Traveling to China

Our flight was around noon on Wednesday, August 20 out of LAX. We stayed up a lot of the night (and the night before that) packing suitcases and buying last minute items (and luggage).

20140820_02360914 suitcases (two of them were carry-on sized but it’s what we had), plus 1 carry-on per person, a stroller and a car seat. All free.

We drove in a caravan to the airport with my parents driving their Honda Pilot with all the seats folded down and most of our luggage in there with the kids and us and some of our luggage in our car. We arrived, found out international travelers can’t use curbside check in and maneuvered all our luggage into the airport.

We said goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa, checked in (took forever because it is all self-check in with one United employee manning several locations), made it through security (where I somehow set off the metal detector and instead of getting patted down, had my flip flops swabbed for something). Got to our gate to find out it was slightly delayed. Then moved to another gate. Then delayed so much that we’d miss our connection to Beijing. B set off to talk to a United employee and figure out what we should do. They were difficult (telling us we should have known better than to buy tickets through San Francisco where there is often bad weather (it was a mechanical problem with a plane), etc. She told him we shouldn’t get on a plane without having a connecting flight so they pulled our luggage, sent it down to baggage claim (where we had to retrieve it and sit with it for awhile while B went to talk to United and China Air and figure out what our next move was).

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We aren’t even on a flight yet, we’re still at LAX, the kids are using up Kindle batteries and snacks. B gets it figured out and we’re on a flight for later that afternoon (6 ish if I remember correctly) going to Houston and from Houston to Beijing. We have to recheck our bags though which, in addition to being super difficult to get all our bags back upstairs and checked in again, is super frustrating to the United staff (even though it was one of them that sent our bags back out to us). This time goes much more smoothly and with the exact same set of clothing, I don’t set off security this time and we get through the gate. We buy lunch/dinner with the food vouchers United gave us and wait. This plane is also delayed. PLUS, all of our seats are apart (I get that 6 seats together on a flight is a lot to ask for, but everyone (United workers) gave us attitude about it even when we mentioned that our 2 year old couldn’t really sit by himself). Luckily, there were some nice passengers and on this flight, Squirt and I were together, Princess Sparkley and Little Guy were together (across the aisle and two rows back from me). Buddy was alone, across the aisle and one row back from me. And B was alone, about 4 rows up from Buddy. Then we sat in the plane. For quite awhile. Long enough that legally they had to let us off the plane to walk around if we wanted to. Then they announced that there was another plane several gates away and that we were switching to it. We switched and finally we were off (knowing that we were probably, once again missing our connection to Beijing at this point but not knowing what was the best move). The passengers applauded when the plane moved. The kids were mostly good on the flights (they weren’t really near us for us to know differently). Squirt wasn’t great but wasn’t horrible. Free inflight movies/tv helped.

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We landed in Houston and B went to talk to the United people (it’s super late at night now… midnight I think) since we’ve missed the flight to Beijing. They got us flights the next morning to Dulles (Washington DC) and from there to Beijing. And more food vouchers. We’d be arriving in Beijing about 24 hours later than expected. The woman offered a hotel room (but we’d only be in it about 3 or 4 hours before needing to be back at the airport) so we asked where a good place to sleep in the airport would be for our family. She suggested the chapel. It was full of sleeping travelers. We found an empty gate and tried to get comfortable on the seats (with an armrest between each seat!!) Squirt was difficult. He’d slept on this flight and been sleepy when we got off the plane but then walking around the airport woke him up so B and I took turns walking him around the empty airport in his stroller trying to get him to sleep. He finally fell asleep and we all got a couple of hours of sleep before we needed to wake up for our next flight.

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We woke up and used new food vouchers to load up on breakfast and airplane snacks for our next flights then ran to the gate to get to our DC flight. Two of our seats were naturally together on this flight so Squirt and I took those and when we showed up, the way it worked out, we traded the third seat with a mom who wanted to sit with her kids one row further up and Little Guy got to sit with us too. PS was directly behind me next to a kid from Mexico and they chatted a lot for the last hour of the flight. Buddy was two rows in front of me and B one row in front of that.

When we got off the plane in DC and got to our next gate (everything on time) they handed us our new boarding passes (the ones from the night before didn’t have seat assignments yet) and somehow they got all 6 seats together! Finally, United came through for us on something. Our boarding group was already boarding so they quickly tagged our stroller and hurried us on to the plane. Again, the kids were good. Squirt was okay. The flight was full of a lot of Chinese people so his little blonde head was already getting a lot of attention. Our row was window, 3 strangers, aisle, Squirt, me, Little Guy, aisle, B, Princess Sparkley, Buddy, window. I napped some. Little Guy napped a lot. Squirt napped some. I’m not sure about everyone else. They watched a lot of movies/tv. Luckily flying all the way across the United States only to fly back the other direction didn’t make our flight a whole lot longer than it would have been from San Francisco. The flight attendants weren’t very helpful with Squirt. No kid friendly snacks or anything but we survived.

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That plaid shirt at the bottom is sleeping Little Guy.

And then we were in Beijing. We were towards the back of the plane, had to wait for our stroller and move 6 of us so we were the last group out with the flight crew. We found our way around, lined up and had our passports and visas checked, found our baggage (luckily the luggage carts were free so we loaded as many suitcases as we could and B, PS, Buddy and myself pushed a luggage cart while Little Guy pushed Squirt in the stroller), changed money, declared nothing in customs and found the guy from B’s school holding a little sign with our name on it.

We waited probably 20 minutes to get all of us onto an elevator and up to where the school had a hired minibus waiting for us. We loaded the bus with luggage and people and then proceeded to drive for about an hour across Beijing. We saw the Bird Nest (from the Beijing summer Olympics). The kids fought (and sometimes lost a battle with) sleep.

From leaving Grandma and Grandpa’s house until we arrived at our new apartment in Beijing was about 41 hours. Bleh.

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