Today we welcome Samantha to Big Brave Nomad. She recently Braved the Skies and traveled alone from South Dakota to Seoul, South Korea with her 8 month old and her 3-year-old. We are excited to share her story with you!
Same is a fellow military spouse ad mother to two girls: Lizzy (3) and Clementine (8 months). They just finished up a tour of duty in Minot, North Dakota and have relocated to Seoul, South Korea. Originally, their family had planned to move to South Korea at the same time; like normal military move. However, the military had other plans and decided to move only her husband. You can imagine the stress on her. Sam jumped into action and in 6 weeks time she packed up their house, found a renter, took care of her kids, and planned her very first international flight (and move!).
To Korea we Go!
“Preparing for what to pack was the most difficult. I struggled with needing the current size clothing the baby was in, but realized she would be in the next size by the time we got to Korea. You see, I left my house and lived out of these suitcases for two weeks before our arrival. Not only was I concerned with clothing my kiddos, they need stuff. Is it just me or do babies have so much stuff?! "Do I need these tiny plastic spoons? How many bottles should I bring vs pack up? What am I going to do about a high chair?!" And TOYS! My 3yo has so many lovies she likes to have in her bed plus a few small favorite toys to entertain her. Plus, the baby too! She's in that weird phase of sitting still/maybe moving and everything within reach is fair game for investigation. It was a difficult task. But, we managed to pack up 5 suitcases total (one of books and toys alone) and essential clothing, outdoor winter gear, and shoes.
Our flight was scheduled to leave Sioux Falls, SD at 5:00 am, then two layovers and a final arrival time of 4:55 pm Korea time. Overall, it was about a 21 hour day. We arrived at the Sioux Falls airport at 3:15 am and had an easy check-in with Delta. The taxi driver brought my luggage in while I carried Clementine in the Ergo and walked with Lizzy with the help of the Eddie Bauer animal harness buddy. (When you're three, you don't want to hold mom's hand.) The attendant with Delta helped me by lifting my 55lbs suitcases onto the scale and checked is all in. All that was required were each of our passports and my military ID. Before we knew it, we had checked all 5 bags and one car seat. I was left with our (over packed) backpack, a small rolling carry on and the second car seat that I intended to put Clementine in while on the jet. I used this awesome device to attach the car seat to the rolling suitcase so I wouldn't need to carry it; worked like a charm!
After waiting 40 minutes for security to open, the trip through was fairly smooth. The kiddos don't have to remove their shoes and I was able to go through the metal detector with Clementine in the soft carrier. Once I walked through, they wiped my hands with this specialty paper, but it was quick and easy. I did have to take out all of the baby food and formula, which was a little difficult because I had packed everything in a specific way to make it accessible and to fit, so it got jumbled up into a mess after. Once we were through, we walked to our gate and were able to start boarding within about 5 minutes. Since I needed help and a little more time to get the car seat and kiddos all in, we were able to priority board. The Delta attendants were super helpful and offered to help by carrying the car seat and our rolling suitcase.
The first flight was only about 40 minutes so it was easy to keep the kiddos entertained with one of the complementary shows on the individual seat screens.
Our first layover in Minneapolis was only 45 minutes, so the attendants had someone meet us at the gate to give us a ride on a courtesy cart to our next terminal as well as getting the car seat and bags off the plane.
I ended up needed some help getting onto the next plane, so I asked and the next crew was more than willing to help. I was so thankful. They helped with the car seat and carry-on luggage. This was a 4-hour flight, so we had a drink service and snacks. I took the time to nurse the baby, who seemed not affected by ears popping. When Lizzy felt her ears popping because of the pressure change, she let me know and she would drink some water or chew on some fruit snacks. Both kiddos lulled to sleep for about an hour, but not at the same time. I never did get to nap nor attempt any of my own entertainment, but I was never bored while keeping my attention with the girls.
Our second layover was 3 hours in Seattle. We took a nice long bathroom break, changed a diaper, and grabbed lunch. It was nice for Lizzy to be able to get up and wander around a little. Clementine only napped for that one hour on the plane, so she napped in the Ergo while we walked around.
For our last and scariest leg of the trip: the international flight. We started boarding an hour before take-off and we were able to priority board. The crew helped me get our belongings down the jet way and onto the plane. While we waited for the rest of the jet to board, the girls did some coloring and people watching. The first two to three hours of the international flight went by quickly because of the drink and dinner services. We were easily distracted, including Clementine. For the most part, she was happy to hang out in her car seat and watch Mickey Mouse and look around. Lizzy did great staying in her seat. She's so small, she had plenty of space to wiggle around and play, not to mention, the individual screens were pretty fun with unli-mited TV shows and movies to choose from.
After the food services, the crew simulated night; the lights were all turned off and windows kept closed. The girls fought sleep like no other, but they kept great attitudes. Neither of them was fussy or crabby, just distracted. Eventually, Clementine napped for about an hour and Lizzy about two...of course, not at the same time. So, again, I didn't sleep. At all. It became apparent to me that Clementine was not going to stay asleep in her car seat, she just wasn't comfortable enough. This is where I'd make a change. While I did enjoy having the extra space of her own seat, I would like to have had a place to lay her down. I would have swaddled her and hope she could sleep better had I used the bassinet that most airlines offer.
Overall, both of the girls did great and I'm impressed with myself for keeping my cool along the way. Not sleeping for any time in 24 hours is hard. Keeping an upbeat, positive attitude while being so sleep deprived is even harder.
I wanted to keep costs lower so we traveled economy the whole way but, because we had three seats, we had plenty of space. The first two (domestic flights) were two seats by three seats in the rows, so I had Clementine in the car seat in the window seat, myself in the middle and Lizzy in the aisle. The international flight had seats set up in a two-three-two, so the girls each had an aisle seat while I was in the center seat. This made bathroom breaks interesting. I had to climb over Lizzy each time I had to take Clementine for a diaper change. I was able to use the restroom twice by myself. The first time Clementine was asleep and Lizzy was happy to watch a show and the second time they were both asleep. (The only 5 minutes that happened simultaneously.) The flight attendants were helpful and willing to sit with the girls if I needed to step away.
What’s in our backpack?
In our backpack I had things we would need close:
- Nursing Cover
- Water Bottle
- Fruit Snacks, Granola Bars, Puffs, Baby Food Pouches
- Charging Cords
- Coloring Books/Markers
- Small toys
What’s in our Carry-On?
- Extra Diapers
- Extra outfit for each of us
- A spare lovey blanket for the girls
- Jackets & Hats
Tips for Traveling Alone
- Ask for and accept help. (Not only did the airline and airport employees offer to help, complete strangers did as well!)
- Pack Smart. I over packed for the plane. The food on the plane was good, so I realized I brought too many snacks. Also, why did I need a book or headphones? I never got a chance to use them. The girls also had little to no interest in any of their small toys we'd packed.
- Attitude is everything. I mentally prepared myself to "embrace the suck." I was convinced this would be a difficult, sucky situation. I was going to be ready to take it on. Then, it wasn't nearly half as bad as I had expected.
- No car seat. If you can get away with not bringing it on the plane, I wouldn't. Clementine got to the point where she would cry the moment I even thought to put her back in it. I'll try the bassinet option next time.
- Babywear. I love my soft baby carriers. It keeps the little one comfortable, close to you, and frees up your hands. This is especially important if you have more than one kiddo to wrangle.
- Every flight comes to an end. Just remember, it may not feel like it, but you will land and everything will be alright.
Would I do it again? Pack up my babies just one adult (myself) and two kiddos? In a heartbeat. We're in the business of making memories together, and the tough and difficult and challenging pieces to get to those memory moments are just as important. It was an adventure and we had a great time!
As always, we love your feedback, questions and additional tips! Please comment below or contact us!
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