Agggghhh. Normally the title of my first post for our newest adventure will have the words ‘the first 24 hours’ in the title, but I’m currently sitting on a plane, mere hours into our flight to begin our latest trip to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, and I’m pretty sure we have already experienced enough to write a whole post…..
How do you manage to travel with 5 kids and not get stressed? I get asked this a LOT! And my answer is simple – I don’t! Sure, we are seasoned travellers, I’d even go as far as to call myself an expert when it comes to travelling with kids, flying with kids even, but that does not take the stress away from a situation that is already doomed to be stressful!
I’d like to begin by saying that it all started off smoothly enough……but it didn’t…… Just getting to the airport (which is 4 hours from where we set off) took 20 hours! Without going in to too much detail, I’ll just say that thanks to broken down cars, lack of public transport due to public holidays, road works and gridlock traffic, we had no choice but to begin our journey to the airport very, very early and spend the night before our flight staying with friends in Melbourne.
Once we were in the vicinity of Melbourne Airport, getting there was quite simple and surprisingly easy. After literally couchsurfing at a friend’s house, we woke up at 5:30am and got ready in record time. We then walked (in the dark) with our luggage to a bus stop. Quite an entertaining site for the many people driving past on their way to work!
Of course I was stressing the whole time. Would we get to the bus stop in time? Had Peter read the timetable correctly? Had we forgotten anything? (Years of travelling and several ‘incidents’ like this occurring, have definitely led to an increase in my stress levels…..) Peter is well and truly used to my stressing by now and concertedly responded with the standard “it’s all good/we’re fine/no, nothing’s wrong”! In the end it all went super smoothly, complete with happy and well behaved children and absolutely no incidents. 2 buses, 2 hours and we were at the airport!
And then the fun began…….
Check-in had already been open for a while but we weren’t stressed (truly), we knew (strike through) thought we had plenty of time. So, we queued for about ten minutes, then checked in. Again, super smooth, no dramas at all. By this stage we were all pretty hungry so we headed to McDonalds (airport tradition) for breakfast. It was here that something strange happened….. I think we must have fallen in to some bizarre time warp, because in the time that we sat, ordered and ate, every spare minute that we thought we had, completely disappeared. And we didn’t even realise…..
We casually headed through the international departure gates, through the x-ray area (which took forever with 5 kids, lap-top, iPads, contraband water and endless loose items) and on to the security checkpoint. It was then, at this point, that Peter checked the time and realised that we only had about 10 minutes or so before boarding closed. And this, my friends, is where all that stress came flooding back. With a dose of sheer panic thrown in for good measure! Now, this area has either changed since we were there last (about 5 months ago) or we went to a different part, because the first thing we were required to do was scan our passports manually and I don’t remember ever having to do this before (unless in the past Peter was the one that did it while I was on kid wrangling duty…..). Anyway. however I was meant to be doing it, I was doing it wrong and it wasn’t working so after a minute a rather unimpressed looking officer ushered us all to another counter. And it was here that, after handing over our passports, I was asked for our completed customs forms. Our what? We hadn’t filled out any forms. Despite the many, many times we have flown internationally from Australia, it didn’t occur to us at all that, of course, like every other time, we would need to fill out customs forms. So, as Peter (you know, the sane one of the two of us) repeated over and over through clenched teeth “We’re going to miss the flight. The gates are going to close.” we both stood and frantically filled out seven forms, opening seven passports and reading and copying seven passport numbers, while the kids ran around us, choosing this particular moment in time to become psychotic. There were people everywhere. I can only imagine they stared, whispered, judged. I was way too stressed to notice, or care really. After what felt like an hour, we finally finished filling in the forms and handed them over to the lady in the booth. Now, maybe she was just doing her job really, really carefully, but it felt to me as though she was purposefully taking her sweet time to make us sweat, or to punish us for having noisy, chaotic kids. I mean, come on – of course our faces are going to match those of the ones in the passport photos. Do we look like child smuggling criminals? Seriously, how many times do you need to look from the photo of our 9 year old to her actual face and back????? It’s her. “IT REALLY IS ELYSSA” I wanted to scream. And it really did seem the more impatient and jumpy I became, the slower she moved…… Finally, when we were free from beedy-eyes, we bolted. All seven of us (well, six…. I had the awesome job of carrying the two year old) sprinted all the way to the boarding gates. And do you think we got there in time? Yes, we bloody did! Boarding hadn’t even began! Cue death stare at Peter while catching my breath and attempting not to notice the masses of people staring at us in confusion……..I still don’t know where he got the idea that the gates were about to close, or why I didn’t even think to question him.
So, we boarded the plane. We found our seats and stored our carry-on. We sat and watched all the non crazy/manic people calmly find their seats. And then, we prepared to take-off and Ben made it very clear he had no intention of wearing a seat-belt! As he has recently turned 2, this was his first flight with his own seat and, being the Mummy’s boy he is, he would have much preferred to be sitting on my lap. Fortunately, and I’m sure much to the relief of all the nearby passengers, his disgruntlement didn’t last too long and he soon accepted the fact that he was sitting in his seat with his seatbelt on whether he liked it or not!
So now, a few hours in to our seven and a half hour flight, everything seems to have calmed down and be going smoothly enough. Touch wood! (I’m not even going to mention Peter having to fill out another seven forms and then spilling noodle soup juice all over them within moments of finishing….). Ben and Lucy are asleep, Korey’s busy with his dot-to-dot book, Anna is reading and Elyssa is doing crosswords. Now if only this woman behind me would stop sticking her knees in to my seat every 25 seconds……..