I always say that to get from our apartment in Chapel Hill to my mom’s or my in-laws’ home in Manila will take us a total travel time of 33+ hours. It involves 3 plane rides that are broken down as follows: a 1.5 hour trip into New York, a 13-hour flight to Tokyo Japan, and another 3-4 hour plane that will finally take you into Manila. Of course there are two other car trips, 4 airports, 2 immigration checks and 2 security checks to maneuver through as well and depending on how well (or how badly those go), the 33 hours can stretch on. God forbid.
In any case, I tried to prepare myself for this trip as it would be the first transcontinental flight Jamie would take, and the first one with Sam in her own seat. Even though we’ve traveled before using various means of transportation, it is always a different experience on the plane. My husband was lucky; he flew a few days after us, and so instead my mom and brother helped me ship the girls home for the holidays. But oh, to get here…! What an adventure!
The night prior to leaving is always filled with last-minute checks and packing, and so I tried to get in as much sleep as possible a few nights before the big day. As luck would have it, Jamie chose that week to be fussy and would not let me sleep for more than 2 or 3 hours a night. I also had an event that was set to run two days after I had landed, and so the last-minute preparations were made days before I left. All these activities cut my sleep-time down to 45 minutes the night before I had to get the girls up and out to the airport. The first leg was fairly easy as it was the shortest, and because Sam was also quite excited about riding the plane. That and, I had coffee in my system to keep me from konking out.
The 13-hour flight was of course the hardest. Sam fought sleep for most of the way and by the 2nd hour on the flight she was bouncing up and down on her seat, bored out of her wits. She repeatedly asked, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” or “Has the plane landed yet mom?” approximately every 5 minutes. She slept maybe 2.5 hours of it all, but other than that she was looking for something to do. I think I let her play with the iPad for a total of 6 hours on and off, just to keep her from kicking the person in front of her (and to keep my sanity). She was though, in fairness, fairly well-behaved and did what I told her to; it’s just that she had a lot of energy in a confined space. I had packed a bag full of toys and games for her to play, but then the novelty of everything in that bag wore off after about two hours.
Jamie had the hardest time of all. I realize now that she is not a very happy traveler, and likes the comfort of her own home and her own bed. She will cry in her carseat on 20-minute trips around town, and has trouble falling asleep in hotel rooms and new environments. I had noticed that with our first trip to the beach, and then again when we flew to Washington D.C.. Naturally, I was trying to get her to fall asleep on the plane which had a lot of ambient noise and lights, and my normally easy-to-sleep baby could not stay asleep. She also did not have any space she could call her own; and so I can imagine how tiring that must have been for her body to be on someone else’s lap or body the whole time. She wanted me to stand a lot, which I could not do as often, thus, the constant crying and wailing. My brother and my mom would try to relieve me from carrying her, except Jamie would not have it and would scream even louder. When she was able to sleep, I could not sustain one specific position for long periods of time and so sometimes when I’d shift her she’d wake up and be mad about it too.
I once had a friend say that when you travel with an infant on the plane, be sure to bring ear plugs that you can hand out to neighboring passengers. It helps them be more sympathetic with you and in a way, breaks the ice and limits the angry stares. With all the things that we packed, I of course, once again, forgot the earplugs.
Then there were of course the necessary potty breaks (or else the accidents that I could not deal with! So it was majorly stressful!), in the most unsanitary bathrooms in the world! I tell you, I hate airplane bathrooms! They are a necessary evil. Thankfully Sam was fairly cooperative and did not need to go as often as I’d expected (I also refrained from giving her too much liquid and just gave her as necessary. Then I focused on rehydrating her after we’d landed).
Naturally, because the girls did not really “sleep” on the long haul over, I was not able to sleep either and was still counting on my 45-minute shut-eye time from the night before. It was getting to be increasingly difficult though! Some moms (and doctors) often say that a teaspoon of Benadryl will go a long long way for both mom and child, but a part of me just can’t bring myself to drug my children unless they absolutely need it. That plus, the last time that we flew with Sam and she did need the Benadryl, it took an opposite effect. So that was not something I could afford to risk, not with both Jamie and Sam in hand!
Somehow we all collapsed on the 4-hour plane ride from Tokyo into Manila, which helped re-charge me a little to get by the next few nights of battling with the jet lag. But still. Traveling that long? I have to tell you, it requires patience, endurance, and wit. No amount of planning can prepare you for what’s in store I think, because it will depend on the disposition of the kids and how they react to their surroundings. It is physically tiring no doubt, but more than that also mentally and emotionally draining. Somewhat like a marathon, or so I’m told! 😉
The other half of the challenge is getting everyone back in one piece. I am still so busy recovering from this leg (not to mention our little scare the other day which has set my nerves back some…), that I have not yet begun to think about it. I know for sure though, that once we get back, traveling the 33 hours is not something I want to do again within the next 5 or 6 months!
What are your experiences and tips for long hauls such as these? Would love to hear them! And as my friend Christina says, we shouldn’t wish each other a “safe” flight, but a “sane” one! 🙂