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Worst... Plane Ride... Ever!

Today I experienced the third worst airplane trip I have ever been through.

  • *Disclaimer: If you have fears of flying, please skip this post**

The WORST airplane trip I ever had was on my honeymoon five years ago. My husband and I were flying from the main island of Nadi, Fiji to the smaller dot of an island where our prepaid resort was located. I say prepaid, because there was absolutely no chance, if it was not prepaid, that we would have made it to that resort. We duck our heads, and climb into the small prop plane that is to carry us, the pilot, copilot and 8 passengers, to the neighboring islands. There is no cockpit. No door separating passenger from pilot. No overhead bins, no jetway. We begin our trip under sunny skies, but the sky soon turns stormy and grey. It is supposed to be a quick 45 minutes trip to our island. My husband is already not the most comfortable flier. He has heart valve problems, so he gets palpitations at altitude that cause him to be uneasy on flights. He tends to prefer those large planes where you forget you are actually up several thousand feet in the air. This small plane did not allow you to forget exactly where within the clouds you were. The plane is buzzing loudly as we cut though the clouds, and then we start to be tossed around by the wind as the plane drops, rolls to the side, dips, and wobbles from side to side. I am reminded of a leaf in Autumn, being tossed about as currents of wind send it up and down at whim. Our plane is about that same magnitude of power and strength in comparison to the natural world's force around us.

The pilot of this small cessna is probably 22 years old. I can see him sweating. I hear the co-pilot on his radio, talking frantically, but I can't make out what he is saying due to the plane noise. I am trying to focus on something other than the plane but it is impossible. After over an hour, we finally land in a small runway, and white-knuckled, my husband and I prepare to get off. Thank God, we're here. "I'm sorry" the pilot informs us, but this is not your stop. We had to fly to another island first, because we couldn't land there, so now we need to double back to get you to your stop. I tell him, "that's ok, I don't care where we are, we'll get off here." But he doesn't hear me. I ask my husband, "can't we just get off here? Maybe we can catch a boat from here to our island? Find a new place to stay here?" The prepayment causes us to grit it out, but I suspect a few of the others who got off the plane weren't intending to land here. 5 of the 8 passengers on with us get off, two new people get on. The rain is so thick it is difficult to see the ground. All I see is thick grey and pounding rain. We have to switch our seats to rebalance the weight on the plane, so my husband and I are no longer sitting together. It is so terrifying, it is almost funny. Up we go again. The sky is nearly black with clouds. I see lightning strikes to both sides of our little plane. I am praying continuously, as a way to keep my calm. I take a valium. We are being thrown around like a paper airplane. I see the pilot trying to hold onto the controls with both hands, like a child playing a game with a joystick, and I feel nauseous. The pilot and co-pilot are talking in hushed tones as the co-pilot flips through a book with instructions that appears to be some type of manual. I am seriously wondering if we will make it to this next island. Another hour longer than expected, and we land safely on an even tinier runway. It is so dark outside, it is night in the middle of the afternoon. I step out, and a man is holding an umbrella flush with the plane, but in the inch of space between the plane and the stairs, I get completely drenched. The rain is coming down in sheets. I have never experienced a monsoon, and never want to again. The rain is thick, the earth has pools of flooded water, the air is dense. We are soaked to the bone, clothes sticking to us, and winds are 50 miles an hour. Palm branches are crashing down, branches and tree limbs and debris is scattered all over the resort property. Deep brown rain puddles are everywhere. Our beautiful authentic wooden palm thatched house is hard to appreciate the first night, because it seems as if the big bad wolf is huffing and puffing to blow the whole thing down. Coconuts come smashing down, and it is not safe to be outside in case one lands on your head, so we dry up, curl up, and listen to the fury of nature.

The next morning, it looks like a tornado hit. Debris is everywhere, mud and deep potholes scatter the paths and roads, and everything has been shaken to its core. We had a fitful night listening to the howling wind race through the house, and strong rains pounding against the ceiling sounded like rain on a tin metal roof.

This brings me to our last flight today, #3 worst. Another cessna. Flashbacks. We were flying inter island from Maui back to Kona. We just got off our flight from Sacramento on the mainland. We didn't realize we had to leave the airport and go to another terminal for our flight. I ask my husband, does it say anywhere on our itinerary that this is not a real airplane? Not a real flight? Any suggestion it is actually a cessna? Could this have been avoided? Nope, just sprung on us like a bad surprise party. No security. No co-pilot, no cockpit. Utoh. This time, I have a toddler. We are weighed and told where to sit. The flight is uneventful in comparison, except that I have a squirming 25 pound child in my arms who doesn't understand that my death grip means he cannot get up. He can't touch anything. We are next to the door, and I am petrified that he will reach for the lever, or touch some knobs. I succeed in reading him the same two books over and over to keep him on my lap for a full 40 minute flight that feels like twice as long as that. The baby is screaming when he looks out the window and sees us climbing from earth. He cries from the noise and the air pressure, and the scary dips the plane makes as it drifts up and up over the mountains of Haleakala. Children screaming and sweaty mothers brings me to terrible flight #2.

  1. 2 worst is not equal in magnitude to the terror of our first worst flight, but it was equally painfully long. There were 26 children in our immediate five rows. We have one child, but he is an easy flyer. It is a Southwest flight, with free seating, and there is not a free seat in the house. We are packed to the hilt. We sit next to an older lady, who is one of the last on the plane. She seems perfectly nice, until she begins ordering two, then three straight scotch. She tells us she is claustrophobic and would we mind changing seats so she can have the aisle? I am usually unusually nice, to a fault. But I do not know what to say to this request, so I hedge. She presses and asks again. At first, I say, I'm sorry but we just can't. We were here first, we specifically chose the aisle, which we need because we have a baby on our laps who needs to be up every fifteen minutes to change, and who we need to stand to rock to sleep. So no, we really cannot change seats with you. 'That's fine', she says, 'I will let you out'. I ignore her. Five minutes later, she asks again. So I say, well, this is really inconvenient for us with the baby. She seems unconcerned. I am ready to bend to the pressure and be inconvenienced when my husband suggests that she find someone else willing to switch seats with her. We find a lady nearby willing to take her window seat, much to all of our relief, and we get reorganized. Then she forgets all of her things under the seat and we have to pass it up several aisles. We get our son to sleep and just as he finally nods off, this little girl in front of us, who is traveling with her mom and two siblings and has been whining all flight, begins to scream at the top of her lungs. Great. Up after ten minutes of a nap. This is going to be a long five hour flight. The mother of this three year old is screaming back at her: Cory, sit down! Shut up! She is nearly hysterical herself. She is sitting in another row, by herself, and all three kids are in the row next to us. She is yelling back to them. The mother comes back and is trying to get the child to calm down, but she is grabbing her arm violently, then holding her down. The girl is screaming louder, you're hurting me! stop! And the mother is again yelling back. Girl, wailing. Everyone within earshot of this interaction is getting noticeably uncomfortable. Several consider intervening. Finally a man nearby tells the mom to take a break, and starts talking to her and calming her down. It is ugly. I hate passing judgments on parents, because I know how hard it can be, and we all have our moments where we lose it, we aren't proud, we are imperfect. But this was Nanny 911 material. Horrendous. And we were all an unwillingly captive audience. I felt like I was on a Jerry Springer set. On that 5 hour flight from Boston to Phoenix, at least every one of those 26 children was crying, often several at once in symphony. No one could sleep, no one could think. I was focused on trying my hardest to keep my son (and myself!) calm and entertained, despite the chaos around us. I look up and see the same mother with her noise-cancelling headphones on watching a movie, while two of her children climb over armrests to the seats in front of them. I wonder why someone has children if they are unwilling to put in the time and energy to entertain and be with them. She occasionally glared back and yelled at them, but never once brought a child to her seat, came back and read to them, gave affection or attention...it was infuriating. I have empathy for other parents when their child is crying and they are trying to console them, get them to sleep, rock them, appease them. My baby cries too, I have been there. But when a child is crying and the parent does nothing, that is what makes a bad rap for all of us. Show up and do the work.

Posted by globalmomma 06:56 Archived in USA Tagged flight ride from island small plane trip airplane hell angry screams Comments (0)

Eleven hours of hell

Traveling with kids is the hardest thing in the world. Don't listen to me if I tell you otherwise.  I never realized how easy I had it when all I had to do was worry about getting myself to the fight on time, and what I brought with me to read. With kids, it is a constant crapshoot for what you are going to get.  It could be an easy ride, after which you say, 'wow, that wasn't so bad', and you almost forget about the other times when it is difficult. Other times, your child is awakened during every nap, you forget the milk, you go through each diaper, and you are banging your head against the seat in front of you by the time the whole thing is through. Or maybe in need of a strong drink. Or three.
 
The anxiety of not knowing what you are going to get is the worst part.  Dreading the ten hour flight or the overnight trip or the five hour car ride.  Having a strong arsenal of supplies is half the battle. Sheer luck is the other half.

When your child is crying and unsympathetic people around you are glaring, and you are turning red-faced as you try to appease, nothing is good, and you can't get out of that situation and off the plane fast enough. Nursery rhymes, rocking, even playing with your iPhone...bribes, snacks, new toys, any method is employed to try to get through a long flight.  Planes have a higher probability of hellishness because there is so very little room to move.  You stand in the aisles, you get bumped. You stand in galleys, you are likely to get chastised by crabby flght attendants. You try to go into the bathroom but the lights are too bright for sleep. You try in your chair but the baby kicks the seat in front of you and squirms onto the floor. If you are lucky, you may have one of those children that can fall asleep half-standing in the middle of a football game.  Most of us have children who sleep best like we do... In quiet, cool, dark rooms without hordes of strangers around.  For them, as for us, sleeping on a plane is near impossible without medical help.

This last one was a doozy. Direct from Newark, New Jersey to Honolulu, eleven hours; which at first I thought was a great plan, and since have started to regress such notions of any 'better way to go'. I now know flying from the east coast to Hawai'i is torture, regardless of how many flights it takes.

The particulars of this flight started with a packed flight leaving Newark, one that we happened to board nearly last, as it took forever to get through the terminal and to the gate. Even though we arrived at the airport over 90 minutes early, we still got to the plane as all rows were boarding. No time for diaper changes and water runs, and it was rush, rush, rush. Between all the elevators and trams in Newark, I told my husband I felt like the flight should be nearly over before we even left, I was so exhausted. Usually I try my hardest to plan for a good nap before a travel day. I find it is the best predictor of success...well, that and an empty flight, which is rare and totally unpredictable.  This morning the nap was not good, a foreboding detail.

We get on the plane and get settled in with ourr eight carry-ons, including a car seat, diaper bag, cooler bag, two coats, backpack, rolling bag, bear. Since Bodhi had a miserable first nap for only about forty five minutes in the car, he was whiny and fidgety from the start. As soon as we got up to altitude, we were hoping he would fall asleep. We bought him an honorary third seat on the plane for this purpose...so he could fall asleep in his car seat as he usually does. No problem, right? Wrong. After an hour, it was clear it wasn't going to work out, so we were back to standing in the galley with him over our shoulders whisking him to sleep. Of course, right about the time we finally get him to sleep, the baby across from us decides to wake up and starts chatting and shrieking. Game over. We try for a few minutes to keep him asleep but it is of no use. He pops open his eyes and yells, 'uppa!' The second nap goes in about the same manner and I find myself staring at the computer screen with the airplane trajectory on it, willing us to go faster and get there.  During the four hours between naps, Bodhi managed to burn through all three of his outfits. One was peed through. The second was also soaked, after he tried to grab Chris's ice water and ceremoniously dumped it straight on his face.  Imagine a baby being doused with a full glass of ice water. Didn't feel good. And he sure let us know about it.  I stripped him down to his diaper in about three seconds as if I was practicing for a class in hypothermia first aid.   The third was partially soaked by the wet car seat from the pee incident and the ice water, but also got food all over it. But it will have to do for the remaining three hours.

Luckily I brought an entire carryon of diapers so we aren't going to go through all of those. We had that happen on a previous flight and I wasn't going to let that happen this time. I also thought to bring the entire jar of toddler formula instead of the bottles of milk I usually bring. Good thing because we have already burned through four bottles and the night is still young. We make it to Honolulu, and then while buying dinner and getting from terminal to terminal, somehow we miss our connecting interisland flight to Kona. And it is the last one of the night. Good things I brought those diapers and formula, because we have another overnight here. We don't have his travel crib, and we don't have anymore clothes, but what we do have will have to do. By the time we check-in at our airport Best Western, it is 3AM East Coast time and we are all more than ready for a night of sleep. Goodnight.

Posted by globalmomma 00:24 Archived in USA Tagged travel flight kids with hawaii airplane Comments (0)

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