The China trip looms large in our adoptive parent hearts and minds. We daydream about Gotcha Day, pray for the moment we can snuggle in the hotel with our little love, hope for that once in a lifetime walk along the Great Wall, plan for an afternoon spent shopping in Guangzhou, and imagine ourselves eating noodles from brothy bowls with chopsticks. But the flight? Oh the flight. There is no glossy anticipation there.
The flight to China is a beast, but the flight home with our new little one, who we are just getting to know, who probably has never flown or been seat belted, and who quite possibly might be sick, congested or constipated? That flight is an exercise in patience, a test of our survival skills. We don’t plan to savor the moment or make memories. The goal is to push through and make it to the other side of the ocean where our loved ones await us at the airport.
Begin with expectations. I love that adoptive momma, Lindsay Esco, suggests that we “manage our expectations”. You don’t need to expect the worst of the worst. Many of us have had long and tiring, yet easy, flights home. Prepare your bags carefully, but don’t let the looming flight home take any joy from your last days in China. Simply manage your expectations. Plan ahead to dispense heavy doses of grace to yourself, your child and husband and/or family.
Since private jets typically aren’t an option, here are some survival tips to help you keep your sanity and a bit of dignity. These are taken from the collective wisdom of the adoption community, from blogs and FB threads, and advice from adoptive parents who have gone before us, blazing the trail at 40,000 above the Pacific. Like I’ve done, take the packing tips and advice, and make it your own.
What to Pack:
• Extra diapers and Pull-Ups, even for potty trained older kids.
• Extra parent outfits
• Electronic devices with chargers
• Water bottle
• Adoption paperwork
• Ziploc toiletry bag: disposable toothbrush, soap, and wipes
• Your own earphones for watching movies.
• Child carrier for walking aisles and speeding through airports.
Food and Drink:
• It is easy to get dehydrated, so drink only water. Avoid all caffeine. (This also helps with jet lag.) Ask the flight attendant to fill your water bottle.
• Bring your own snacks in case you don’t like the food.
• Squeezable baby food items for toddlers (applesauce, etc.)
• Puffs, Cheerios or Goldfish for small children
• Bring Chinese snacks familiar to your child, such as rice crackers.
• Protein bars or energy bars might be just the boost you need.
• Lollipops and other treats. Although it would be ideal to minimize sugar, this might not be the time to obsess over nutrition.
Rest and Comfort:
• Take melatonin, kids as well.
• Attempt to sleep during the night of the time zone you are headed too.
• Pack a neck pillow. Might look a little silly, but oh the added comfort.
• Cozy socks. Take your shoes off quickly and get comfortable.
• Take lavender oil or other essential oils to help you relax.
• Bring chamomile or “sleepy time” tea bags.
• Compression socks for those who tend to have swelling in the feet and ankles.
• Blanket and stuffed animal for kids.
• Mylicon (simethicone) drops. The gases in your intestines expand when you are in the sky, these drops help relieve pressure. Use before meals and every four hours.
• Use vitamin C packets in your water every 4 hours.
• No Jet Lag is recommended by many experienced travelers.
• Ear drops for kids. The pressure can be quite painful and frightening.
• Pain reliever
• Water Wow books. Fill the pen with water and your child can “paint”.
• Travel Color Wonder pads
• Small packs of Play doh
• Wikki Stix for older kids
• Coloring books and crayons
• Notepads and markers
• Cards (UNO, etc.)
• Stickers and paper
• Small action figures or dolls
Finally, along with heavy doses of grace, push yourself to find the humor in your situation. You are on a crazy parenting mission involving planes, trains and automobiles, and that deserves a giggle. Our last China flight, with two newly adopted kids, is one of family legend. Our daughter was very, very sick with a scary spiked fever. She also needed medical care (involving medical equipment that was new to her mom and dad), so we held her the entire time, served her mystery meat sticks given to us by her nanny to calm her, walked the aisles, administered Chinese antibiotics with Mandarin direction labels, and earned our nursing badges in the minuscule airplane lavatory.
Then, just in case we were getting too intense, our son had a massive blowout diaper through two diapers and all his extra clothes and onto me. As I stood up to carry our stinky selves back to our well used lavatory, I see the whole plane covering their noses and diverting their eyes. When we arrived in Tokyo, along with wrangling carry-ons, we had to carry him through the airport wrapped in a tiny, orange airplane blanket. He eventually wore his sister’s too small “jeggings” while I scrubbed out his pants in a bathroom sink and dried them under a hand dryer, while a contingency of fascinated Asian travelers stood watch.
So, future travelers, laugh with us, think of our experience, triple diaper your kids and pack extra clothes! The good news? We survived and have a tall tale to tell. And, on our other adoption trip, our new daughter slept every hour of the long flights. My husband and I watched movies, played Sudoku and chatted with other travelers.
Those plane flights home are like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. So, pack well, pray for travel mercy, “manage your expectations’ and hold on hard to your sense of humor.