Flying internationally with a toddler.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

This looks deceptively serene. I should tell you it was on the first flight from Raleigh to NYC - by far the easiest leg of the journey - and he fell asleep five minutes before we touched down.
As you know, we just returned from 10 days in Germany. A few of you have asked how flying internationally with a toddler went, but for most, this is (clearly) unsolicited advice. Feel free to take it or leave it. It's what worked for us, but really, every child and every flight is different. Every age is different, too. From my experience, flying with a baby is much easier than flying with a tiny mobile person.

Anyway, here we go. I'll try to leave out the most obvious things.

You have not because you ask not. That's Biblical. It's also super practical when it comes to long flights with a lap child (i.e. a child under 2 who does not have a purchased seat). By not buying a ticket for him, we risked boarding a packed flight and having Liam sit on our laps for the duration. But before both Transatlantic flights, we asked the gate agent if there were any rows with an empty seat, and they gladly switched us so we had a row to ourselves. It was life changing (no exaggeration), and I don't know how we would've survived 9 hours with Liam on my getting-smaller-every-day lap.

Choose a red-eye flight. On our trip to Germany, we flew through the night. We put on Liam's jammies, gave him his pacifier and blanket, and as soon as the plane took off, he fell asleep for 6+ hours of the 8-hour flight. On our trip home, we flew during the day, and Liam slept for 30 minutes of the 9-hour flight. It made for a much longer, much more exhausting trip for all of us.

Bring way more food than you think you need. Thankfully, both our international flights had gluten-free meals that we had requested in advance, but they were small and bland. And because Liam didn't technically have a seat, he didn't have a meal. So we brought a backpack nearly full of snacks - applesauce pouches, granola bars, animal crackers, fruit snacks, string cheese, yogurt, plenty of drinks in sippy cups - and they really saved the day.

Bring new toys he's never seen. The dollar store is perfect for this.

Bring headphones that fit him. I wish we had.

Our travel day home, which included three flights instead of the planned two, was one of the worst travel days we have ever, ever experienced. (I can hardly talk about it without wanting to cry. It was terrible. Thankfully, we were awarded vouchers - but still.) On our final flight, Shawn and I swore we would never travel internationally with a toddler ever again. But really, the toddler wasn't the problem at all. He was a trooper - it was just a ridiculously long day where things just didn't go our way.

Looking back on it after a few good nights of sleep, we are so thankful we had the guts to make the trip happen: 20-month-old in tow, 14 weeks pregnant and all. And we're so utterly thankful for the time spent in Shawn's home with his parents in this season of our lives.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Having grandparents that live in another state, much less on the other side of the world, is a complicated thing for a one-year-old. It's hard for anyone to bond over FaceTime, and I would think especially hard for a toddler. Sure enough, though, I think all those FaceTime sessions actually worked. Liam embraced these two wholeheartedly and it was the sweetest thing in the world to watch.

Family photos in Rottweil.

Friday, July 25, 2014

We made it home to Raleigh! The travel day was horrific and it included a first for all of us - departing from Newark, flying for an hour and a half, then landing in Newark. There was a mechanical problem so we had to head back to where the mechanics were based, even though we were at least halfway to Raleigh. Somewhat scary and mostly just exhausting.

An older couple on our flight who didn't speak much English found me in the Newark airport and asked, "We not in Raleigh? Why we not in Raleigh?" Poor things. They were so confused. We all were.

Anyway, we're home. Jet lag hit hard tonight and I'm having trouble putting together coherent sentences, so I'm really in no position to blog - but I had to share a few of these pictures we took two nights ago in Rottweil, Germany. I'm so excited about having some of them printed and hung in our new house! Not only is it such a sweet season in our lives that we want to document with our toddler and one on the way, but these pictures are extra special because they were taken where Shawn grew up - and by Shawn's wonderful mom. Thank you, Mama! And thank you, Rottweil, for the most gorgeous of backdrops.

Germany, Days 3 & 4.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A day trip to Meersburg, which started with a gorgeous ferry ride through Lake Konstanz
Lunch on the water, looking at the coast of Switzerland
The best ice cream I think I've ever tasted, walking along the lakefront
Some alone time (thank you, Mama & Papa) to explore the quaint town of Meersburg
A trip to Shawn's hometown, Königsfeld, where we ran into several people who knew him - so fun!
Picking wild blueberries in the Black Forest

It's been a packed, wonderful couple of days. More to come, of course.
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