Monday, February 9, 2015

My Longest Flight Ever!

I read a lot of travel blogs that focus on collecting airline miles and points, and recently a few of them have had lively debates on flying overseas in business class seats vs. coach seats. And I seem to be in the minority of those blog readers who feel that traveling in coach is an acceptable option for long flights.

When it comes to vacations, I'm more in the camp of "it's the destination, not the journey." I'll fly Southwest, Spirit or any other low-budget airline if it gets my family safely to our vacation destination.

With that in mind, I'm going to share my longest/worst flight experience. The year was 2009. My husband, 4-year-old son and I had been in Russia to complete the adoption of our newest family member, 17-month-old Joshua. Due to cost and my husband's work obligations, we decided that my husband and oldest son would fly home to Dallas after our court hearing and I would stay the remaining 2 weeks in Russia by myself to complete the adoption process. This meant that I would fly home by myself with my new son.

Before our journey home, I was already exhausted. I had gotten a nasty sinus infection while in Russia and had been through some interesting medical procedures in the days leading up to our departure. I wasn't sleeping well due to my sinus infection and due to my new son's sleeping issues.

Our journey home was over 30 hours, door to door. That included 16 hours of actual flight time and time spent in the Vladivostok, Russia and Seoul, South Korea airports.

Waiting at the airport in Vladivostok, Russia

Our first flight from Vladivostok to Seoul was less than 2 hours in length. To board, we had to go down some stairs and board a bus that would take us to the airplane. My son was already screaming before we boarded the flight because we were stuffed into a crammed, padlocked waiting area for about 30 minutes prior to getting on the bus. Our flight was 45 minutes late taking off. Still screaming and crying.

At one point during the flight, I took Joshua to the bathroom to change him and noticed there was an empty row of seats at the back of the plane. I asked if we could move back there, and the flight attendant said yes.

Moving to our own row helped some. Keep in mind that my son did not speak or understand English and I was communicating to him with my limited Russian language skills.

We landed in Seoul at 11:00 p.m. and went straight to Burger King. I ate the best tasting Whopper I've ever had!

Our flight to Dallas didn't leave until the next morning, so I rented a room at the hourly hotel inside the Seoul airport. It's not as shady as it sounds. In the morning before our flight, we stopped at this airport playground to get some energy out.

But next was our big flight--over 14 hours straight from Seoul to Dallas. The plane was configured in a 2-4-2 arrangement, and Joshua and I had a row of 2 by the window to ourselves. I had high hopes that he would sleep for a good chunk of our long flight.

But of course I was wrong! But at least he wasn't screaming like on the earlier flight. The only way to keep him happy was to constantly feed him cheerios and Gerber puffs. I almost had him asleep on my lap at one point, but a flight attendant came over and started talking loudly to be and he immediately opened his eyes.

A 14-hour flight with a toddler is very, very long.

Early into the flight, my son had a big diaper blowout. It was so bad that I wound up throwing his outfit away. No problem, I had extra changes of clothes.

But the little girl in the row next to us was not feeling so well. She was throwing up about every 20 minutes all over the floor and her seat. The flight attendants would come around spraying air freshener after each round.

Joshua slept for 45 minutes, and that's it. I guess it's better than nothing!

One of the things that kept my spirits up on this trip was I knew that the moment the wheels touched down in Dallas, my son would become a U.S. citizen and our family would be complete! (Except, of course, that God had other plans!)

When we landed in Dallas, I carried Joshua in a baby carrier for 2 hours while we waited in the customs line (because otherwise he kept running all over the place). But we survived! I look back at this long flight now with humor and a sense of accomplishment.

We are taking our 3 kids on a 9 hour flight in the next few weeks, and we have plans to fly them to Europe someday. Most certainly in coach. And we will all survive and still enjoy our destination regardless.

What is your longest flight ever? Would you do it again?

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