Sometime between Thursday May 28th and Saturday May 30th
Ok, we made it on board the flight from SFO to Auckland without Air New Zealand weighing our carry-on luggage (which apparently they actually do quite frequently) and forcing us to check it, which would have been a pain since we had toys, food, and clothes for our 42 hour journey. Phew. After that hurdle was crossed reality of the next 12+ hours sunk in big time; we are going to be stuck on a plane with little kids. There will be no escape. I was trying to think positively, but it was hard. I’ve done this before with one child and it was really, really hard.
Our 5 year old was amazing, but we expected that. After all, he IS a world traveller many times over. Heck, he’s even been down under. But our 18 month old? Well, how can I say it…he’s not like his brother. He was pretty good consider the spectrum of what could have happened, but our flight was overnight and uninterrupted sleep, even for an hour or two, was not on his flight plan.
Air New Zealand does have this “sky couch” configuration where three economy seats have little footrests that come up to be flush with the seat part to create a platform from seat back to the seats in the row ahead. Then the flight attendants lay down a mattress pad and give you feather down pillows and wool blankets. Sounds amazing, right? Well, it would have been if my young sleeping companion had felt the same way! I finally woke up my husband half way into the 12 hour flight and demanded a switch in sleeping arrangements. I was hopeful that although not a perfect nigh’ts sleep, I would have a chance to get about 5 hours of fairly restful sleep still. Wrong again. “Mommy, I need to go to the bathroom”, “Mommy, I’m thristy”, “Mommy….”…and on and on and on. While these are all valid reasons for my 5 year old to interrupt my sleep, at this point I’m running on fumes and my patience is nonexistant. Thankfully I didn’t cause permament psychological damage with my less than amiable retorts (I hope?) So went the 12 hour flight. No sleep for the parents, fitful sleep for the 18 month old, and a good solid 8-9 hours of sleep for the 5 year old.
The other issue we encountered with this flight was that our 18 month old struggles with a dairy sensitivity and since I’m still nursing him, that means I am also dairy-free. When we called Air New Zealand to request special meals, they replied that they would make a note of it in our file but couldn’t guarantee these meals. They also wouldn’t allow us a bit of extra weight to accommodate the extra meals we would have to take with us. This was pretty frustrating, and was even more frustrating when the meal carts came and there was no mention of our request. So basically they offered me fruit (and called it very filling, I don’t what these flight attendants eat normally but fruit alone does NOT fill me up.) So the toddler and I ate fruit and summer sausage I had brought. Did I mention I hate flying?
So we made it to Auckland. It was 5:45am local time when we arrived and completely dark (this pic was taken later in the day). My biological clock was so screwed up I had no idea what day it was, or what time of day it was. My brain was so fried from being awake for about 30 hours at this point I didn’t know left from right or up from down. But I was hungry!
After eating some breakfast (or dinner? or lunch? still not sure what meal that was) we explored the Auckland airport looking for a place to set up camp – we were going to be there for 8.5 hours. After realizing that the airport was super small and all the good sleeping areas were taken, we proceeded to
take over aquire some seats in a group where we only displaced politely asked a couple people to move. Funny thing is, as the hours passed and the kids ran around and (mostly) used inside voices, the seats surrounding us became more and more vacant (probably just a lot of flights leaving – couldn’t have been our lovely overtired children causing a raucous).
One thing I did find rather nice about the Auckland airport was the fantastic “Parent Rooms” they have. It’s basically a family bathroom but they have thought of everything. Nursing/changing stalls, child and adult size toilets, sinks and drinking fountains and most importantly – a tiny ENCLOSED playroom where I could stash my children while I used the facilities (my husband was off dealing with said stroller incident). Let me tell you, that was one of the most stress-free trips to the bathroom I have EVER had with kids. I can’t even pee by myself in my own home!
We passed the time by coloring (mostly on the paper), blowing bubbles, playing with trinkets, eating, trying to alternate sleeping, drinking coffee (because the sleeping didn’t work), eating, walking miles and miles in the airport to put the extremely overtired toddler to sleep and filing a damage complaint with the airline. Uh yeah, you read correctly. As if we didn’t have enough to deal with, Delta had damaged the handle bar of our stroller (which was annoying but it still functioned) but then Air New Zealand damaged our wheels so that our double jogging stroller was more of a limping, wobbly baggage cart (still functional but not as I needed it once we got to Perth!) They were pretty accomodating and told us to take the stroller to a Phil and Ted retailer in Perth and bill the repairs to the airline. Sounded straight forward so we agreed. (More on that later.)
So we finally made it through the LONG layover and it was time to complete the last leg – a short flight of 7.5 hours (well it seemed short after the 12 hour flight!) to Perth. At this point we didn’t even care if they made a fuss over carry-on weight, I would have ripped them a new one. Seriously. I felt like this flight had the potential of being the best one yet. We had the sky couches again and both kids wanted to sleep. Wrong again. About half an hour or so into the flight I was trying to settle the toddler to sleep and he was fighting it like a rockstar. We were almost to zzzz land when out of no where he starts vomiting. Holy %$#@ (fill in whatever you like there). I did NOT see this coming. At first I thought it might have been because the smoothie we had in Auckland contained yogurt even though we had requested no dairy. At the time I was mildly pissed off when I tasted my toddler’s almost finished portion and realized there was yogurt! But now I wondered if he was reacting to the dairy by vomiting or was this something else? Now I wanted to rip Auckland smoothie-girl a new one too. But maybe he just needed to get it out of his system? Well, 5 hours later he was still vomiting and looked like hell. We were kind of freaking out now. It’s a powerless feeling when your child is sick but then take that scenario 35,000 feet in the air over an ocean and it’s a whole different feeling. The flight attendants even paged a doctor.
Finally, with about an hour left in the flight, he fell asleep and stopped vomiting. Now we were not only worried about his health but also that the flight attendants were talking about possible quarantine upon arrival. Australia is really strict about these things, especially with the Ebola outbreak.
The poor little guy kept throwing up so much he had on only a diaper in this picture. He just lay there limp in our arms as we dressed him before exiting the plane. After about an hour more of getting luggage, filling out the forms we hadn’t had a chance to on the plane, and going through customs we left the airport and found our way to our apartment. We were a mess. Once again, family saved the day! My aunt lives in Perth and she stepped right into the role my own mother would have filled; bought us basic groceries, helped put the kids to bed, sought out dinner, the list goes on. What a wonderful feeling when someone just knows how to step in and care for you. It felt a little like home.
Thankfully, our sick little guy had stopped vomiting and had wet his diaper in the night so we didn’t have to worry as much about dehydration and hospital visits. And for all the worried moms out there reading this, he was much better the next day…not himself yet but better nonetheless.
42 hours, 3 planes, 1 illness and 0 hours sleep for the parents later and we are half way around the world. I am NEVER doing this again until my kids are older! Ummm, except for the trip to Italy next summer to celebrate a family member’s wedding…which we just found out about (the location) on the heels of this nightmare trip. Oh, and to get home in a couple months (cringe).
PS I would like to make it known that I titled this post BEFORE I realized how true it was to be.
Stay tuned for our first few days of adventure in Perth! (I will try to keep the posts shorter and incorporate more about food – especially my trials and tribulations over ordering coffee!)