Are you Ready for our next Travelogue? This one is about our first International Flight.
They say that you should arrive at the airport 2 hours before your flight to have enough time to check in and get through security. If you are flying internationally and have kids with you I would add at least an extra hour. This is especially true if this is your first international flight. My husband and I have taken more than one flight with our kids before. However, they have all been domestic and never with 3 kids. Man, it’s amazing what that extra kid and an international flight can do to add a little craziness to your travel experience. Before leaving on our adventure I thought the hardest part of our journey would be navigating public transportation to get From the Gatwick Airport in London to our hotel and then again traversing from our hotel a day and a half later to get to the Stanwick airport to fly to Greece. I seriously never imagined that the hardest part of our journey would be at the Airports themselves….shudder.
So on to our story… We had stopped on our way to the airport and picked up some fast food on the way planning to eat it for dinner (we had an evening flight from California to England) while waiting for our flight. Thankfully we knew where to drop off our rental at the airport because it was where we had exchanged our rental from Utah for the local car when we had arrived in California a day and a half before. We arrived at the Oakland International Airport 2 hours before our flight thinking to breeze through check-in and security like in times past (after all airports are often kinder to families. Hahaha…insert painful self-deprecating laugh here.
So what happened at the Airport to justify the introduction to this Travelogue? Well, it all started with check-in. Like I said thigs were going fine we got to the Airport just barely 2 hours before our flight was scheduled to leave. There were only 4 people ahead of us in the check-in line and I watched the Norwegian check in people just breeze them through. I noticed how they had to weigh their checked bags but were never asked about the carry-ons or personal items the people ahead of us had. Then it was our turn. I was slightly worried that our 1 checked bag was overweight. The sole purpose for the hard case checked bag was that my husband was transporting his specialty Drawing monitor that he needed to have with him to work while we were overseas. The combined weight of the packaged monitor + the Suitcase itself was pushing the weight limit not to mention the few clothing items we had to pack around the monitor box to pad it. Honestly, I figured we would have to pay a small fee for the extra weight then be on our way. How wrong I was.
The check-in Lady helping us was quick to inform us that we only were allotted XXX amount of weight and we were over. She then said we should just buy another suitcase to even out the weight. Ummm first of all, it’s not like there was anyone selling Suitcases next to check in (though come to think of it, if there was they would probably make a killing in sales). We didn’t have the time, or transportation to go look for one and even if we did it was the monitor and suitcase that were causing the weight and there was nothing we could do about it. So I told her we would just pay the extra fee. When she gave me the amount I almost swallowed my tongue.
That wasn’t the worst part. I am sure we looked like we had a ton of luggage (I mean think carry-on and personal bag for 5 people) add to that because our checked bag was overweight the lady assisting us at check in demanded we weight each and every carry-on and personal bag we had to make sure they weren’t overweight. On the domestic flights we had been on in the past the airlines always just weighed all of our bags together and divided the weight by our combined allotment. Not so this time. We had to weigh each bag separately to make sure not one went over. Sadly were 1 was slightly under weight other were over by a pound or two and so on.
Again the Norwegian lady told us to just buy another suitcase and check it. Grrrr… Since that wasn’t an option we were going to have to pay to make one of our carry-on bags a checked bag (since checked bags had a higher weight allotment). And so my husband and I found myself trying to keep the kids distracted while my husband tried to frantically redistribute the contents of our bags. I knew if we had had time we could have done a better job of shifting our luggage so we wouldn’t even need to check that second bag but all this was taking too long and we were informed that check-in was closing in 10 minutes. I was starting to fear we wouldn’t make it in time and would thus miss our flight. Those were the most intense 10 minutes I have had in a while as I wrestled with my kids to keep them in line and prayed my heart out that my husband would be able to get everything squared away with our luggage in time. You will be happy to note that we did finally get all our stuff shifted and that second bag checked for a costly fee, and we were on our way through security. Of course, each of our backpacks (kids included) and our umbrella stroller were flagged and had to be manually searched through. Rory was given a full on body search (cause he looks so suspicious…right). All of this took more TIME. However, soon we were all packed back up and making our way to our gate. Thankfully, our gate was the first gate past security because right as we arrived they called for those traveling with kids to board.
Soon we were all settled in our seats awaiting take off. We passed out our now cold food to our kids who by this time were starving and started to eat. There was only one problem. We had NOTHING TO DRINK. Because we were on a budget flight there were no meals or drinks included on our 10 ½ hour flight. We had brought empty water bottles with the intent to fill them up after making our way through security. However, thanks to how much time we spent in check in and security we just didn’t have the time. Thankfully we were able to purchase some bottled water. Frustratingly those 16oz bottles of water were $3 a piece. What could we do? After all we all needed to drink?
Thankfully, the rest of the flight went great. Having filled their little tummies with food and drink our kids settled in for the long flight. That right our kids were great flyers which to the delight of those sitting around us. Each seat had an integrative screen with free games, movies and even a fun flight screen that showed our flight plan and where we currently we flying over. So each kid hooked in their headphones and didn’t even need to use their kindles. After about each watching a movie and playing a few games our kids yawned and snuggled in, to sleep. We knew that getting sleep was imperative so even though I was wide awake I tried to force myself to get some sleep too. After all, Though, we were to arrive in London at 12:10pm UK time that equated to being 5:10 Utah time or 4:10 California time. We still had a lot to face before we would arrive at our hotel and could comfortable sleep.
All too soon our plane was nearing our destination. About 15 minutes before landing our stewardesses started passing out landing cards for UK customs. We asked if we needed one for each person or one for our family. We were told 1 per a family would be fine (ummm yeah so while waiting in line at customs we learned that we actually needed on per each person.)
After we got off the flight it was a bit tricky getting all the kids, our carry on’s and backpacks to the customs lines since our stroller was waiting with the checked bags, and the kids were too tired to carry any of their own stuff. Heck, they were too tired to walk. Once wee got in line at customs our kids just sort of collapsed on the ground and we ended up scooting them with our feet while we shuffled along with our bags while trying to fill out the landing cards for each person (since we had only gotten one card from the stewardess. ) Each landing card needed our personal info, passport in for, flight in for and info for where we were staying and how long. It took us over an hour to get through customs. Thankfully when they saw we had kids they didn’t stop to go through our bags like they did many other passengers.
Now it was time to get to our Hotel. To get to our Hotel on Hampton Street which was in Elephant & Castle in Southwark (South London) we had to take an hour long journey the first part by Train, and the second part by Subway followed by a 10-minute walk (with 3 kids and all our luggage.) As I said in the beginning of this post I had feared that this was going to be the hardest part of the journey but it actually turned out to be the easiest. I was happy to note that kids travel on public transportation for free with a paying adult in the UK. after the unexpected extra expenses of the last day this was a happy discovery. We did get a little turned around on which train to take and got off too soon requiring us to get on another train to finish our trip (thankfully we met some really helpful locals who helped give us directions.
After getting off the train we headed down to the subway, where again multiple locals offered us help to get down the flight of stairs to our platform. When we told our friends they said it was probably because we had a deer caught in the headlights look on our faces and they took pity on us. Which is probably not far from the truth. The kids enjoyed both the train and subway rides and all I can say is I am glad we were staying sooo close to the subway stop because we were all feeling the jetlag by this time. Check in was quick and easy and after lugging ourselves and all out gear up the long and narrow flight of stairs (we were staying in a vintage Victorian hotel) we all collapsed on our beds for a quick breather before again venturing out to find something to eat.
Yes, this part of our trip had been quite daunting, yet I still don’t regret it for we were finally in Europe (somewhere I never thought to see in my lifetime) Yes it was hard but still worth it.
Stay tuned for my next Travelogue which will be all about our day and a half in London before continuing on to Greece!
If you are planing a trip with kids to the UK check out my post on the Top 11 things to know BEFORE Traveling with kids to the UK and save yourself a lot of hassle by being prepared. (Yeah, I totally wish I had known a few of these tips beforehand)