children (the youngest are triplets) and a full-time out-of-the-house job, and a remarkably calm view of life given the circumstances. Earlier this year she took the whole brood to Ireland, and promised to write about how it went when she got back. It's taken her a little while (see "five children" above) but, in time to reassure those of you who are about to get on airplanes for holiday travel, is her report. -- Lisa Belkin, Lisa-Belkin's-To-Be-Named-By-You Blog

We did it. We made it to Ireland and back with five kids six and under and lived to tell the tale. We survived the plane rides, jet lag, unpredictable weather, tiny hotel rooms and each other. We walked for miles, drove many more and approached sight seeing like a team sport - with a game plan.

The game plan is critical to our success, whether we are playing at home or away. When we have a good game plan and the whole Lyons Den team is onboard, we always have a winning day; the day we celebrated our daughter Ciara's fifth birthday in Dublin is a great example. Our day started with a trip to the park in St. Stephen's Green where we fed the ducks and were repeat visitors to a most spectacular playground. From there, we hopped into a cab (not nearly as simple as it sounds when you're a family of seven in a foreign land but, more on that later!) and went to the Dublin Zoo. If you ever visit Dublin, with or without your children, you really should see the Zoo. It's set in glorious Phoenix Park and designed to provide you with an up close and personal experience with the wildlife. On this particular day, we were treated to an elephant taking a bath, complete with a showering rinse from her massive trunk and some hysterical toddler commentary to the effect of "where her towel at?" and "do mama elephants put pjs on?" Post-zoo, we met family and friends at a kid-friendly spot for an early dinner and birthday cake. This was a great day... and, I have to imagine, a stellar way to turn five!

On the other end of the spectrum were the days the game plan was poorly defined, kept changing or lacked team consensus. One such example would be the dreary, drizzly day we set out from Kinsale with high hopes of getting to Kenmare, the gateway to the Ring of Kerry, and back again -- on narrow, winding roads where, in case you've forgotten, they drive on the other side of the street. Our proposed plan was approximately akin to driving from New York to Boston and back -- on side streets with five whining, antsy, jet-lagged kids jammed into the too-small back seat. Needless to say, this was not one of our best days.

For starters, the whole appeal of the adventure was to take in the stunning landscape, which I'm told includes charming villages, rolling green mountains and dramatic sea views. Unfortunately, the weather was so bad and the visibility so poor that all I really saw was my poor husband's white knuckles as he gripped the steering wheel and occasionally swore under his breath. Though we tried to adapt the game plan when we realized we'd only be seeing Kenmare in our dreams, the picturesque towns of Skibbereen and Clonakilty completely lacked toddler appeal. The kids put it best when we returned to Kinsale hungry, wet, and tired after a five hour ride to nowhere: "This day was a DISASTER Mom!" And I have to admit, it was.

And it wasn't the only one. The trip overall was a lot harder than I expected. I'm a get up and go kind of a gal and thankfully, I married an amazing man who is always up for adventure. We make a great team and don't like to admit defeat but there were moments in Ireland that we looked at each other with sheer exhaustion and wondered how exactly we ended up in a cramped hotel 3,000 miles away from home with five screaming kids.

There were moments that I screamed like a banshee in an effort to get them to stop. Of note, this approach didn't work. There were moments that we stood in the rain, hoping for one of those mini-van cabs that could squeeze us all in while the triplets cried, "I'm wet!" "It's raining on me!" I WANNA GO HOME!!!!" There were moments when our poor five year old's legs just quit and then the rest of her melted down and followed. There were embarrassing moments when our six year old helped himself to euros from wishing wells in an effort to supplement his souvenir fund. None of these were proud moments. However, I'm quite certain they won't be the moments we remember.

Fortunately, as parents of such relatively young tots, we have the ability to shape their memories with the stories and pictures we share. And fortunately, there are no pictures of this mom screaming like a psychopath. Rather, our pictures include happy smiling faces enjoying all that Ireland has to offer... the doors of Dublin, that playground in St. Stephen's Green, the aquarium and seaside walk in Bray, Blarney Castle and it's enchanted grounds, the Rock of Cashel on a windswept mountainside, the majestic Powerscourt with it's manicured gardens, and the beautiful, mystical Glendalough in County Wicklow, described on it's tourism site as "a remarkable place that will still your mind, inspire your heart and fill your soul. "

For me, that quote pretty much sums up our trip to Ireland. As you may know, one of our primary reasons for going was to honor the memory of my brother-in-law Conor, who lost a brief but violent battle with lung cancer last year, vividly reminding us all that life is too short. It may have been much more of a trip than a vacation but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I will look back at the pictures, at the smiling faces and stunning scenery and be forever grateful for the memories.