Without children, airline flights can be somewhat restful. You sit and watch a movie, or read a book. It can be tedious if it’s a long flight, but you are free to pass the time in pretty much any way you would like. With children, not so much. The flight itself becomes a long contest, a battle of wills, an exercise in creativity. Sometimes flights with children go well, and sometimes they don’t. The worst flight we ever had with our children was a flight from Athens to Paris when our oldest daughter was nine months old and teething. She was inconsolable and screamed pretty much the entire three hours. We could feel the hostility from everyone on that flight, except for an Argentinian couple sitting in front of us. The air was palpable with it.
Anyway, the flight to Hong Kong was not that bad, but it was a little bit of an adventure. We lived near NYC at the time, so we took a straight shot from JFK to Hong Kong, roughly 16 hours of flight time. We’ve found that flying with children is a much better experience if you prepare them, and have a plan in mind. And a back-up plan. We had two children at the time, a three year old and 18 month old. Luckily for us and traveling, our 18 month old loved watching movies. We prepped our children by telling them we would get to watch two movies, have dinner, and then it would be time to go to sleep. We would be on the plane almost all night. When they woke up, we could have breakfast, and watch another movie, or maybe two. At the time, the length of a movie was a measure of time our 3 year old could understand. We brought a portable dvd player, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and several Kai-lan movies.
Everything went very smoothly for most of the flight. Our 3 year old even tried beef for dinner, and didn’t complain about eating something new and somewhat exotic for her small taste buds. She even laid down and went to sleep when we told her it was time. (This in itself is a miracle. She hates going to sleep.) We didn’t even need to use our back-up plan. (It was benadryl, just in case you were wondering.) Indeed, it was almost magical for me as a mom that both girls were so well behaved. I started to breathe a sigh of relief as we came close to our destination.
One of the rules we have while traveling is that our children must use the bathroom before the plane starts descending. So accordingly, I took our three year old right before they announced the plane’s descent into Hong Kong. As the plane started its final approach, our three year old started to say she needed the bathroom. I knew she had just been, and probably didn’t actually need to use the bathroom. She was clearly uncomfortable, and started yelling that she needed to use the bathroom. At this point, we were really very close to landing. I told her to hang on. I would take her to the bathroom as soon as the plane landed and stopped moving. Her screaming grew louder and louder as the plane descended lower and lower. Then, just at the very moment the plane’s wheels touched the ground, she threw up.
She threw up, for the first time in her life, all over herself and her seat the minute we reached Hong Kong. Knowing that cleaning her up would take some time, and wanting to quickly get her cleaned up so she would be comfortable and stop screaming, I stripped her clothes off of her, threw one of the airline blankets around her, and started wiping up the vomit with baby wipes. Baby wipes are lifesavers in these kind of situations. I might still carry them around with me even after all my children are potty trained. As soon as the plane stopped taxiing, my husband ran to get our carry on luggage. One of our other international traveling rules is that we only take carry on. In this situation, it was extremely helpful because we had a change of clothes at our immediate disposal. Meanwhile the plane had emptied of passengers, except for us. The flight attendants started to insist that we leave as well. It was a little bit harrowing, trying to get her cleaned up enough to put on clothes and get off the plane with several flight attendants ordering us to move. In what was probably record time we got her changed, gathered our belongings, and deplaned. At the first bathroom we saw I rinsed out her hair, and brushed her teeth. She felt much better after she had thrown up and been cleaned up. She sang a happy song as we moved through customs, excited to be in a new place.
Even though the beginning of our trip was a little bit explosive with the wrong kind of excitement, we really did have a great trip in Hong Kong. Stay tuned for more stories of our Hong Kong adventures.