Make sure you have enough time to clear customs
On a loooong travel day, missing a connecting flight is extra miserable. When you book your flights, remember that you will have to clear customs when you return to the States at the first U.S. airport you land in. Even though our destination was Texas, we went through customs in Los Angeles. Leave enough time between flights for customs plus possibly switching terminals and going through security again. Before you return, check what items are prohibited (meats, fruit, plants, etc.) and don't attempt to bring them in. Let's just say that my souvenir pork jerky put us in the "Please Open Your Luggage for Special Attention" line that was much, much slower than the regular line.
Double check your seat requests a few days before departure
We do not always get the seats that are listed on our initial booking confirmation. Last time, we didn't figure this out until after the boarding passes were printed. The agent obligingly reissued passes with new seat assignments grouping us together.
This trip, I double checked a few days before our departure. Whereas our confirmation had us all sitting together, Cathay Pacific bumped 2 of us to other rows on some flights. I did some rearranging online and skipped being surprised at check-in. I still did not manage to get everyone together, but at least no one was sitting by him/herself. The upside to not sitting next to all your kids is that some stranger gets to monitor their sibling arguments. Hah! I could hear it from 2 rows away, but since the Fasten Seat Belt light was on, I couldn't intervene.
|Too big for a stroller but small enough for a luggage cart|
(Do you like my green duct tape stripes?
I can always find my luggage in a crowd.)
Move back bedtimes before a late night flight
When we head back, our domestic flight leaves Texas at 8 p.m., and the international flight takes off from Los Angeles 6 hours later. A few days leading up to departure, I start letting my kids stay up later than usual. This helps them feel more awake when we ask them to carry their backpacks between airplanes during our middle-of-the-night layover.
Bring extra luggage for souvenirs
Any time you are traveling this far to get somewhere, you will probably have a few things to bring back. Every expat I know seems to return from their home visit with lots and lots of essentials. For tourists, it may be souvenirs. I put carry-on sized luggage inside my big luggage so that I'll have a way to haul back everything I buy.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Tips for Surviving 20 Hours on a Plane: Up in the Air.
This post is part of Travel Tips Tuesday on Suitcases and Sippy Cups.