Monday, June 22, 2009

The Perils of Preschooler Travel

We're back home in Brisbane. Once again, we're suffering the consequences of transoceanic flying. Jet lag is as rampant in our household as flies in the summer. I'm writing at 3 am because Will was wide awake at 2, just as he was the night before. He's watching 'Ratatouille' and asking why it's still dark outside. V returns to work later today, so I'm trying to let her sleep. I'm staying at home with Will because he's not allowed to go to daycare for a week, simply because he's been to the U.S.

Our trip back to Australia started this past Thursday with a four hour drive from Springfield, IL (where we had been visiting some friends) to Chicago's O'Hare airport. After checking our suitcases, V and Will went through security while I returned the rental car. I didn't return for over an hour because it took nearly 40 minutes in rush hour traffic to find a gas station to refill the tank. We then boarded our plane for Los Angeles. Things went pretty well on that flight, until the final hour when Will decided to empty his bladder on my lap (via a leaky diaper) while we were playing a game on my iPhone. V was able to change him in the plane's toilet (how she does that is still a mystery to me), but I had to wait until we could pick up our suitcases from baggage claim for my own change.

We then hauled our bags to the Bradley International terminal to check in for our Qantas flight. Extremely lucky for us, our tickets were upgraded to Premium Economy and we got to sit together. Our 11:30 pm flight was delayed 45 minutes, however, so by the time we boarded Will was acting like a drunk pirate. In fact, he fell asleep while the plane was still taxing. V and I got to enjoy a wonderful dinner (complete with a white tablecloth) and movie while Will continued to doze. It was about five hours into the flight, after all the other passengers had fallen asleep, that Will woke up screaming at the top of his lungs. He never really opened his eyes much, but he was completely unhappy with his seat. Because the fancy seats in Premium Economy don't have moveable armrests, I couldn't have him lie across my lap. He soon was bellowing at maximum volume, and we could do nothing to soothe him. I picked him up and took him to the lavatory. There I rocked him for about 15 minutes until he stopped crying and coughing (all those tears got him very congested). I was a little worried that a flight attendant would hear all the coughing and report us to the health officials when we landed. Alas, Will did finally fall asleep. I carried him back to the seat where he slept a few more hours. The rest of the flight went pretty well, even after he woke up again with five hours to go.

In Sydney we faced the same bedlam that I experienced 2 1/2 years ago when I came over for my job interview. Since then I have always flown directly to Brisbane to avoid the connection, but we couldn't do that this time. Sydney is the major entry point for Australia, and it appears that most of the international flights arrive there within the same hour each morning. With four or five 747s emptying their bellies at the same time, the immigration and customs lines quickly look like the freeways of LA at rush hour. Will soon became bored and we had to keep him from climbing between people's legs and opening their suitcases. The worst part about flying into Sydney, however, is the connection to the domestic flight. Qantas makes you take all your bags to the other side of the international terminal where there was a one-hour wait to drop them off (even though they had been tagged back in Los Angeles). While we waited, Will sat perched on top of two suitcases on a trolley, playing with my iPhone. As we neared the front of line, the staff suddenly called our flight (we were getting close to missing it by this point, even though I scheduled a nearly 3-hour layover). As we pushed our trolleys into the "express" lane, Will rolled off the trolley and hit his head on the floor. He was OK, but his crying alarmed the Qantas staff, who quickly put us at the front of the line. Gee, if I had known that a little head banging would have sped things up, I might have tried that trick earlier!

After finally taking a shuttle to the domestic terminal, we almost immediately boarded our flight to Brisbane. Will slept the entire flight, but was delighted when we pulled into our gate in Brissy because he knew we were home. He was smiling nearly the entire 40-min taxi ride to Graceville. When I unlocked the front door, he ran to his toys and immediately started putting together his train tracks. V and I hauled our five suitcases up the steps and then crashed on the sofa.

And they lived happily ever after.

5 comments:

Juli Ryan said...

Standing in line for customs and immigration (don't even mention US security) reaffirmed my decision NOT to go to Disneyland. Our child does not enjoy waiting patiently in line. And on the return down under (from FL) our child's jet lag was a surprise. Silly me, I thought it would be easier travelling with the sun! No, it took us like a week of (self-imposed) quarantine to get back on track. Great post.

Mooselet said...

Welcome back!

diowa said...

Oy! My only hellacious flight involved a solo parent jaunt with an antsy three year old and a one year old that presented with stomach flu an hour after takeoff. But it pales in comparison to your marathon- I stand in awe. Hope everyone is back in sync with the time change soon!

tiffany.ito said...

Ugh. Love the drunken pirate analogy. I have experienced drunken pirates several times, both of the sleep deprived 3 year old variety, and the 45 year old literal drunken pirate variety at Tampa's Gasparilla. Both are actually likely to pee on your lap but one elicits more compassion while doing so. Hope you all recover soon. Ryan actually flies really well, but even if things go terribly on our upcoming flight to CA, I can at least reflect on your experiences and know we have it easy.

The Prof said...

An update three days later--I warn everyone not to ever travel anywhere with a preschooler!!! We're still suffering from Will's jet lag. Last night he was up at 3 am, and has been going strong in the nine hours since. Someday I hope to recover from this trip...someday.