Sunday, May 16, 2010

Flying overseas with 2 kids and no husband

I've done several cross-Atlantic flights with a baby or toddler. But this summer, I had to bring both Zari and Dio to Nice, France by myself. (Eric flew over a week earlier to lead an immersion trip for one of his university courses.) We found tickets with only one layover in JFK. Still, flying solo with two young children gave me some trepidation.

Yesterday was the big day. We arrived on time at the airport and had to wait an hour for the agent to issue the infant ticket--because a "free" infant still costs quite a bit of money when you fly internationally. Two years ago, Zari's "free" ticket cost $550. Dio's cost $125. I have no explanation for the wide variation in price, except that we flew on different airlines each time.

When we arrived at the gate, our flight was delayed an hour, giving me only 20 minutes to make my connection in JFK. There were no other flights to Nice on any airline that day. I experienced a rising sense of panic.

While we waited, the kids played on the moving sidewalks and crawled around the waiting area, giggling. I fed them snack after snack to keep them content. An hour later, we finally boarded--only to get sent off the plane a minute later due to further unexplained delays. Another half-hour and we were on our way.

My flight to Nice was scheduled to leave at 5:40 pm. We arrived at 5:45 pm. I strapped Dio into the Ergo, put Zari in the stroller, and ran. Dio wasn't too happy about that. We made the connection seconds before the final gate closure. Relief.

Now the long flight began. Zari started saying "I don't want to go to France. I want to go back home" ad nauseum about 15 minutes into the flight. Dio just wanted to crawl around, but the flight attendant wouldn't let him sit or crawl in the aisle, even if I was holding onto him, "because it is so dangerous and he could slide all the way to the back of the aircraft." (In the event of the plane suddenly tumbling out of the sky, I guess, in which case I don't think we'd survive the fall anyway.) And every time I removed Dio from the aisle--so basically every few minutes--he screamed at the top of his lungs in protest.

The time passed slowly. We built a fort out of airplane blankets and hid underneath it. We looked out the window at the clouds and ocean. We ate more snacks. We put on glow-in-the-dark bracelets and played with silly putty. We watched movies. We went to the bathroom multiple times. And of course both kids had to come with me. Have you ever tried to go to the bathroom in an airplane with 2 kids? Oh, and put on thigh-high compressioin hose at the same time? I can attest that it is possible, but you have to contort yourself into some very strange positions.

Several hours after their bedtime, both kids finally fell asleep. I was pinned to my seat the rest of the flight, holding Dio.

I was very happy to arrive on schedule and to see Eric waiting for us. I had already been by myself all last week while he was in France, and the overseas flight just about did me in.

Still, I'm not complaining too much, because spending the next 7 weeks in France as a family makes it all worthwhile. I'm not sure if I have any sage advice for parents anticipating international travel. I am sure some people on the airplane did not appreciate hearing Dio's shrieks or Zari's whining or being kicked in the back of their seats. But we survived.


  1. Rixa, you are a saint. That is all.

  2. You are amazing! Excellent work! i have friends that bring a doll and a new box of bandaids and let the kids play "doctor" on long flights. G

  3. You rock! Did your luggage make the connection? Relax and enjoy now. :)

  4. I always remind myself whenever I am in a public situation like that, of the fact that 99% of the "public" that I think I'm bothering I will never see again. Makes everything more bearable. Congrats on surviving the flights!

  5. I have done this three times with a toddler and baby by myself. I always feel like we're some kind of clown show, all piling into the bathroom together, me trying to pee, balancing a baby on one knee, shrieking at my 2 year old not to touch anything and NOT TO OPEN THE DOOR OH MY GOD!... lol.

    Portable DVD player. It's the only time
    my toddler watches movies, and it keeps him glued. HIghly recomend it if you have to do it again. As for my daugther, lots and lots of nursing. Both kids love stickers, drawing, and food.

    Glad you survived!

  6. I recently did a cross-country flight alone with a baby and will tell you what a very VERY kind woman told me as she was leaving the plane: "She was so good! You don't think she was good, but she was SO GOOD! And it was because you were trying so hard! We could all tell how hard you were trying."

    I mean, nobody likes a shrieking baby, right? I don't. But people are so much more sympathetic and grateful when they see how hard you're trying to keep your kids and fellow passengers happy.

    Well done! Enjoy your time in France!

  7. You know how I LOVE all the real life stuff you share with us! This story was as real as it gets. None of the 'perfect receipe' or magic combination, just a hard working, considerate, loving mother!

    Enjoy France!

  8. This was a super-mom post! My anxiety rose just reading it, especially the part about cramming into the tiny bathroom. Hearing of your time in Nice (I loooove Nice, but who doesn't?!) is going to be very fun indeed!

  9. Oh I would give anything to get to go on a trip like that... with or without kids. It has been a decade or more since I traveled abroad and I don't know that I'll ever get to go again. So no pity here, just lots of jealousy!

  10. Phew, I'm tired even reading this. I'm so glad you made it okay, and hope you know that if you'd had to do an overnight in NYC that we would have happily come and taken care of you. :)


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