One parent, two children, flying three legs

One week from tomorrow, I’ll travel solo with the girls to Boston.  This will be my first time doing so with both girls, and I admit to being nervous.

I have extremely tight connections in Tokyo and DC.  While I think the Tokyo connection will be fine–I only have to get off the plane, get through security and get to another plane, and there’s an elite flyer security line at Narita.  However, I am worried about Dulles.  I have ninety minutes to take their “people mover” (think giant moving box on wheels), clear customs and immigration, get my bags and re-check them.  Assuming I can find a porter, it should be fine.  If I can’t find a porter, it is a lock that I will miss my DC-Boston flight as moving five suitcases and two children is more than I can manage with only two hands.  I have looked into booking a porter and it doesn’t seem that Dulles does that (or if they do, the instructions on how to do so are buried beyond the skill level of my google-fu).

To be fair, the tight connection in DC was my choice.  There are better, longer connection in San Francisco and Chicago.  However, the plane that is flown between Tokyo and DC has in seat entertainment in coach.  Considering that was the key to keeping Ellie happy last time (she watched The Lion King over and over and over), and kept me relatively happy as well, it seemed like the best flight pattern.  Also, I have never flown through O’Hare (Chicago) without disaster striking, so I tend to be superstitious and want to avoid it.

Rhiannon will be flying in her own seat.  While it is realistic to fly with a baby in lap across country, or even from Boston to Western Europe, 30+ hours is 20+ hours too many to hold a wriggly nine month old (ten month old on the way back).  My back and my sanity will thank me.  If it were not established that she hates the in-flight bassinet, I might have considered trying that, but given her history with the bassinet on the Singapore-Sydney flight, I’m not willing to risk it.  This also means that Rhi, Ellie and I will have our own little row, which is a relief.

However, I have already begun to repeat my travel mantra…

This too, shall pass

The worst flight can only last so long. 

Eventually we WILL land at Logan where grandparents, Dunkin Donuts, and the baw-ston accent will embrace us.  We will be shuttled to Friendly’s where too large portions of fried American food and bowls of American ice cream will fill our bellies after almost 30 hours of subsisting on what we bring ourselves (and if we are exceptionally lucky, airplane food that is merely unfortunate as opposed to repulsive).  My in-laws will take us to their house, where we have rooms we consider “ours” and the luxury of a shower that doesn’t run out of hot water after only 15 minutes.

Keep us in your thoughts next Wednesday.  If anyone has mystical powers that can make a plane land early or make porters appear…your help with the DC part of things would be much appreciated.


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17 Responses to One parent, two children, flying three legs

  1. notabilia says:

    You are a brave mother and I’m rooting for you! My mum did USA –> India and back with two kiddos and we survived ;).

  2. Katrijn says:

    Crying once managed to get me through Heathrow in 45 minutes, which is nothing short of a miracle. Englishmen do not like crying women and go through great lengths to get them out of their vicinity as quickly (and quietly) as possible. However, I don’t know what stuff Washington airport staff are made off.

    (In my particular case: my grandfather had died and if I had not been able to make the connecting flight, I’d have missed the funeral. It had already been a disastrous trip up to London, so knowing I had 45 minutes to make the transfer when I spotted the sign saying “approximate time to gate from this point: 1.30 hrs” was the straw that broke my camel’s back.)

    • Crystal says:

      Crying is a very good tip. I think I’ll keep that one in reserve.

      All kidding aside, I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather’s passing. That’s the sort of thing I really worry about–trying to get home in a situation like that.

  3. Robin says:

    Enjoy your time with friends and family! I just made my first solo trip with my 3 yr old to Kansas City, and it went so much better than previous years when my hubby was with me! Thank God for individual TV screens!

    Oh, one thing that helped me get through lines faster was saying aloud (more to others than to my potty-training son), “Just try and hold it a little longer, ok?” 🙂

  4. bookjunkie says:

    3 legs….oh no. This sounds so hard. Even alone I would be so hesitant (mainly cos of my fears of confined spaces).

    I wish I had mystical powers to teleport you and the girls there. I feel for you.

    Hope it all goes well and you’re in beautiful Boston in no time 🙂

  5. Dawn says:

    Wow…good luck. Are you sitting both girls in the regular seats, or do you have to install car seats for them? I agree that wriggly 9-month-old on lap is impossible; we just did that to Hawaii and back and he kept escaping down the aisle! Once he got caught behind the cart…luckily another passenger rescued him before he got run over! I never knew about porters; if you can’t find one, perhaps you can find a fellow passenger who is willing to help. And hopefully the security/customs people will take pity on you and rush you through…

    • Crystal says:

      We haven’t bothered with a car seat for E since she was 2. Trying to drag the toddler car seat around is a nightmare in and of itself. For a while we used the CARES system, but she is a good enough flyer (thanks to her frequent flying) that she can be trusted with just the regular seat belt for about a year now. Luckily Rhi is teeny like her sister, she she’ll be in the bucket seat, and I’ll use the snap n go frame to transport us throughout the airport (and I can store a bag in the basket).

      We’ve been regular porter users since we had Ellie. When it was just the two of us, we could load our stuff onto two luggage carts and each take one (we’ve never traveled light). Once we had Ellie, someone needed to handle the stroller, and if we had more than one cart’s worth of bags (don’t waste time or breath telling us to travel lighter–will never happen), we’d hire a porter. Now that Ravi, Ellie and I have status with United, we’re each allowed up to three 70lb bags, and Rhiannon is allotted two 50lb bags. We generally try to max that…we’re not going to shoot for maxing that allowance on the way home this trip (because we’ll be back in town for Thanksgiving) but I will take 4-6 bags and Ravi will bring 3 (at least–we can always leave excess bags at Amit and Sue’s house). A porter has a huge trolley and can take all the bags at once. Makes life a thousand times easier.

      I’ve talked to Dulles and found out where the porter stand is after immigration/customs. The good news is that I clear immigration and customs with just the girls and our carryons (which I do try to limit–my backpack for laptop, tablets, phones, cameras etc, a tote bag of food and entertainment stuff, and a tote bag of diapers and spare outfits–which is 3 bags fewer than I could have, and all calculated to fit under the seats–after having the carryon with spare diapers gate checked in nov 10 in hongkong-stranding me without my spares for 20+ hours–I refuse to risk it again). I don’t need to stress about the huge bags until after i/c and there is an info stand right there where if there aren’t porters standing around, I can have one paged. They’ll move my bags to where we recheck them and then we make a run for the next gate. Should be doable–fingers crossed for me.

      • Dawn says:

        Wow. I never considered flying a toddler without a car seat…we’re thinking next time we travel we’ll need two car seats (and to split up into two rows since all car seats have to be in window seats). F does not stay put when seated, so I wouldn’t trust her in less than a 5-point harness. Did you like the CARES system? (Does it also have to be in a window seat or can you put it in the middle or aisle?) We were considering getting that as an alternative, though since we tend to travel with our car seats anyway (to have them on the other end) it seems efficient to use them on the plane too if we have enough hands to carry and install them. I’m lucky enough to have a huge infant – I has already outgrown his bucket seat! When we traveled last week we took two reversible regular car seats – checked one, installed the other in the plane.

      • Crystal says:

        Keep in mind for us it’s also more practical. Until this past January we didn’t have a car, so there was a giant Britax car seat taking up space in our apartment in Singapore for no good reason. While the Britax Marathon 70 is technically FAA approved, it is an absolute nightmare to carry down the aisle and install in the seat. From the traveling on my own standpoint, the installation, de-installation of the britax was a major reason I almost missed my flight on at least two occasions. It’s also heavy, bulky and a pain in the ass to transport around. With a smaller car seat, I was able to efficiently use the “traveling toddler’ (look it up on amazon–$15 t strap that uses the LATCH attachment points to fasten the car seat to a rolling carry on). With the larger car seat, I had to use the go-go kidz attachment, which was one more thing to roll through the airport. In both cases, it meant a much bigger hold up getting through security (something I have to do three times each way on the Singapore/Boston route), and made the connections tighter.

        The Cares can be used in any seat, which is a big bonus. It fits around the seat (you have to open the tray table behind the seat to properly fasten it, but then they can open and close the tray without interruption to your CARES or their tray) and fits in both coach and business. From that initial circle are two straps that come down over the child. There is a chest clip, and then at the bottom are two loops through which the seat belt fastens. The big advantage is that this is a far faster install/un-install. The major disadvantage is that Ellie figured out how to open the seat belt in about three seconds the first time we used it (at age 2 from DC-Boston on a side trip to visit family), which was a pain.

        In the end, we just really really really impressed upon Ellie that opening the seat belt was ABSOLUTELY NOT OKAY. She flies frequently enough that it’s a lesson that gets reinforced every few months. After that first time, we haven’t had further issues. We took the car seat a few more times before leavign it in Boston, but we just checked it with the luggage because hauling it through the airports was just too much of a hassle.

        I actually strongly prefer traveling with the bucket seat. It sits on the snap n go stroller frame, which means I have storage underneath. It’s SO MUCH easier to install/un-install than the toddler seat (put the lap belt over the seat, as opposed to threading it through the back), and it’s lighter by at least 8-10 lbs (which is a major concern with my back). I’m pretty glad that Rhi is built along the same lines as Ellie, and I’ll be able to use the bucket past 1 year…probably until 18 months or so given the height/weight limits. I’ll re-assess my needs in the November trip, but I see us trying to prolong it as long as possible. Ideally, we’ll be able to move E to the booster seat and just give Rhi her Marathon 70. It will depend on E’s weight though (4 and 40 is the rule in MA–although it’s more forgiving here–15kg which is 33 lbs).

        In the end, I think the kid’s personality, how often you travel, and how far is going to drive your needs. What works for us doesn’t necessarily work for another family.

      • Robin says:

        We use the CARES harness with great success. Recommend.

  6. My family had super tight connections when we flew to Singapore from California, so I know how you feel! Fingers crossed that you make all of your connections with no problems! Good luck!

    P.S. I found your blog as I prepared to move to Singapore & it’s been very helpful! Thanks for sharing your experiences & tips!

    • Crystal says:

      I’ll be posting about it, but we ended up having the best accidental layover ever, so I’m okay with the flights not turning out as planned.

      Glad the blog has been helpful. I look forward to checking yours out when either (a) I’m up at ridiculous o’clock due to jetlag or (b) have gotten over my jetlag in the next few days 🙂

      • Just read that you arrived safely in the U.S. Hooray! And I agree, D.C. is a nice place to have a lay over. We used to live there & the city is definitely filled with great history, restaurants, etc. You probably didn’t get to see much while there. But hopefully you got a taste of it!

        Enjoy your trip to the U.S.!


      • Crystal says:


        Sorry, I sometimes forget that my readers can’t read my mind. The reason our DC layover was awesome is that we have family there that we don’t get to see very often. They hadn’t met the baby yet, so although it meant we didn’t get into Boston until the next day, we got to hang with them Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and that made it awesome.

        Although we do love DC!

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