- Dallas to Chicago
- Chicago to Abu Dhabi
- Abu Dhabi to Oman
Or you can go out of New York and stop in Europe, but there's no getting around taking 3 flights which means 2 layovers and lots of line-waiting, security check-pointing, and other pain-in-the-ass airport stuff. I'll be honest, I was terrifed of this trip. For months. A year even. It kept me up at night and probably gave me a few ulcers. This may sound ridiculous to people without children but I think other parents understand...toddlers, lack of sleep, jet lag, line-waiting and "rules" such as "buckle your seatbelt" don't really mix. Add to that the fact that we couldn't afford to buy Audrey her own seat so we (um, that means me) were either carrying her on our laps or praying there was an empty seat on the plane that she could have. (Yes, I am naive. Out of 6 flights she got a seat on 1. #HugeFail)
Things went smoothly enough until we got to Chicago, a mere 4 hours into our adventure. And here I learned lesson 1. When you shove milk in your kid's face for 3 hours to keep them from screaming, they pee. A lot. Like, more than normal. And if you don't change their diaper more frequently to accomodate, well, then they pee all over themselves, the stroller, you, and the airport floor. And they throw a tantrum at the same time so that everyone in the terminal stops to stare. And you are then THAT PARENT with THAT KID. And you'll have to sit in your pee-soaked clothes for the next 28 hours. And then you'll finally get in line to board the plane for your 13-hour overnight flight and the following exchange will occur:
Gate Agent: (super excited) "Okay! Let's see where you're sitting! Oh no...(frowny face)...you have the 2 worst seats on the plane...Have a good flight!"
Me: (reeking of pee) "Are you effing kidding me?!"
(Are we having fun yet?)
The next lesson I learned is that international airlines are way better than American airlines. It's true. They actually give you a menu and let you choose your meals. Unless of course you're us and you're sitting in the last row (see "2 worst seats on the plane" above) and they run out of food by the time they get to you and the toilet is over-flowing 3 feet away, but who's counting? And the flight attendants take your kid on a tour of the plane for 30 minutes so you can scrap together the last threads of your sanity. And they give you fun stuff like toothbrushes, eye masks and socks that you use to entertain your kid during hour number 1,304. Sadly we flew American Airlines coming home and Alec Baldwin was right, the flight attendants are old battleaxes that don't think your kid is cute and don't give 2 craps if you want to get up and stretch your legs after the plane has been taxiing on the runway for TWO HOURS while the pilot keeps getting on the intercom and saying "5 more minutes!" because he doesn't have the balls to give it to you straight.
This brings me to lesson 3. I am not one of those germ-a-phob parents that disinfects everything or is crazy about cleaning or what have you. This would come back to bite me in the ass. After we finally made it to Oman and started my Dad's non-stop-tour-adventure-extraordinaire, Audrey got sick. Really sick. At first we tried to roll with it and keep up the hectic pace of fort-touring, boating, and palace-seeing but by day 2 she was a mess. Add to this some serious jet-lag (it's a 10-hour time difference) and you have a recipe for insanity. We finally broke down and found a clinic where the doctor told us she had some combo of an ear infection, strep throat and bronchitis. He didn't actually know what she had but gave us some meds and thankfully they worked. But it was one hellish week. Lesson learned - when stuck on a plane with 200 Pakistanis who have each carried a 40-inch flat screen TV on board (don't ask - culture difference), rather than fretting over whether or not the plane is going to crash into the Atlantic because surely it exceeds the weight limit, you should instead be watching where the heck your kid is sticking her pacifier and what nasty germs she's contracting so you don't ruin your vacation before you even get there.
I'm happy to say that the rest of the trip was pretty uneventual - fun even. The weather was beautiful, we stayed right on the beach and I didn't have to cook a meal, wash a dish, or do laundry the entire time (score!). And now I can look back on the flight I took with Audrey to Baltimore last summer and laugh about how nervous and stressed I was then - ha. Suddenly domestic travel is looking like a walk in the park. But someone please slap me if I utter the words "international travel" and "Audrey" in the same sentence any time in the next, say, 10 years. Thanks.