Panda Mom in Japan

Panda Mom is traveling abroad in Japan right now, so you might not see regular posts from her (er, me) for the next couple of weeks.  I have a few concerts to do, but mostly we’ll be spending time visiting friends and relatives, including my best friend from first grade in Osaka, Yukako. I’m completely jet-lagged as I write this, so please forgive me if I sound incoherent.

First Class trip to Japan!

Oh, can I tell you that we got very fortunate and were bumped up to first class on Delta?  What a blessing and a great way to start our two-week stay in Japan!  The kids, ages 11 and 13, were almost as excited as I was to find our fully-reclining seats in row 6.  I had only admired such seats from behind the curtain all these years, and now I was actually sitting in one of them!  It was a red-eye flight. My kids, ever the optimists, asked me to wake them up for the meals after they took a “little nap.”  As you can imagine, they then promptly went to sleep and missed both of their first class meals.  That’s the downside of those comfy seats in the front of the planes — you might not wake up in time to enjoy the fine china dinner.

We’ve been on the go all day today, taking this train and that while rolling our suitcases along to our destination, the home of our friends Daniel and Yumiko outside Tokyo.  I was reminded of when Josh and Meg were in strollers, and how much work it was for me and David to travel with little ones.  In fact, we just gave up on travels to Japan for many years.  Why go all that way to torture ourselves?  Now, not only are they no longer extra baggage for us to handle but they are actually being very helpful.  In the years past, I would never have considered traveling to Japan with two kids without David.  Now?  They’re keeping me company and handling their own bags.  I am definitely reaping the rewards of the hard work I put into the early years.

If you’re right in the middle of the busy days of babies and toddlers and are struggling just to make it through each day, trust me when I say this: it is just a season.  And it will pass.  Some wonderful days with your kids are ahead.  Who knows — it might even include first-class travels!

Do your kids travel well?  Do you have any traveling horror or success stories?  Please share them with us in the comments below.


Traveling with an Infant

Early boarding, here we come.

I just returned from a weekend trip to Northern California with my son Joshua, now 13 years old.  I couldn’t believe how pleasant it was — nothing like how traveling with baby Josh used to be.

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“How can such a small human being create so much luggage,” I cried in exasperation one weekend when Josh was about 6 months old.  I was flying up to Northern California for a weekend concert engagement.  I couldn’t possibly haul all of our stuff and manage an infant, so I asked my friend Sarah to come along.  She only required a duffel bag for the three days, and I one suite case.  In contrast, Joshua required a stroller, a car seat, baby carrier, a portable baby bath tub, a “portable” play pen/crib, and a suitcase bigger than mine and Sarah’s combined.  I must have thought that they don’t sell diapers nor baby food in San Francisco.

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The best thing about traveling with young children is early boarding.  I tried to pass my teenager as a 5-year old on this trip, but no success.  The second best thing is that kids fly free until they are two years old. Before you get all excited about this, you must be aware of its advantages and disadvantages.

The good news is that you don’t have to pay for a ticket for the baby.  The bad news is that there is no seat for your baby either.  If you’re lucky, you can get on a flight with an open seat next to you, but chances are you are stuck with a child bouncing on your lap for the entire  flight.  More than once, the passenger next to me got up and moved to a different seat.  I wasn’t sure if he was being kind or simply escaping, but I was just glad he opened up the next seat.

For reasons I do not understand, the FAA regulates that I hold the lap infant during take-off and landing instead of allowing me to tuck the kid under my seat belt or in the seat pocket in front.  It’s not so bad during the take-off, but on the landing, I’m just barely keeping my baby from flying away from me.

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And diapers.  Oh, have you ever tried changing a dirty diaper in the tiny lavatories they have on those planes?  Where, pray tell, do you place the baby during the change?  Some planes have one dedicated lavatory equipped with a “baby changing table,” but it’s no bigger than the tray table at your seat.  I was absolutely not going to change him on the dirty bathroom floor, so I often resorted to using the toilet lid as a make-shift changing table.  I wrestled the baby from wiggling off the round, curved lid.  I often staggered out of the lavatory holding a crying baby with a very crooked diaper.

I was so desperate once on a flight to Japan with baby Josh that I began to change him on the floor right at my seat.  The flight attendant discovered this and immediately forbade me, so I then went to the galley where I found a counter perfectly situated for a diaper change.  Right away, another flight attendant found me out and shooed, “It’s unsanitary.  Please do it ON your seat.”  She obviously was not a mother.  Have you ever tried changing a baby on your airplane seat?  Unless your child is a 6 x 8 rectangle and doesn’t move, it is quite impossible.  I was nearly in tears until another flight attendant — most certainly a mom — stood at guard while I did the duty back on the galley counter top.  I owe her a million miles.

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As you can see, traveling with a teenager is much more pleasant than with an infant.  How about you — travel with babies much?