Today we hit the skies with big bags and high hopes.
The kids' big dreams included how incredibly exciting flying on an airplane would be. By the time we hit our destination, they decided if they never flew on an airplane again as long as they lived, that'd be okay by them. They were so excited, waiting for the moment when they could finally board.
Traveling with children is certainly not as relaxing as flying solo, but what a joy to watch their little minds process new experiences. Things that have become common place are a source of wonder and excitement. Watching their little faces light up as planes take off and land - priceless. When we boarded our first flight, Renny (the family's self-appointed safety officer) began reading all the signs and labels. When she read the sign indicating her seat cushion could be used as a flotation device, her face lit up and she asked with excitement "Mom, is there a HOT TUB on this plane?"
Two of our four flights were amazing, over half empty and we literally had three to four entire rows all to ourselves. First class - eat your heart out! The other two flights were the opposite of that.
When boarding the final plane, it was completely full and there was lots of pushing and shoving. Mr. T has pretty big issues with personal space, but he's always done incredibly well with the cultural differences when traveling (FYI - our American ideas of personal space do not exist in Africa). When the excessive touching and pushing extended to his daughter, he was not quite as understanding and a little bit of the protective dad meets American confrontation came out. I was so uncomfortable for everyone involved, all I wanted to do was crawl under my hot tub flotation device.
And here are my top three tips for traveling with children:
1) Water bottles: Since death by dehydration seems to be the primary goal of airlines these days, here's a little tip. Bring an empty water bottle for each person. Then fill it up at the airport or, if your airport is lame like ours is and doesn't have water fountains, have the flight attendant fill it up on the plane. Either way, you won't be stuck asking for refills of your 6 ounce water glass every two minutes, nor will you have to shell out $50 for bottled water in the terminal.
2) If you have an overanxious little travel companion, I recommend humming very loudly while the flight attendants go over safety measures. Otherwise, you might be forced to spend the next eight hours convincing your offspring how unlikely a water
3) Meals. Did you know you can request kid's meal on international flights? (you have to do it in advance) Though the designers of this menu have clearly never been to a McDonalds, they are remarkably better than the standard chicken/rice/mush served to everyone else. The one exception - British Midland Airlines. Maybe my UK readers can help me out with this, but is this something British kids would normally eat for breakfast? Cus there was no way my kids were a'touchin it. Zoom said (for everyone on the plane to hear, cus that's how his volume works) "these eggs taste like fish with the scales still on." Though I'm quite certain he has never actually eaten fish with the scales still on, I did kind of see his point.
And after 36 hours, kids that were so tired they could not. possibly. walk. any. further, we landed in beautiful Ethiopia and found our way to our first guest house, Addis Guest House. They picked us up at the airport, our driver spoke amazing English and our room was large and comfortable. I would highly recommend this place, and I'm regretting that we didn't choose to stay here for the end of our trip. Tomorrow morning we head five hours south to Lake Awassa where we hope to see some African wildlife ...