This post is the first of a 3-part essay from my wife, who submitted it to a popular Canadian magazine. (They declined, so I piped up “I’ll take it!”)
Whenever we flew to visit her family in Canada from our (former) home in Prague, the trip ordeal was…well, worthy of sharing! Without further ado, here’s my wife’s ‘guest post.’
To be honest, I was terrified. I was preparing to spend over 10 hours in a cramped, enclosed space with my two young children and a bunch of strangers. And I was doing this willingly. Why?
Because I wanted to go home.
Travelling with children is never easy, but for the stay-at-home parent, living abroad, there are some added challenges.
For many expat families, making the long journey home is a yearly or even twice yearly event. One parent is often able to travel with the children for a longer period of time, usually 4 to 6 weeks, while the other parent joins them for only the beginning or final 1 to 2 weeks. This means that one parent must make the flight alone with the children in at least one direction. Yikes! For me, this meant 15 hours of travel time from initial departure to final landing….three flights in total with the longest being 7 hours in the air.
1) Plan, plan and plan some more. Think about how you will make your connections. This meant I brought our double-stroller, even though I wouldn’t need it once I landed in Canada. It gave me the flexibility and comfort of knowing I could throw both kids in it and go if I needed to get quickly to a gate. I also put lots of time into packing our carry-ons. I opted to have one that held diapers and changes of clothes, that I could store overhead until I needed it. The other was full of snacks, toys, and other distractions that I kept close at hand.
2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help – from flight attendants and fellow passengers. And certainly don’t turn down help that is offered to you. In my case, I was really dreading the third and final leg of our flight, which saw us backtracking from Montreal to Halifax. While talking to my folks about it, my father offered to meet me in Montreal. After some humming and hawing, I said, “Yes! Please!”. And boy, am I glad I did. My father, in turn, liked being the first one to see the three of us and getting us all to himself, as well as the opportunity to help his grown daughter.
3) Be thick-skinned. There will be people who are impatient and really don’t understand what you are going through. Ignore them. There are many more wonderful people out there willing to give you a hand.
4) Set your expectations low….very, very low. In other words, actually arriving at the destination safely is your measure of success, regardless of what you endured to get there.
Jeff back here. That’s the first part; hope you enjoyed it. Perhaps you even can relate. Write your comment below and let us know.
Look for Part 2 coming soon!