Also titled: How we survived 20.5 hours of travel and a 14-hour time difference. And I’m dividing this post into a few posts.
So we got to go to Japan. All three of us. Naha, Okinawa, to be specific. So while we were technically in Japan, Okinawa is a separate island that is sometimes referred to as the “Hawaii of Japan.” I think it’s more like the “Florida of Japan.” I will answers a few questions that I know I would ask, at least in my head:
Why? Husband has a cousin who lives there and married a woman from there. We went for the wedding.
How did you pay for it? Luck, actually. Found and sold heirlooms. I’ll tell you more if we’re actual friends.
How in the world did we get there with a toddler? Lotsa planning. I’m a planner. I’m also very goal-oriented. So once we booked the tickets, I started a huge mental plan to get us ready. It involved getting Miss Red’s passport and signing up for an international driver’s license, which I thankfully didn’t need. And thinking about packing. I’ll skip the boring parts about packing, but highlight what helped as I outline how we made it there.
Madison to O’Hare: 2.5 Hours
Husband, Grandma (mother-in-law) and Miss Red and I jammed into our 2003 Honda Civic for the 2.5 hour drive. That was actually a loooooong drive. We had to wake Miss Red, she was crabby, Grandma sang to her, she ate a lot, she faked poopy diapers.
O’Hare: 2.5 Hours
Long-term parking was a nightmare. Also, Miss Red dragged her blanked through cigarette buts and some unknown substance immediately. I don’t even remember this much, except that we couldn’t find Grandma for a while because we were on the elevator with our bags and we lost her. By the time we checked in, snagged a bagel, caught up with another cousin on the long flight, it was time to board. And we had given ourselves nearly 3 hours to do this. So no joke about getting there early.
O’Hare to Narita: 12.5 Hours
I had gone to the Dollar Store to get scores of stickers and coloring items and general crap to keep Miss Red occupied for the 12.5 hour flight. We also thought she would sleep for at least six hours on the plane. I packed pjs for her, did the toothbrush routine, read stories, etc. Ha!
What ended up being the lifesaver was that my husband insisted we bring our new, shiny, MacBook. He is so smart. What worked? Endless DVDs.
In PJs, thinking she'd sleep. O'Hare to Narita
Get kid headphones. Just do it. We also put a few episodes of Sesame Street on the iPod, which was essential for the long immigration lines.
- THE LAPTOP. OMG, NEVER, EVER TRAVEL WITHOUT ONE. Sweet, sweet laptop.
- Aforementioned kid headphones
- Aforementioned iPod
- New-to-her books
- Crayons, stickers
- Cups with lids and straws. The airline won’t have them. We brought 2 – one for milk and one for water.
- Shelf-stable milk. Honestly. It’s expensive, but the mini ones were live-savers.
- Trader Joe’s Applesauce packets. They are an insult to the environment, but we went through 4 boxes our entire trip, and that was even while rationing them.
- Fruit strips
- Animal crackers, Goldfish crackers
How did she do? Well, ok. Here’s the truth: out of the entire long flight, she slept the last 45 minutes. Seriously. So we were whacked out of our minds. The adults, that is. She was in good spirits.
Layover in Narita: 1.5 Hours
So clearly there were language barriers, but this involved immigration, getting our bags again, and having our stroller taken away in place of an ANA stroller. But people were nice. We met up with the rest of the American family headed to Naha and relaxed a bit. Miss Red was getting cranky, but a stranger gave her a toy. Yep, creepy as it sounds. We changed her clothes and re-charged the sacred laptop.
Narita to Naha: 3 Hours
We then had another nearly three hour flight to Naha. By now we were very tired. But I spoke with a few women traveling alone with children. One woman had 6-month-old twins and made the journey herself. There are American bases in Okinawa, so there were a number of women and crew-cut Americans on our flights.
Almost as soon as we got on the plane, I needed to sleep. We set up Miss Red again, and soon she fell asleep, too.
Narita to Naha flight
The cool thing about this flight was that they have a camera on for take-off and landing, so you get to see on a large screen a lot of the scenery. They then switched to Japanese TV, which I could have loved to watch, but I was so insanely tired.
We arrived around 8:45 p.m. in Naha. The next day. Like, we left on Tuesday afternoon and made it to Naha, with travel and the time change, on Wednesday night.
It was warm and lovely. They have orchids all over their airport. Family was waiting for us, and we took 3 taxis to our hotel for the 11 of us visiting from America. One taxi was almost all luggage. No joke. Once we arrived, the Okinawan family our family member married gave us great gifts, and the three of us bowed out of dinner and drinks and headed to bed. Miss Red? She had been passed out since the plane, the taxi ride, etc.
We put her in the crib, opened the screen door for fresh air, and collapsed.
The best part of being awake, for, oh, how many hours? Well, when we went to bed, it was night. When we woke up at 3 a.m. the next morning, none of us had jet lag. It was actually great. We hung out in pjs, watched Charlie and Lola (thanks, RBVH!) on the sacred laptop and bathed, making it downstairs right when breakfast started at 7 a.m.
Our new favorite show, thanks to RBVH
What did we do there? Stay tuned for the next part…