The simple answer is: you don’t. and you shouldn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my children. Anyone who knows me knows that the #dadlife is one of my favorite things about my entire life in general. We have two beautiful and wonderful daughters Estella and Eva, and I’m so glad I have the incredible privilege to be their dad. And to my future child, know that I love you and cherish you already.
But just because all of those things are true does not make children great companions on a 14 hour non-stop flight over the Pacific ocean and back (plus 4 more hours each way and 4-6 hour layovers in addition).
Let’s walk through the logistics.
Our youngest daughter was going to be 9 months old on this trip (first red flag). One member of our family thought it would be just fine for that child to be on the plane with us, I won’t mention who but her name is used in pop culture typically in the phrase: “Bye _____”. We also were going with Felicia’s parents who could help out on the trip and give us a little bit of a break if needed. Our oldest daughter is 3 years old and she travels pretty well, so we can really focus on the 9 month old during our trip anyways so it should work out (operating word: should). Our same 9 month old who is crawling everywhere at this time (red flag #2).
At this same time our youngest was in the phase of only liking warm bottles (red flag #3). For some reason, we never had any insulated water bottles in our household, so let me just say this; if you need warm water and you’re going on a trip, invest in some insulated water bottles. Big mistake for us, makes me feel like a rookie parent all over again.
Red flag #4 would simply be we are sharing a small, enclosed metal tube flying over an ocean for 14 hours with a child that defies everything that we did with our first one and is the most independent being I have ever met (and all the parents of multiple children wave that hanky and shout “Amen!”).
Our flight plan consisted of this: Minneapolis to LA, layover, LA to Sydney (overnight), then on the way back – Sydney to LA (morning flight), layover, LA to Minneapolis.
Minneapolis to LA is 4 hours in the air, and Minneapolis is a pretty decent airport to wait at, so our journey started pretty decent. It has been a long time since I had been to LAX, and LAX in my opinion is a TERRIBLE airport to wait at. It takes forever to get to any sort of options for food (incredibly long hallways underground that have no air conditioning during the summer, in other words, an introduction to the place where Satan makes his home) and there is nothing kid friendly about the airport at all. Considering we were there for 6 hours from about 6 pm – Midnight (8 pm-2 am Minnesota time) was not ideal either because it is not easy for anyone to fall asleep at an airport, and our kids didn’t fall asleep until about 10:30 pm (12:30 am Minnesota). So with this long day and our kids finally crashing way past their normal bedtimes, you would think that at least they would get a full night’s sleep on the plane, right?
(the most peaceful it was during our traveling was right at the beginning)
Let me just preface this part with a piece of the Bible – Matthew 7:2 – “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
The plane ride to Sydney was the warm up. Little did we know that. But as we struggled along to entertain a 9 month old after her maybe 5 hours or so of sleep, confined in our row of three with 3 people plus the baby, we thought the going was tough. There is literally only so much you can do with about 8 feet of space and 4 people at night in an airplane. I remember (which is a miracle because most of these moments are quite blurry from the hysteria) at one point we laid our child on the floor to sleep and covered her up so that:
1. she would actually sleep since she sleeps best on flat surfaces…like nearly all human beings and
2. so that no stewardess or passenger could really even see her on the floor so we could escape much judgement for leaving our child be on the floor of an airplane. You gotta do what you gotta do.
The pros, I got to complete one in flight movie. Eddie the Eagle. And I loved it. One of the greatest underdog stories and inspirational films I have ever watched.
The cons, it’s pretty mentally stressful to care for a energetic 9 month old on a plane for 14 hours in a space as large as a refrigerator box. I understand that there are aisles, but in the middle of the night when everyone else is trying to sleep would you rather be the good guy or the bad guy on the plane?
After making it through the flight, it was morning in Australia, and in order to get adjusted to our time difference (+17 hours) we stayed up and started our vacation.
Sydney is an incredibly beautiful city with much to do and see so we were very excited to start our journey. We went to the harbor by the world famous opera house and harbor bridge, walked through the botanic gardens, different neighborhoods including “The Rocks”, Darling Harbor, the Sydney Tower Eye, Madam Tussauds/Sea Life/Wild Life Zoo and so much more. We took a tour out to the rainforest and the Blue Mountains and got to go to a zoo to pet koala’s and kangaroo’s. We toured all around Sydney and the outer areas of Sydney as well as going to the world famous Bondi beach as well as the olympic village from the 2000 Summer Olympics. We also had an incredible time at the Hillsong Conference and it really was a great trip. There are so many fun things to do with the family in Sydney and the surrounding areas, and we really had the most incredible time with our family.
So let me just say this, the vacation was extremely fun and enjoyable. The traveling part however…
Let’s jump to the flight home.
(Child and non-germaphobe #2)
We departed Sydney early in the morning, which meant an earlier morning for all of us to arrive at the airport and such on time. The other thing that happens with a flight in the morning is that your kids do not want to sleep, since that’s what they’ve been doing all night…so here comes the craziness. We tried so hard to get our kids to nap, we really did. Bribes, sleep aids, comfort, hostage style negotiations. Our 3 year old was great, our 9 month old didn’t understand the concept of negotiation. We had slightly more leg room this time as we sat in the front of the back section of the plane right behind the restrooms and the galley, but it didn’t make much of a difference. This time we had 2 seats in a row of 3 (with another passenger in the window seat, poor guy), and then the 3 middle seats as well. We walked, we played, we did everything our minds could think of, but our youngest did not want any part of it. She did not want to play, or be held, or nap, or really anything, she just wanted to be done flying. As did we all. On our 14 hour plane ride home, our child napped less than she screamed.
Nap: 1 1/2 hours
Screaming: 3+ hours total (a good portion of that time was continual, and since the entire flight is a blur it very well could have been more)
Yep. That was our kid…we were that family. So I humbly apologize if you were on this Delta flight back to LA from Sydney early July of 2016.
If you were the guy next to us, the gracious, patient man who pretended we did not really exist and watched his movies in peace, thank you for not lashing out at us or our child.
Many people ask us if people gave us dirty looks or the stink eye on the flight and our honest answer is that we don’t know, because we did not look behind us. Our eyes were focused on our crazy child and our minds were focused on surviving the flight without doing something crazy ourselves.
The flight attendants were gracious and accommodating, especially with the whole warm bottle issue, but our child just literally did not like anything on that 14 hour flight home. At one point I remember sitting on the floor blocking the middle aisle way with a bag on the other side of the aisle smushed and scrunched simply to let Eva crawl in what little space she could and hopefully find a small amount of enjoyment in the time we had. We had a bassinet that hooked onto the wall that for any other kid might have worked incredibly well, but it was more of a scream cage for Eva.
(screamed herself to her tiny nap)
You sing, you giggle, you laugh, you make funny voices, you pick her up, you put her down, you feed her, you give her anything she asks for, you pick her up again, you bounce, you dance, you walk, you put her down again, you try and make her laugh, you cover her with her blanket so that it muffles the screaming, you dream of what being at home was like, you vow never to go on vacation again, you cry tears in your soul and ask God “When will this be over?”. Wash, rinse, repeat, right?
Have you ever been to the grocery store and one of your children threw the “grocery store tantrum” and you do everything you can but this is the time that there’s no stopping the tantrum train? It was like that, but for the better part of half a day…with nowhere to go…10,000 ft in the air…surrounded by strangers. It was mostly a blur. My mind was fried after that flight and it was probably one of the hardest things I have done in my life. I tell people I’m putting it on my resume´and they think I’m joking, but I’m not. Dead serious.
Accomplishments: Bachelor’s Degree, Grad School, Took a 9 month old on Trans-Pacific roundtrip flights from Minneapolis to Sydney Australia.”
See? Trans-Pacific makes it sound legit.
I love my kids. One of them travels extremely well. One of them does not. She marches to the beat of her own drum, and she is as loud as one too.
So how do you take children 3 and under to Sydney, Australia?
You don’t, unless you’re crazy. Like we are.
Here’s to the big roadtrip we have planned for July with a 4 year old, 1 1/2 year old, and 4 month old.