This past Monday we arrived back in Sydney after three weeks of jetting around the U.S. (stops included Hawaii, Seattle, San Diego, and Virginia). Our flight home was our family’s sixth flight in 23 days (and my 10th flight) and our third long haul flight with a toddler (I now consider anything longer than the average 5-6 hour flight between Hawaii and the West Coast or the West and East Coasts of the U.S. as a long haul). I am happy to report that it was our most successful long haul flight yet. Our recent experience has proven that flying with a toddler definitely gets easier with practice. Each trip through the airport and each flight has, for the most part, been better than the last. In fact, these long haul flights are starting to seem rather ordinary.
Our journey began Saturday evening with us jamming our fully packed bags (which were more than triple what we arrived with) into Matt’s mom’s Volvo sedan, including strapping Matt’s surfboard to the roof (which apparently fly free as a checked bag on Virgin Australia). We gave ourselves more than enough time as one can never predict LA traffic and arrived with a full three hours until our flight. After checking in and shedding ourselves of most our bags we made our way to the foodcourt and enjoyed some pizza while Theo had a romp in the children’s play area (which is tucked behind the food court in the International Terminal at LAX and a total lifesaver when you’ve got some time to kill).
This time we decided to forgo the car seat and checked it in with our other luggage. Since we didn’t have to get it set up, we hung around the terminal and were one of the last to board, figuring we’d let Theo run as long as possible. This was a wise decision, since after we boarded we proceeded to sit at the gate for another hour while they loaded bags and who knows what else. Forever later, we finally took off, beginning the 14 and a half hour journey across the Pacific.
Despite our repeated suggestions for Theo to lay down and go to sleep, he kept himself entertained with the numerous kids shows provided by the onboard entertainment, dinner, and zipping his cars around the tray tables. A couple times he obliged and lay down, only to pop up again mere seconds later full of energy. Luckily, he was happy, quiet and tear-free, so we let him enjoy himself.
Finally, around 2AM, they dimmed the cabin lights and within minutes he lay down across his seat and mine (forcing me to the edge of my seat leaning uncomfortably on Matt) and passed out. Matt and I were a bit appalled that he had stayed awake almost 7 hours past his normal bedtime, but he proceeded to sleep about 6 hours, which is exactly the same amount he has slept on our other two overnight flights and what I’m beginning to think is his normal amount of sleep onboard a plane. And, because he had fallen asleep almost two hours later than he had on our first flight to Sydney, when he awoke, we had only four hours of flight time left rather than six.
He awoke happy and content to continue watching the onboard entertainment, draw on his aquadoodle, spread his cling-on stickers everywhere and snack on everything available. Our only slight moment of protest came when we realized that somehow all of his shows and movies had gotten erased from his kindle (rookie mom move to not check and double check this before leaving – something I will never do again) and he desperately wanted to watch “tiger Daniel” (i.e. “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”).
The hardest part of the entire flight was collecting our baggage, which was delayed for some reason and took over 30 minutes to come out on the baggage carousel. Theo sat contentedly on the baggage trolley spinning the wheels for the entire time though. Our bags finally arrived and we collected our surfboard and carseat from the oversized area. Once again we made it through the quarantine station without having our bags ripped apart – I’m getting better at declaring that we have no food with a straight face despite everything inside me wanting to announce that in fact our bags are filled to the brim with peanut butter, pancake mix, teriyaki sauces, barbecue sauces, salad dressings, etc.
Our friend John picked us up in our car, which we had leant his family while we were gone in exchange for a ride to and from the airport. He had snacks waiting for Theo and a bag of groceries to get us through our first day home – so sweet and definitely a lifesaver!
We made it home midmorning and despite having gone almost 36 hours with no sleep at this point, we managed to all stay awake for another 8 hours until a reasonable bedtime of 7pm. We attempted to put Theo down for a nap midday, but he slept only 40 minutes and slashed any hopes Matt and I had for a nap ourselves. It was a very tough afternoon and all of us were in very sour moods. We managed a short walk to the beach and back. We stopped at the playground, but Theo was too tired to be interested in playing and just wanted to be held. We unpacked quite a bit and then finally collapsed on the couch in front of a movie for the last hour.
At 7pm we put Theo in bed and got in bed ourselves very shortly after, expecting a very long night ahead. Around 3AM Matt and I began intermittently waking up and dozing again, waiting for Theo to wake up. He never did…until 7AM! We made it through the night! The rest of the week he took normal two hour naps midday and slept from about 7:30PM until 6:30AM every night – exactly his normal schedule. Each night Matt and I have woken up less and less in the early morning hours too and have continued going to bed shortly after Theo to catch up on our missed sleep.
I think at this point we can safely say that we avoided jet lag and transitioned seamlessly back to normal routine. This is a huge feat considering when we first arrived in Sydney in July Theo woke up sometime between midnight and 2AM (and stayed up until 6AM) for then entire first week and was completely off his normal sleep schedule. This has given us a glimmer of hope that we can continue our journeys back and forth across the Pacific for the next couple of years without giving up entire weeks of our lives to jet lag and a cranky toddler. Hooray!