Sunday, January 13, 2013

Day 1: Houston to LA to Japan

We woke up extra early the morning of our departure, because we had to catch the 8 am flight out of Houston.  We gave our last hugs to the few people at my mom's house that morning, packed up with my mom in her car, and headed to the airport.  I am usually the calm and collected one with no anxiety, but facing the thought of getting on three planes over the next two days in conjunction with the possibility of two toddlers being overtired and going ape-poo crazy on said planes made my tummy hurt.  We transferred our bags from my mom's car to the sidewalk at the airport, told my fabulous mom see you later, and headed off to check in for our first leg of traveling.

This is where our first flight of the day started.  We flew for 3 hours to Los Angeles for about an hour and a half layover before catching our next flight.

This plane was laid out with two seats on each side of the aisle, so it worked out perfectly with our family of four!  There was nobody next to the boys for them to bother (especially true for Parker who doesn't understand staying in his own personal space), and the bonus was that they could look out the window (great for curious Connar; Parker didn't notice so much).

Because we woke the boys up early, Connar ended up falling asleep on this flight for a good chunk of it.  Parker was sleepy too, but laid back quietly and watched movies on the iPad while he snacked for basically the entire flight.  :)

See that red booklet in C's hand?  That's the plane safety book that is in the back of every seat that shows the exits, how to prepare for emergency landing, etc..  He insisted on taking this with him off the plane, so it may or may not be sitting on my coffee table right now.  Look people, don't judge....we pick our fights around here.  I'm sure the airline would understand.  ;)

Notice how C is pushing the button on the armrest?  That's the button that makes the armrest go up, but C thinks he helps the plane take off and land when he pushed that button.  Thank you for the distraction, Daddy.  Great too!

We were descending into LAX.  See that mountain in the forefront on the left?  If you look really close you can see white letters.....HOLLYWOOD!  That was my first time seeing it, so that was exciting for me.  I know, little things excite me.  :)

While we waited in LAX, we grabbed some food, and the boys checked out the airplane we would be getting on from the terminal window.

And here's where our second flight of the day comes in.  This was the longest flight of our journey back to Korea, checking in at 12 hours from Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita Airport in Japan.

We hopped on the plane with good attitudes, bags full of games and snacks, and charged iPads to last the length of the whole flight....or so we thought.  With more than half of the flight left, we noticed that the iPads were starting to get low on battery, and unfortunately, we weren't seated in a row with an electrical outlet like we thought we were when we booked the flight (talk about frustrated, to say the very least!).  Talton had the brilliant idea to dim the brightness on the iPads to save battery life, and it worked like a charm.  He also talked Connar into watching some cartoons on the airplane TV, so that saved some time on the iPad as well.  Parker ended up taking a nap for a couple of hours, so that helped with not only our sanity but also with extending the battery life of that iPad.  By the time the plane landed, one iPad had only like 5% juice left, and the other wasn't too far behind but still had enough for Parker to use later on the shuttle to the hotel.  Thank goodness!
This flight had two seats by the windows with five seats in the middle.  In hindsight, we should've gotten the two window seats and then the two seats on the other side of the aisle so we weren't stuck in the middle of the five person section, although we did take up four of those five seats.

While the restrooms on the plane do have a changing table over the toilet, it sure isn't anything to write home about.  I'm hoping that the noise of the plane blocked out the fussing that was echoing inside the restroom every time I laid him back to change his diaper.  I'm also hoping that it blocked out the screams from when I forced Motrin in his mouth to help him get more comfortable from his low fever (we're talking 100 degrees F, but even that can make someone, especially a 22 month old, uncomfortable and on the cranky side).  I'm glad I made him take it, because it allowed him to relax enough to fall asleep and nap for a couple hours.

You can choose to watch a movie on the TV in the headrest or the flight map. 
See this?  2 hours and 57 minutes REMAINING in the 12 hour flight!  This is when we wanted to pull our hair out.  Those last few hours seem to be the hardest, because you're so close yet so far away.  The minutes seem to creep by slowly, all the while your kids seem to be getting more antsy.

Every screen would be in Japanese, so you'd have to wait until the following screen for the English translation.  It would give information like your altitude, how many miles left, the temperature outside the plane at that moment, etc..

This was in the last hour of our 12 hour flight.  The boys were hanging in there, as were Mom and Dad.  :)  They really did do amazing, all things considered.  Thank you, God!

Looking at this picture makes me want to put something out there for those of you who fly often.  If you're not sleeping, then please sit your chair forward.  It is quite uncomfortable for the person/people behind you to wiggle by several seats that are reclined to get out of the aisle to go potty or change a diaper every hour, all the while the person is wide awake.  I know you paid for the seat and I completely understand reclining it if you're sleeping (I still feel bad reclining my seat regardless and honestly don't do it very often for that reason) but really, be more considerate if you're not asleep.  We're all stuck in this metal capsule together for many hours.  The least you can do is sit it up when you're awake.  Okay, off my soap box.  :)

Because we were spending the night in Tokyo (longer than a 12 hour layover), we had to claim ALL of our bags and then recheck them the following day.  How fun!  Please tell me you sense my sarcasm here.  Lucky for us I did a little research before leaving to find out that the airport offers a baggage storage service for a fee.  Sign us up!

You see the two luggage carts that C & P are sitting on?  Wellllllll we ended up filling both of them up completely and then had to push them to the Customs line.  Oh, I forgot to mention we also had the stroller to push, and you have to push down on the white bar on these carts to get them to roll.  You should've seen me pushing a stroller and one of those carts simultaneously.  Listen, when you don't have a choice with something, you figure out a way to get it done. 

When we pulled up to the Customs line, the officer that helped us flagged down a second officer and asked him to push one of our luggage carts for us.  How super nice!  He pushed it all the way out the arrivals down and down the hall through crowds until we reached this baggage storage place.  I will be forever grateful to those Japanese Customs officers.  :)
 We paid the equivalent of like $80 to store our luggage here overnight, and it was worth every penny!

Then, we headed outside to the shuttle area to catch the free bus to our hotel for the night, the Hilton Narita, about 15 minutes from the airport.  What a great service that is!  This is the second time I've used this shuttle for that particular hotel, and it rocks.  The bus drivers are knowledgeable and helpful even though they spoke very little English.  I would definitely take that shuttle to and from that hotel and airport any time I need to in the future.

 The boys went a little crazy bouncing off the walls and jumping on the beds once we got into our room, but we didn't care one bit!  We were so grateful that they made it through the traveling for the day the way they did that we just sat back and figured out what we were going to order from room service for dinner while they played and explored the room.

Japanese Yen -- How cool is that coin with the hole?!
After eating, we showered and hit the hay before 8 pm that night.  We were all beat and fell right asleep, knowing that we would have to be up to catch our last flight the next morning.  :)

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