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Planes, Tuk-tuks, Song Taus, Vans, Shuttles, Mopeds, Taxies, Boats,and KIDS!

Travel with kids is challenging.  And it is endearing!  Seeing experiences through their eyes is the best!  Here is a summary of travelling to Thailand and Cambodia with my 6 year old and 2 year old. 

Preparation

For a few weeks before take-off, I prepared the girls.  We looked at pictures of the plane and I showed them what their seat would look like.  We practiced buckling up and talked about what take-off would feel like.  We gave them new bags and let them select special toys to pack.  I also prepped them for airport security. 

I stalked travel blogs and processed my fear with anyone who would listen.  Over and over.

I packed my Osprey bag o’ many pockets with everything I could think of:  healthy snacks, homeopathic remedies, changes of clothes, wet wipes, diapers, hand sanitizer, gum, ginger, peppermint oil, small trash bags, neck pillows, a few surprise toys, iPad loaded with WonderPets, trayblecloths, and every trick I could think of. 

Checking my bag one more time.  Can you feel my fear?

 

Security

Departure security was a breeze.  We had to go through once in Atlanta and again in Korea.  The girls were champs.  I was thankful I read ahead of time that kids no longer need to take their shoes off.  I saw some parents dealing with kid shoes when they didn’t have to.  When we left Cambodia, Cedar got a pat down.  She was furious but complied.  The worst security was returning to Atlanta.  After going through customs, we had to go through security again (!! after we landed, grrr).  My foggy brain wasn’t on top of it.  I didn’t realize Norah had a bottled water from the flight.  She got into a screaming match with a TSA agent when her water was taken.  It was ugly.  Meanwhile, I inadvertently took a set of silverware (knife included) from the plane which made it through without notice.  I guess everyone was distracted by my 6 year old screaming. 

When we flew from Bangkok to Phnom Penh, Scott flew back to the US.  I failed to prepare Norah for this separation which happened rather quickly.  So going through passport control and security in Thailand?  Norah was crying and yelling, “I want my daddy.  Don’t take me from my daddy.  Daddy!!  Daddy!!  I don’t want to go with YOU!”  I didn’t think I would make it through with my apparently abducted child.  I was also afraid she was going to bolt when we had to walk through the metal detectors separately. 

The Flights

Except for the flight-we-will-not-speak-of, the flights were smooth.  I wasn’t able to sleep or relax and had to be creative to stay one step ahead of the girls, but I was happy.  The first flight I ever took my children on was 15 hours!  Where is my medal? 

  • I used a babyleg to cover Cedar’s buckle during take-off so she would be less inclined to unbuckle.
  • I removed the girls shoes right away to minimize accidental kicks to the seat in front of us.
  • I asked the flight attendant to disable the “call” button on Cedar’s controls.
  • I filled a prescription of Valium for my sweet husband.
  • I packed kid-friendly headphones for the girls and Scott packed a splitter so they could watch the same screen.

We also packed LIGHT.  No stroller or carseats.  Minimal luggage.  Smallish soft-structured carry-on bags.  I know many parents have to travel with gear.  I don’t think I would have managed that gracefully.   

Korean Air was amazing.  There was always a flight attendant walking around with someone’s baby or toddler.  They tried so hard to convince Cedar to go with them.  She wasn’t falling for it.  They kept the kids on a sugar-high which I wasn’t thrilled about.  Every time they saw a child, they offered candy/brownie/cookie.  An example of the kid’s meal:  corndog, spaghetti, potato chips, yogurt, juice, pudding, candy bar, brownie, bread/butter/jam, and tiny packaged snacks I didn’t recognize.  Even the breakfast meals looked like that.  It was astounding. 

Other brownie points for Korean Air: 

  • They were very much on “crying child patrol.”  If a child was fussy, they must be soothed at all costs.  Which meant, even if the seatbelt sign was on, I was encouraged to hold Cedar.  Children were allowed to break any rule. 
  • The toys they gave the girls were perfect.  Magnadoodles, aquadoodles, colored pencils, crayons, stickers, stencils, coloring books. 
  • There were video games, kids music, good movie choices, cartoons, and read-aloud books. 
  • Soft blanket, pillow, bottled water, slippers, toothbrush/paste, wet wipes, headphones in every seat.
  • Lots and lots of food and drink.

At one point, I thought “Wow, this is started to get really challenging.  We must be almost there.”  That is when I took this picture.  Yep.  Only half-way. 

The final return flight was the best.  Norah sat with my mom on a different row.  Cedar slept 10 of the 14 hours!  Of course, much of that was ON me which meant I didn’t get to move much. 

Jetlag

The time difference was 12 hours.  When we arrived in Thailand, jetlag only affected Cedar.  The first night, she stayed awake crying, “It NOT nighttime.  It NOT.”  In a bleary daze, I decided to give her half a melatonin that I’d brought for us.  She was asleep in 15 minutes.  So I used the melatonin for the first few nights. 

Coming home, the jetlag hit both the girls.  And for almost a week, they woke between midnight-3am asking for breakfast.  Ah well.  I just got up with them, poured cereal, and put a movie on.

They loved every type of transportation we tried.  I worried we would never get them buckled in carseats again! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. one of the strangest things I saw:  A woman with a newborn in a bucket-style carseat.  The baby was strapped in.  But the woman was carrying the carseat while riding on a moto.  The carseat was sort of dangling from the side.  A man was driving and a toddler was seated between them.  I’m not sure why she bothered with the carseat. 

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Before the good, the worst.

I’m going to tell you how amazing and better-than-expected flying with my kids was. 

But first.

I need to describe the one flight on which it all fell apart.  The flight on which I was that passenger.   The flight on which everyone saw my breasts.

You read that correctly.

It was the one flight I wasn’t concerned about.  We were leaving Cambodia at midnight on a five hour flight to Korea.  I felt confident the children would sleep.  They were already drifting off during the tuk tuk ride to the airport.  

The seats were three on each side with one aisle down the middle.  Norah was at the window, I had the aisle seat, and Cedar was between us.  Scott had already returned to the US.  My parents were on the flight but seated in a different section. 

Take-off was fine.  The girls drifted to sleep as expected.  I watched “The Help” and had a glass of wine.  A few hours before we were scheduled to land, the lovely folks at Korean Air thought we needed meals.  The girls were curled up in their seats.  Never one to waste food and wanting to be prepared in case the girls woke, I took the food.  It was a bad move.   

Picture it:  three trays down.  loaded with food and beverage.  no wiggle room.

And Cedar is startled awake suddenly screams like her arms are being ripped off.

Good morning, everyone.  Let me introduce myself and my precious toddler.

Cedar is screaming and thrashing and twisting.  She’s slippery when she arches her back and straightens her arms.  Now, I have a emergency preparedness plan for just such an event.  I read it on a travel blog.  Take the child to the bathroom and lock yourself in until the child calms. 

Ok, step one.  Somehow get out from under the food trays.  I stack my tray on top of Norah’s (who is mercifully still sleeping).  I grab Cedar and stand up on my seat.  This perch reassures the other passengers that the child is not being tortured.  I want to make sure everyone can see us clearly.  We stumble into the aisle only to realize we are blocked by the first class curtain on one end and the food cart on the other.  A nervous flight attendant runs to me and asks me to “just wait, miss, until the aisle is open.”  Um, ok.

We wait.  And Cedar continues to scream.  It doesn’t let up.  At all.  I try everything.  Yes, even the rescue remedy.  So I do the one thing I said I wouldn’t do:  I whipped out the boob.  No modesty.  Whipped out.  A phrase I hate and claim breastfeeding moms don’t really do.  I did that.  And you know what?  Even that didn’t work.

Finally, the aisle cleared and I carried/lugged/dragged my thrashing child (trying to keep passengers from getting kicked in the head) to the bathrooms.  Which, don’t you know it, were all occupied.  While we waited, sweet flight attendants showered Cedar with chocolate and candy.  Under normal circumstances, she would have been in heaven.  In her screaming banshee state, it made the crying worse. 

Once in the bathroom, eventual calm descended.  She nursed for a little while with those awful hiccup noises.  I began to pep talk her for the walk back to our seat.  She seemed ready.  I let her open the door.  And we made it three steps before the crying began and we bee-lined back to the bathroom. 

Repeat.

This time, I decided to carry my 29 month old child while breastfeeding down the narrow aisle crowded with recently fed passengers waiting for the bathroom. 

“Why hello there!  Have you seen my breast yet?”  “Did you get a good look at my crying toddler?”  “Yep, that’s my boob there.”  “If I can just squeeze by you?”  “Oops, sorry, didn’t mean to knock you in the head with that.” 

We crawled over and into our seats (the food was still there).  I was terrified to stop nursing the child.  Finally, the uneaten food was removed and we began our descent.  And guess what?  

Norah woke up screaming.  Her ears hurt.  And that made Cedar start crying again.  BOTH.  OF.  THEM.  CRYING.

I was prepared for ears.  But on the previous three (!) flights, there had been no ear complaints so I had to dig for the homeopathic ear tablets and gum.  Norah loves medicine and responds well to placebo.  I told her it was powerful medicine and would work immediately.  She went to sleep within 10 minutes.

And then Cedar went to sleep. 

And because we were flying blessed Korean Air, they did not make me (1) buckle my sleeping children for landing or, (2) cover my boob.  The flight attendant even brought me a hot tea.

In Korea, we headed straight to a playground where (still shaking) I prepared myself mentally to board a 14 hour flight.  I seriously considered calling my friend, Kimmie, who lives in Korea to ask if we could move in with her.

Next up:  how awesome flying with children is!