How I survived flying solo longhaul with 3 babes

Narita to Schiphol

I recently flew from Japan to Ireland, via Amsterdam with my 4 year, 2 year old and 1 year old. I was dreading the flight, it’s a tough journey alone, I knew it would even more taxing with 3 children so young. This is how I “survived”!

Champagne.

We had an ordeal before we even departed Japan (see Unforeseen Passport Control problems at Narita Airport). I was a mess as we took off from Narita on the first leg of our journey, when the Chief Purser brought me a glass of champagne. It helped hugely; with every sip of bubbly, which I normally never drink, I felt my spirits lifting and my body relaxing. It was the only drink I had throughout our travel and I normally wouldn’t recommend drinking when flying, but it was the perfect timely antidote to get us off on the right foot.

Assistance.

I am no martyr, I ask for assistance when I need it. However, before I even had to ask on any of our flights or in the airport, people were volunteering to help in any way they could. The staff on the outward journey were among the best I’ve ever been blessed to have on a flight. They took turns coming to our seats to see if we needed anything and to ensure we were happy and comfortable. It so happened that on the outward flight there was little need for assistance, but on the return journey I was very grateful to my Mom who flew from Dublin to Amsterdam and waited with us until I boarded the last flight to Japan. Also, on the flight from Amsterdam to Narita, I was very accepting and grateful for the help that came from the family seated beside us. The couple, who had 2 young children of their own, helped with everything from setting up the inflight entertainment for my four year old and two year old, to bringing my son to the toilet when I was in the middle of feeding the baby.

Kindness & Praise.

It’s amazing how far a warm smile from a stranger can carry you. Even more amazing the kindness and respect people show you when they realise you are travelling solo with young children. I was so overwhelmed and surprised by the attention we received throughout our travels. I almost felt like a superstar as random people on the flight and in the airport stopped to complement me on travelling alone with 3 young children. On the plane I suppose it was obvious I had no other adult with me, but how people knew in the airport is beyond me. Maybe it was written on my face! And I certainly got a lift out of all the praise we received. I did not expect it as, until the journey, I had no idea that what I was doing was so unusual or impressive. The staff on the long flight (Narita to Schiphol) told me that I was their first with children so young. They made such a big deal of my “accomplishment” it gave me the added boost I needed to stay positive and relaxed throughout our travel.

Preparation.

Having 3 children in 3 years prepares you for the lack of sleep, as I didn’t get to sleep on any flight. On the way out the 3 children did sleep at the same time for an hour, but I used that time to go to the toilet and freshen up, rearrange hand luggage and wash the baby’s bottles, beaker and eating utensils. Other than that I had at least one child awake at all times. Also, having the right things with me went a long way in keeping myself and the children happy. Having adequate supplies of distractions and food for the kids made sure no-one got the grumps and made my job easier.

Asides from all that, the single most helpful thing was my mindset. I have a little mantra I use religiously for life in general to keep positive and sane; this too shall past. At the end of the day, I knew that time stands still for no man and before long the journey would be just a proud memory…and a WordPress post! 🙂

0 thoughts on “How I survived flying solo longhaul with 3 babes”

    1. I am very lucky that my kids seem to be good flyers, so far anyway. I was worried they wouldn’t like the noise on the 2nd smaller plane (Amsterdam to Dublin), but they all went “weeeee” as we took off! 🙂

  1. Well done! Yes, it’s amazing how nice people can be. We hear a lot of stories about parents getting told off if their children are seen AND (gasp) heard, but in real life I’ve found it rarely happens, and thank goodness for that!

    I still think you did well with three under four. Two under four is enough to handle in my books! Good that your mum could come part of the return leg. Hope you’re all over the jet lag!

    1. Thanks Bronwyn. I think the worst of the jet lag is behind us now. We were lucky that nobody was tutting, frowning or grumbling the few times the kids were boisterous, but much to my pleasant surprise they were quite well behaved throughout. I was also very fortunate the baby, who is a screamer, was much quieter than normal 🙂 I have found it rarely happens too, but I do know a girl who had an awful experience on a plane with a man who after continuously telling her elder boy to be quiet actually threw something at him. The police were waiting for him on touchdown as the pursers had called ahead to complain about him. Thankfully, these stories are rare.

  2. Thank you for following my blog! I thought I’d check out your blog and I’m so glad I did 🙂 I think flying solo with 3 children is absolutely incredible and it must’ve taken a lot of strength and energy to stay positive for them. I’ll be avidly reading your posts from now onwards! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment. I am relieved to have the journey behind me, although it was hard to leave my beloved Ireland and family and friends. You’re Coming of Age day post drew me in and I have enjoyed perusing your other posts. I too did a year abroad in Japan, my first time out here. That first year was just amazing, when everything is so spectacular, albeit often challenging, and every day brings something new. Actually, 14 years later most days I still come across something “new” in Japan. Such a wonderful place to explore. 🙂

      1. I had no idea you did a year abroad too! It’s comforting to know someone else who has been through the same experiences as me 🙂 there are so many cultural differences and its a bit confusing at times. I’ve realised I’m starting to act more “Japanese” so I’m not sure where I stand. But it’s a great learning experience for me. I’m glad to hear you’ve looked through my other posts- I am still looking through yours, so many wonderful stories!

        1. You’re too kind. Thank you for the lovely warm comments. The year I was here a student, passed in a hazy blur or probably more accurately a drunken stupor! I wish now that I had kept a journal. I normally do, but with everything being so new and so much bizaree and fun things to try out there was rarely time to write it all down. Its great that you are keeping a blog for your year abroad. Its a great way to record all the new and fun things you are experiencing. Have you had culture shock? I had it about 2 months after arriving in Gunma. I was in a bit of a funk for a while, but I came out the otherside loving Japan even more and game to give anything a try 🙂 How are you finding the language side of things?

          1. Ah I’m the complete opposite- I alway tell myself that I should keep a journal or something like that to record all the memories but in the end I never do. This blog is the only form of journal I’ve ever really kept and persevered with! Hahaha!
            If I’m being honest, the culture shock wasn’t that big for me (luckily!) but on a daily basis I come across things that make me go “What the…?!!” Hahaha but I just take them with a pinch of salt and try not to analyse it too much!
            Ah the language is still a problem. I’m getting better at speaking casually with my Japanese friends but I’m struggling with Keigo! Really problematic for me, too many verbs that mean the same thing! How do you find using Keigo? Also, all the different kanji readings is another big obstacle!

          2. Keigo really gets me; I have never have and probably never will master it. I only ever really “had” to use it, the very basics, in 2 jobs, the last of which was 10 years ago! Its so confusing, too many forms, too many different usages… I took a break from it a long time ago; a very long break! I will go back to it someday, but I figure for now as a Stay-at-home-Mom I’ve limited need to know and use it. ANd I think people excuse you when you don’t know it as a foreigner. I just make sure to use a lot of “pleases” and “thank yous” when speaking to anyone senior!
            Will you come back after graduating to work here, do you think?

          3. Phew! I’m glad to hear that! I do try my best to use Keigo but I have received funny looks when I get the verbs mixed up, so I just keep it formal by using ‘masu’ form when I’m talking to obaachans etc. 😛
            I’m debating as to whether I want to work here in Japan in the future or not.
            I’ve considered taking part in 就職活動 since many of my japanese friends are doing it right now, but if I’m being honest I’ve been very lazy! It’s too scary thinking about the future and I haven’t really looked into finding a job back home in London so I’m not entirely sure yet.
            If anything I want to work for an international company here, at least in the beginning while my Japanese continues to improve!
            If you don’t mind me asking, but what sorts of jobs did you have here in Japan? Was it easy for you to find something?

          4. When I was over here as a student I opted to do a work placement for 6 months. It was a great experience. I worked for a Japanese conglomerate, had to do rajio taiso every morning, wear a uniform, conform to company rules, but my Japanese came close to fluent and it was very enjoyable although challenging. I came back after Uni on a special role with JET, it was neither ALT or CIR – I worked for the Board of Ed visiting special needs schools for 「ふれあい」. It was an amazing experience and I was very lucky to get it (I hadn’t applied for that particular position, I was just given it by luck or fate or a combination of both!). It doesn’t exist anymore I believe. After that I was very fortunate to work from home here in Japan in a Social Media role. It was using English though, but I was lucky to be here with my hubby (then fiancee!). I think it is probably more difficult to get something now though, due to an increase in the number of foreigners who’ve studied Japanese combined with a downturn in the market. Quite a few of my friends moved to London after Japan to work for Japanese companies over there. There’s more of a demand for Japanese than in Ireland. You’ve a bit of time to think it out and sometimes things have a habit of just working themselves out. I wish you luck!

          5. Wow!! You’ve had such an interesting career so far, and it has really inspired me to keep studying and keep an eye out for opportunities here. Ideally I want to find a job where I can use my Japanese just like you have done and I’m really grateful that you could share this information with me. I’ll definitely keep trying my best, but like you said, I sort of believe that being at the right place at the right time has a lot to do with it. Thank you!!! I’m glad that things have worked out for you 🙂

          6. thank you for such a lovely comment Olivia. 🙂 My last job came the most unexpectedly, it really was a case of being in the right place at the right time. I hope you find it the same when the time comes.

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